Traditional Publishing

Ernest Hemingway’s Advice to Aspiring, Young Writers (1935) – Thursday April 11, 2024

Here in the twenty-twenties, a hopeful young novelist might choose to enroll in one of a host of post-graduate programs, and — with luck — there find a willing and able mentor. Back in the nineteen-thirties, things worked a bit differently. “In the spring of 1934, an aspiring writer named Arnold Samuelson hitchhiked from Minnesota to Florida to see if he could land a meeting with his favorite author,” says Nicole Bianchi, narrator of the InkWell Media video above. “The writer he had picked to be his mentor? Ernest Hemingway.”

What Hemingway offered Samuelson was something more than a literary mentorship. “This young man had one other obsession,” Hemingway writes in a 1935 Esquire piece. “He had always wanted to go to sea.” And so “we gave him a job as a night watchman on the boat which furnished him a place to sleep and work and gave him two or three hours’ work each day at cleaning up and a half of each day free to do his writing.” To Hemingway’s irritation, Samuelson proved not just a clumsy hand on the Pilar, but a fount of questions about how to craft literature — something Hemingway gives the impression of considering easier done than said.

Nevertheless, in the Esquire piece, Hemingway condenses this long back-and-forth with Samuelson into a dialogue containing lessons that “would have been worth fifty cents to him when he was twenty-one.” He first declares that “good writing is true writing,” and that such truth depends on the writer’s conscientiousness and knowledge of life. As for the value of imagination, “the more he learns from experience the more truly he can imagine.” But even the most world-weary novelist must “convey everything, every sensation, sight, feeling, place and emotion to the reader,” and that requires round after round of revision, so you might as well do the first draft in pencil.

To read the full article on, click here