One True Sentence


Photo by Ellen Blum Barish

“But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.’ So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there.”

— Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Last week, a writer friend and a rare day off gifted me with an opportunity to visit Hemingway’s childhood home in Oak Park, Illinois. What a treat!

I’m embarrassed to admit that it wasn’t until my friend, Annette Gendler, became the writer-in-residence there that I knew Hemingway’s House was less than 15 miles from my home. I’m hoping to prevent Chicago literary lovers from this terrible shame. Thank you again, Annette.

Hemingway was born and raised in this house. You can step into the bedroom where his mother delivered him. The home is in mint condition, brimming with actual or reproduced furniture, art and everyday kitchen and bathroom items from the late 1800s. Daily tours can be arranged. Writers-in-residence work in the studio/office in the third floor attic (off limits to tours) but Annette provided me with a glimpse. It is the quintessential writer’s garret.

Soaking up that Hemingway energy and talking shop with Annette, an essayist, memoirist and writing instructor, prompted me to revisit some of Ernest’s essays. I love the quote above from this incredibly prolific writer. His soul was clearly troubled, his life ending tragically by his own hand. But the quote suggests that he understood something about the ups and downs of writing.

Just one true sentence, he advised. “Write the truest sentence that you know.”

One more thing that’s true:

When you can, give yourself the gift of a day off.


Live Literary Events

Calendar these!

I’ll be telling my own stories, or hosting the stories of other writers at these locations through September.

Thursday, June 18th at 7 pm

Stories from the House of Truth at Beth Emet The Free Synagogue in Evanston, IL.

Thursday, August 6th at 8 p

Story Club North in Chicago, IL.

Thursday, October 8 at 7 pm

Curt’s Cafe South in Evanston, IL. The Fall Reading Series.