Category Archives: Writing

Dom’s Plan to Earn Cash and Make Money

“You can be ‘a victim’ or ‘a volunteer’, it’s all about how hard you want to work.”
– Thomas E. Arenberg, Senior Executive (retired), Accenture

Too often I’ve seen dumb, lazy people making more money than me. How do they do this? What is it I am not doing?

Passive income is the Holy Grail way of earning cash and making money.

According to Wikipedia, “Passive income is income resulting from cash flow received on a regular basis, requiring minimal to no effort by the recipient to maintain it.”
Passive income: How do I make it?

I am going to do four new things to make money.

1. Become an Amazon Bestselling Author

I wrote my first ebook four months ago, and I’ve made $500 in that time. I don’t make a lot of money at what I do, but I do get to do what I love- that’s priceless! I will tell you about a lot of other authors who have made a lot more. The main thing was just getting brave enough to put my ebooks out there. I know dozens of other great writers who were still wondering if they should publish too.

2. Dropshipping

Another idea for passive income is dropshipping.
What is dropshipping?

Dropshipping is a retail method where products are shipped to customers directly from the supplier instead of to you.

Here is a basic overview of how it works: 1. Customers place an order on your website.
2. Next, you place the order with your Supplier.
3. The Supplier ships your Customer the Product.

Bottomline: You keep the profit, minus the price you paid your Supplier and other fees.

Why do dropshipping?

1. You don’t carry any inventory.
2. You purchase products only after a Customer has placed an order and paid for the Product.
3. Your Supplier handles the warehousing, and shipping of the products.

Bottomline: Dropshipping saves you a great deal of time and money. You act as the middleman in the exchange.

What I like about that is you can make on Dropshipping, is by learning how to find products that have a pretty good profit margin, and listing them by following a simple system.

Imagine you had five products that each sold ONLY for a profit of $100 each month. Maybe the spread on some of them is only a meager $20 profit margin. You would need to sell five of those over 30 days to reach $100 a month. Dropshipping is solely a part-time income.

3. Make YouTube Videos

Making money with a simple YouTube channel is easy for anyone with access to the internet. I am learning how to use AdSense, to being an affiliate, and to selling products on my YouTube. I am learning there are numerous ways to make a passive income from a small YouTube Channel.

4. Become a Udemy Instructor

Udemy is an online learning platform. I want to teach courses in the military history category focusing on World War I and World War II. Udemy has no classes on the World Wars.

The World Wars are my jam and a subject I feel very comfortable with. There is a big demand for World War I because the 100th Anniversary of the conclusion of the war is in November 2018. That’s my deadline to become a recognized “expert” on World War I.

How to think about Cash Flow and Passive Income

My goal when I first published on Amazon was a monthly passive income that increases monthly in $100 increments. My first month by first two books made $100 and then the second month it $200, you get the idea.

I want to change the way I think about money (and in particular expenses) in a fresh way. This ties into what I was talking with about earlier. I trying to think of the simplest things somebody can do is to make an extra block of money each month.
I asked myself these questions:

1. What would an extra $500 a month mean to my family and me?
2. Would I be willing to learn NEW skills to accomplish this in 2018?
3. How would I like set a Facebook Business Page group where people could ask me any question about anything dealing with World War I or World War II?
4. Can I see myself changing my life and my finances $100 per month at a time?
5. Can I challenge myself to make AT LEAST $100 in passive monthly income within the next 30 days?
6. Would do I need to learn to enact this system and change my life forever?

My Goal– Tying It All Together

I want to create and sell my courses by April 2018. I want to completely replace and surpass my income as a full-time writer, instructor, and part-time dropshipper.

With the Udemy Course, I will write a book about World War I. I will do a podcast, YouTube Channel, and audiobook from my course material. All of those will generate cash flow and passive income.

None of these paths is easy. All of them take me way out of my comfort zone. I have to learn new skills and do things I am not comfortable with or necessarily want to learn. But I think the rewards will be worth it. Looking back through my life, it’s time this like that I remember that I am my best self because I have to strive and work hard. I’ll keep you posted.

Brave Soldier: The Bruno de Solenni Story- Introduction

“War is the province of danger, and therefore courage above all things is the first quality of a warrior.”

– General Karl Von Clausewitz

This is the introduction of my new book about my friend Bruno de Solenni. He died in Afghanistan in 2008.

Brave Soldier: The Bruno de Solenni Story

By Dominic Oto

Dedication

To

Captain Bruno G. de Solenni

Killed in Action near Maiwand District, Kandahar Afghanistan

September 20, 2008

And

Hanif and Ramin, our two intrepid interrupters, with us since the beginning.

Killed in Action near Maiwand District, Kandahar Afghanistan

September 20, 2008

If there is any glory in war, let it rest with brave men like these.

Foreword

On September 20, 2008, Captain Bruno de Solenni, a brave American soldier who was loved and admired, and with everything to live for was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

How did this happen?

Why?

I was a close friend of Bruno’s. We spent almost a year together in training at Fort Riley, Kansas and in Afghanistan. I was talking to him right up until the moment he died. In that time I got to know about his life: his adventures, his dreams for the future, the triumphs and defeats of the generous, intense, fun-loving man who was Bruno de Solenni.

We were in the same gun truck when we hit a 500-pound roadside bomb. I was driving, and Bruno was the gunner. Bruno and two other brave men died that day. I lived, and he died. I can’t tell you why he died and I lived. No one can.

We were unlikely friends. We were two very different men. Bruno was physical and brave. I am bookish and afraid. We came from different parts of the country, with different backgrounds, different religious beliefs, and different political opinions-and yet we put all those differences aside and became buddies. But I can tell you about his life, but I must also tell you of his death and the events which preceded it. I have thought long, and hard about that- whether to go into it all or to keep parts of it suppressed, the feelings of anger, regret and sorrow over Bruno’s death have been bottled-up for almost a decade. In the end, I was guided by what Bruno told me when I wondered about whether I should be frank and open as he was about our mission to train an infantry battalion of Afghan soldiers. Bruno pointed to a quote in his notebook from Ernest Hemingway, “Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.” I love that quote. I have been reading and re-reading Hemingway ever since.

Bruno was always open and blunt, and for him, there was only one way to account for things- to tell the whole truth about them, holding nothing back. I know he would want me to tell his story the same way. I attempt to tell the reader Bruno’s story truly, the way it happened. There are ecstasy and sorrow, fear and bravery, and with some luck, the reader will get to know about the brave soldier, his friends called, “the heart and soul of our team.”

This is the story of how Bruno and I came to know each other and help each other. We were both soldiers fighting in a foreign land far from home who became friends and developed an enduring friendship until tragedy struck.

This is what I tried to do in telling Bruno’s story, holding nothing back. This is as close as I could get to the “Why” Bruno died in Afghanistan on September 30, 2008.

The cover of Bruno’s book

Bruno de Solenni died at the age of thirty-two. He left behind a loving family and a great many loving friends. And with this book, I hope that when they think of him, it’s not how he died that they remember, but, rather, how this brave man lived. Bruno is deeply missed and never forgotten.

 

The Life and Legend of Bruno de Solenni– A Brave Soldier

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”

Matthew 5:9 KJB

Introduction

I am almost finished writing a book about my friend Bruno. Trying to remember and capture Bruno is why I started writing.

Bruno was a fearless warrior, a loving brother, and uncle. Bruno led the life of an American hero. His renowned compassion and courage made him a legend to anyone that knew him.

I wanted to write a candid, essential portrait of this celebrated warrior – a man whose death only added to the legend of Bruno. But first I had to set the scene. I hope you like it.

SAINT JOSEPH CATHOLIC CEMETERY, CRESCENT CITY, CALIFORNIA- January 1, 2013-

I park my truck at the bottom of the small hill of the cemetery.  I slowly walk up the hill to the gnarled old tree that is beside the grave. I am stopped as soon as I see his tombstone.

I feel like I have hit an invisible brick wall. My breathing quickens, I feel like someone punched the air out of my lungs, my legs grow weak, and I fall to my knees in front of his grave. I began to shake, and my throat constricts. My eyes are riveted to his grave marker with his name:

BRUNO GIANCARLO DE SOLENNI, CPT, U.S. Army, Afghanistan

Bruno’s Grave in Crescent City, CA, his hometown.

I see his grave, but my mind is reeling, and I dissolve into the day he died.

MAIWAND DISTRICT, KANDAHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN- September 20, 2008

We were on a convoy from our base in Helmand to Kandahar. I am driving the truck, and Bruno is the gunner. The steering wheel jerks in my hands as if it suddenly alive. The truck cab turns night into day as if the Sun suddenly appeared with a colossal roar and a mighty rush of wind from an explosion. Outside the world streaked by. I can see the hood of the truck folding into and crashing into the window.

“This can’t be happening!” my mind protests, despite the fact that I see impossible things. The blinding brightness slowly fades into crushing metal and then fire and smoke. I am spinning like I am in a washing machine, black and red, black and red, and suddenly the steering wheel is ripped free from my hands, and I am screaming…

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, AFGHANISTAN- September 22, 2008

Bruno’s memorial service was not a funeral. His body was not here. It was a memorial service to say goodbye to a friend. The team gathered to honor their fallen comrade. We knelt in front of the helmet, boots, weapon, and picture of Bruno. We all openly wept.

The team was more than just a team of combat advisors, and we were a fighting unit. Over the last eight months, we had become a tightly knit family, best friends, and brothers. We would and did lay down our lives for one another.

Bruno was the “heart and soul” of the team, and now he was gone. We gathered to give a solemn salute and final goodbye to our brother-in-arms as he was returned home. The memorial service was held just before the body was to be flown back to the U.S.

Bruno’s coffin was draped in the American flag. It was carried the final few feet onto an Air Force plane bound home to America. The Chaplain said, “Today we remember our friend, comrade and a fellow American. We the sacrifice he made for us, our country, and our freedom.” In the end, heartbroken service members hugged, cried and comforted each other.

Spotting the rest of my teammates among the mourners was easy. We were struck with grief. The physical, mental and emotional loss of Bruno had taken a heavy toll. We were hunched over, fidgeting and crying.  Our physical bodies were in the chapel, but our minds were still on the desert floor 60 kilometers away, where Bruno had died. It was a place none of us would ever truly ever leave.

The remains our fallen hero were flown from Kandahar in Afghanistan to New Castle Air National Guard Base in Delaware. In Delaware, Bruno’s family was waiting to escort him home.

CRESCENT CITY, CA- October 4, 2008

Bruno’s funeral was like an extraordinary class reunion of all the people that loved him. Here were all the figures that he talked about in Afghanistan gathered in this chapel to say goodbye to him.

As a timber faller, Bruno labored through the spring and summer in groves of giant redwoods, cedar, and fir. As a soldier, he died in Afghanistan. The tree trunks he sawed and milled became his coffin built by his friends and brothers who were his pallbearers. They dug his grave at the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church Cemetery in Crescent City and laid him to rest.

The Man, The Legend

Bruno was a man whose life could come out of a novel. He had an exceptional mind and an incredible talent to relate to other human beings, whoever they were and no matter they come from. He was a compassionate man who could engage anyone on so many levels. Bruno could sense human issues and feelings about a subject. On another level and at the same time he could deal with hard facts like statistics. Usually, those two qualities seem to cancel each other out in an individual, but they came together in Bruno.

In 2008, when we went to Afghanistan, the war changed. We went as soldiers but also as peacemakers acting as combat advisors to an Afghan Infantry Battalion (600 men). Combat advisors on the ground advising the Afghan National Army could tell we were losing the war. The generals in Kabul maintained that we were winning the war. The Advisors were caught between the two. It was an adversarial relationship. Bruno always helped me to understand the war and what we, the Americans, were doing there.

I think a lot of this comes from Bruno being fearless. He could work at the tactical level, take what he saw down there, and apply at the strategic level. Bruno gave the entire team the perspective of how we were helping the Afghans. His daily talks shaped my view of the war. Bruno helped me to come to grips with the war in a way that I would not have been able to without him.

Something to remember is that America was at the High Noon of its power in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We thought that whatever we were doing in Afghanistan was right and good simply because we were Americans. We succeed in this noble undertaking because we were Americans. Bruno embodied that idealism.

We wanted to win the war for the Afghans and for ourselves. Bruno felt the best way to do this was, to tell the truth. Bruno had a keen sense of honor as a soldier. Bruno was enraged by the way people back home saw the war.

Bruno was my friend and this how I remembered him.

SAINT JOSEPH CATHOLIC CEMETERY, CRESCENT CITY, CALIFORNIA- January 1, 2013

Tears are streaming down my face. I am back at the grave marker trying to compose myself.

I say to his tombstone, “I did my best Bruno, to remember you, to honor you.”

The tears are coming stronger. An intense swirl of emotions is stirring inside of me. Feelings of regret, sorrow, anger, and gratitude overwhelm me.

“I’ve tried never to forget you. I don’t know why you died and I lived. I have done my best to be worthy of the gift you gave me and what you gave me. I will never forget you. Until I see you again, old friend.”

I knew I had to get on with my life, and it was Bruno would have wanted.

Now I can write Bruno’s book.

Farewell, My Father- My New Book

What follows is the rough draft intro of my new book “Farewell, My Father”.

“For we are strangers before them, and sojourners, as were all our fathers.

1 CHRONICLES 29:15

Book Description:

This is not just a book about a great man but a book about a special relationship between a father and his youngest son.

I did my best to write an honest portrait of my father. It’s a story full of love and kindness, also full of anger and regret. My father was one of the most extraordinary and complicated men I ever knew.

From taking on all comers in an improvised boxing ring at the VFW or rushing headlong to the scene of a car accident or a building on fire to help strangers to his death three months after being diagnosed with cancer, he was a colorful character.

I remember Dad coaching me on how to box– I was awful, to him rescuing me from drowning, or taking me with him along his quixotic long 200-mile drives, “just for a cup of coffee.”

Here is my dad in all glory, his telling of whopper stories, his tormented days leading up to his death. And here, too, is the darker side of a charismatic hero: the rages, the estrangement from his son, the courting of danger, and finally his too early death.

Father and Son holding hands

Preface

I have tried to write this book several times, but in memory, my father remains fuzzy and out of focus. It’s hard to write about a man you both love and revere in total honesty. In my memory, he remains edgy, like he has been photographed, not painted.

I remember immense amount about him, almost the day-to-day material of the last three months of life. So many of those memories and emotions remain undigested. At this point, I knew he was dying so I remember him with a soft focus and not the recollection of the strong man who shaped and dominated my childhood. If you use too much of a wide-angle lens the simple man becomes distorted.

In the end, this book is written by a son about his father. There is nothing unoriginal here. The son both loves and reveres the father. The father doesn’t understand the son but loves the son in his own unique way. Sometimes that love is so remote that the son hates him a little. This book is a portrait written in love, in all the sweets and sours, and ups and downs of an evolving relationship.

My father was a good man, who overcame incredible odds. He had an almost unbelievably tough childhood. His parents were Italian immigrants, and he grew up in the Great Depression. The Oto household had too many kids and not enough love. In school he suffered from severe and undiagnosed dyslexia– he saw numbers and letters backwards.  His dyslexia forced him to become a physical dynamo. Dad quit school at twelve years old in the eighth to take a full-time bricklaying job when his father grew too sick to work. This job gave him an extreme work ethic.

At fifteen, he lied about his age to enlist in the Army in 1949. He loved the Army because it was all about being physical.

In the summer of 1950, he was fighting for his life as a sixteen-year-old infantryman in the Korean War. He came back from the Korean War as an eighteen-year-old Sergeant First Class (the Army still thought he was twenty years old). Almost everyone in his chain-of-command had been wounded or killed in over a year and half of fighting. He received several medals for bravery and was wounded twice.

With Dad, I had two fathers. The first father was a decorated soldier, a real hero, who fought in a war, a physical and manly man. But there was another father, a loving dad who taught me to ride a bicycle, who taught me to be a man. Both fathers were the same man.

The second father is what I am going to write about. I called him Dad. Dad was the most important father to me and the one I loved the most.

From the time I was a young boy, I felt certain unspoken assumptions about the course my life should take. I felt it was my duty and obligation to carry on my father’s legacy as a warrior. As a young man, I joined the U.S. Army to be a soldier like Dad.

Dad died of cancer when I was twenty-one years old. In my innocence, I had a romantic notion that being a career soldier is what he wanted me to be. I later learned that the second father would have been happy with whatever made me happy. I spent my early adulthood trying to live up to the man behind the legend, a father who only existed in an image I created.

In 2003, at Fort Benning, GA, a retired general who served with my father in Korea made the connection with Dad when he read my last name.

“Your father was one of the bravest men I ever knew,” said the highly decorated General.

A kaleidoscope of emotions came over me. Dad had been dead for seven years. When I asked Dad about his wartime his answer was always the same, “I did my job.”

The man I remember was so much more. Dad was emotionally expressive mixed in with animal magnetism, and a lot of charm and appeal. Dad gave off the image of a man with prosperity even though he was dirt poor. His generosity and love of life was his prosperity. You knew he would look after you, support you and most importantly, show you a fantastic time.

Dad was a man of contradictions. He was stoic and silent about some subjects. Especially things that were unpleasant like growing up in the Great Depression or his wartime service. If he cried, it was internal.

If Dad was happy or angry his face, especially his eyes showed every emotion. No matter what he thought about you could see it in his eyes. His absolute emotional honesty was one of his best traits.

If he loved you, he let you know it. If he were angry, he would tell you why. If he was great, lousy or whatever you knew it. If he hated someone or wanted them out of his life, they knew it. He was never quiet about anything. Total candor, total emotion all the time. A tough guy with a mask. Vulnerable and neurotic. People are fascinated by someone who has no vanity, no sense of personal boundaries, who just says this is I am. Dad seemed to say, “Come along on the ride with me, it’ll be fun.” And sometimes it was.

Dad had a chip on his shoulder. He waged war on life. Dad never cared what other people or thought or did. Dad was the atomic bomb of having fun. He was a late middle-aged adolescent always having a good time. You loved him and wanted to be a part of his movie.

People loved Dad. His friends made allowances for his outrageous behavior because he was so charming. Dad seemed upset and troubled by his own faults. Getting old was hard for him. Dad had to reconcile his own myth with encroaching old age. He mourned the loss of his physicality. Dad’s slaying of this dragon was something to watch.

A little part of him thought that he was invincible, that he could take on or do anything, but it was cancer that killed him in the end and not war or a lifetime of poverty. He was a real character. Dad was kind, arrogant and quick-tempered, funny and dramatic, insecure and beset by doubt. Every situation demanded him to be at the top of his skill, the top of his personality.

Dad’s death immortalized him in my mind.  Dad died too early in my life, I spent twenty-five years in the Army trying to live up to him. His death is the reason I became a writer.

Dom’s New Book- “A War With North Korea”

Here is the introduction of my new book. The book is free to Amazon Prime members. Please tell me what you think.

Introduction to “A War With North Korea”

If the U.S. goes to war with North Korea, there are many questions that the American people have. What follows is a potential unfolding of events, a few scenarios out of many. I did my best to paint a picture of the current tense situation on the Korean Peninsula. I hope there never is a war with North Korea. It would be a great pity.

An all-out hot war on the Korean Peninsula would be catastrophic. Conservative estimates of casualties of past conflicts have guessed that millions of people, mostly North and South Korean civilians, would die in such a costly war.

War may be the only thing that will force North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to understand clearly that his pursuit of nuclear missiles is useless. This awful fact is something Kim and his military leaders refuse to comprehend. Unfortunately, war and the end of Kim’s regime may be the only option left. Nothing else has seemed to work since 1994 when North Korea started its nuclear program.

President Trump’s decision to go to war with North Korea may be the least awful of all the options available to him a Commander-in-Chief.  Hopefully, in retrospect, twenty plus years later, far removed from the pressures President Trump faces today in December 2017, his critics will see he had few other options that would be better and less costly in casualties than a war with North Korea.

The judgment is clear and decided. A nuclear North Korea cannot happen and cannot exist. A short and decisive war with North Korea will stop the threat of a North Korean invasion into South Korea, and will potentially save countless of lives, both American and North Korean. Finally, an American President will end a nuclear North Korea’s brutalization and blackmail of the people of Asia. Going to war may be the right and only decision. This short e-book attempts to answer all the questions that may arise out that decision.

A War with North Korea Book Cover

Finally, this e-book is not to be taken as an official war manual. It was written to inform and engage. The information should be treated that way. This book is intended for information purposes only.

God bless America and God bless the brave people of South Korea.

Link:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077T2FTTX/ref=sr_1_6?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1511950562&sr=1-6&keywords=War+with+north+korea

 

Hemingway and “The Lost Generation”

“In those days we did not trust anyone who had not been in the war, but we did not completely trust anyone.”

– Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Intro

The term “The Lost Generation” was used to describe a group of literary figures of the 1920’s living in Paris. It was used to describe writers who came of age after World War I and before for the Great Depression.

Hemingway made the term popular in his novel, “The Sun Also Rises.” Gertrude Stein gave him the term when describing the displaced generation of World War I veterans who lost their innocence in the war. She acted as a literary godmother to many of the writers of this generation.

The Sun Also Rises

The group rejected the post-World War I values of America. They believed due to the carnage of World War I there was a loss of morals. The phrase “do good unto others and have good done unto you” was no longer true. The idea of hope was lost.

World War I

The Industrial Revolution would change warfare in World War I (WWI). Death was caused killing on a massive scale- tens of thousands of men killed in a single day.

At the Battle of the Somme, one of the largest of the war, 1 July and 18 November 1916 more than a million men were wounded or killed. J.R.R. Tolkien was wounded in this battle, and it greatly influenced his writing of the “The Lord of the Rings.”  Nothing like this killing was seen on this scale before.

On the first morning of the battle, more than 20,000 British Soldiers were killed, and 37,000 were wounded. In the end, it gained the allies only 8 miles of land.

Battle of the Somme

Battle of the Somme

There was a thought at the start of the industrial age that machines should serve humanity. The idea of machines to slaughter people was never possible before. Tanks, gas, submarines, planes, machine guns- overwhelming massacre of humanity by the very machines that would be used to serve it.

WWI was a turning point in history because technology was used for mass violence on an almost industrial scale. Many veterans, including Hemingway, Tolkien, Fitzgerald and C.S. Lewis were changed forever by the violence of what they saw.

The Movement

Hemingway said, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

The artistic energy in Paris in the1920’s was immemorial for its time and unsurpassed in its creativity. The decade exploded with life full of experimentation and promise.

Genius thrived, classics were created, and careers were made. The men and women who made this possible left their nation behind. Yet, in their writing captured its spirits. In self-imposed exile, they wrote some of the most acclaimed and influential literature of all time.

Poets and writers worked to recreate the literary form. Hemingway worked to create a single, simple style of prose. This is how it began.

Before World War I

On the eve WWI, American students immersed themselves in the works of European literature. All of them were descended from the “old country.” They hoped to discover their own artistic voice.

Young American writers found little in their homeland to influence their writing. They read about epic events in the books of the French writer Émile Zola and Russian writer Leonard Tolstoy.

They were educated in the values of old-world Europe. They learned from European books the ideals of courage, valor, and hope. As WWI started and got worse, they felt compelled to save that culture. The culture of their fathers and grandfathers.

The Ambulance Service

Archibald MacLeish was an American poet, writer, and future Librarian of the US Congress. He joined the ambulance service in France. A fresh out of high school Hemingway followed to escape his Midwest upbringing.

Archibald MacLeish

The Red Cross Ambulance service in France and Italy almost served as a college extension courses for romantic Americans wanted to take part in the great adventure. The ambulance service gave them great food, congenial experiences, furloughs to Paris and uniforms to meet girls.

John Dos Passos went to the famed prep school, Choate Rosemary Hall. After graduating from Harvard University in 1916, he served as an ambulance driver in the war.

John Dos Passos

As a modernist writer, and most overlooked, he became connected with the Lost Generation. He was drinking buddies with F. Scott Fitzgerald. His Harvard classmate was E. E. Cummings. He was a longtime friend of Ernest Hemingway.

It was on Dos Passos recommendation that Hemingway would move to Key West, FL.

The Aftermath of War

Europe was lost in the carnage of WWI and destroyed. Amid the destruction of Victorian Europe, Dos Passos and the other writers developed left-leaning politics that left them against war and in support of workers’ rights.

As ambulance drivers, these young Americans saw war at its worst. They served in the trenches, they saw disfigured soldiers, and watched the flower of European society die in mass slaughter.

Dos Passos was at the battle of Verdun. MacLeish lost his brother. Three months after the war he found him lying in a ditch in Belgium in his full uniform. It destroyed him.

These aspiring poets and writers watched the destruction of their beloved Europe. Gone was the world they had read about. In 1919 they returned home.

Back Home

America came into the war only in the last 18 months. Over 100,000 Americans were killed and twice that number wounded. But due to America’s geographical isolation and rich mineral resources, the country prospered while Europe was in shambles.

The casualties for the British was 900,000 killed and more than 2 million wounded. France lost 1.3 million men and 4 million wounded. Germany had similar numbers with double wounded. America had largely been untouched by the war.

We start to see the first glimpse of the superpower that America would become. America refused to join the League of Nations.

While they had been gone, the country had changed. The Industrial Revolution is in full swing in American, and the idea of Prohibition starts. The stock market was booming. A time similar to the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

Many American veterans felt they had sacrificed for nothing. The American WWI vets felt disenchanted. Their values changed by their experience. They felt lost in a haze of aimlessness.

They felt that no one understood what they had experienced. No one knew who they were. This is decades before we understood such psychological trauma. Many of them had several jobs and felt restless.

The Return to Paris

Writing was a time-honored impossibility in America. Very few writers managed to make a living enough to support their families. Rumors of cheap living overseas got back to the veterans because Europe was in shambles. The American dollar was very strong due to the booming US economy.

Graduates of Ivy League schools were once again influenced by the books they had read in college. The chance to return to Paris and to experience the stuff they had read about was too much of a temptation to resist.

Many of the WWI vets had fond memories of Paris from the war. The first writers of the Lost Generation went forward to their future in Paris.

The Changing Values

After the destruction of Europe, there was a relief of being alive. Everyone wanted to celebrate. It was the reverse of survival guilt- it was a Survivor Celebration.

The American writers walked into a city that had a wild desire to dance, drink, to squander what little they had and to have sex. A gasp of relief to feast on life.

All the rules were broken both social and taboo. It was an atmosphere where anything went. There was no judgment because there was a sense of doom because they all realized life is short. It was an environment of changing ideas.

Gertrude Stein and Sylvia Beach

Picasso was redefining art. Gertrude Stein was reimaging prose. French saloons are the central point of conversation and gossip in Franco society.

Stein’s saloon at Rue des Fleurs was constantly busy with people coming and going. It was a mandatory stop for culture and talks of avant-garde art.

Stein with her life partner Alice Toklas loved to entertain. Her guest list reads like a who’s who of literary and art greatness in the early 20th century.

Gertrude Stein and Alice Tolkas

Pablo Picasso was a central character early on in Stein’s saloon. His Cubism would go on influence an entire generation of painters. He painted a famous portrait of Stein.

Sylvia Beach’s bookstore “Shakespeare and Company” was a literary crossroads. A Princeton grad in WWI she had been a nurse. She had a soft spot for WWI veterans.

Her store was a central hub for the growing number of returning veterans. They used her store mail, money, and inspiration.

Paris

The Seine River divides Paris into two parts- the left bank and the right bank. May of the lost generation artists were drawn to the left bank of the Seine in Paris due to the cheap apartments and cafes. The right bank was the decadent part of the city where all the hotels were.

As they arrived many of the writers began to write. MacLeish observed that the youth of Europe had been slaughtered. Paris was the reaction to this carnage.

Death of a generation implied the death of tradition. It was the start of the Modernist movement. Modernism is characterized by a self-conscious break with traditional styles of poetry and art. Modernist writers experimented with literary form and expression, adhering to Ezra Pound’s maxim to “Make it new.”

Liberated from the tradition artists and writers in Paris sought to make art new. They weren’t sure how to do it. Ezra Pound was a poet of immense talent. He translated French, Chinese and ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics into modern prose.

Ezra Pound

A restless and energetic man he edited T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” into a tight, sharp poem. The haunting poem invokes images of a generation living in the aftermath of war.

The poem was the first successful product of a Midwestern American living in Paris in the 1920’s. It would not be the last.

Learning the Craft

James Joyce was an Irishman living in Paris. His book “Ulysses” was published by Sylvia Beach on February 1922, in Paris. It is considered to be one of the most important works of modernist literature.

Ulysses’ stream-of-consciousness technique, careful structuring, and experimental prose changed the writers thought of the craft. The book is full of puns, parodies, and allusions, as well as its rich characterizations. It is a funny story the chronicles the appointments and encounters of Leopold Bloom in Dublin in the course of an ordinary day, 16 June 1904.

James Joyce

The book is a highly regarded novel. It is no small fact that the book changed the course of modern fiction. Hemingway arrived in Paris in 1921. He immediately starts honing his writing talent. He borrowed books from Shakespeare and Company.

He read D.H. Lawrence. Lawrence was an English novelist and playwright who wrote about emotional health, vitality, spontaneity, and instinct. His work represents an extended reflection upon the dehumanizing effects of modernity. He loved the themes running through the work.

He read the titans of the Russian literary canon, such as Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov. He felt changed and moved by his experiences.

Under Pound, he found an editor and publisher. He learned to distrust adjectives and to tell a tight story with short, simple sentences. In return, Hemingway taught Pound how to box.

Partying Like Rock Stars

Stein acted as a mentor to Hemingway. She told him a writer see things while a reporter merely sees words.

Stein could not understand the excess of the young writers. She thought that between the ages of 18 to 25 a person becomes civilized. Men who went to war at that age could not be civilized. She continued to play host and teacher in her saloon.

Paris cafés were well lit. You could stay there all day as long as you ordered coffee. Due to the shattered French economy, foreigners were forbidden to take jobs. They milled around sharing ideas.

The Lost Generation drank in excess. They didn’t go home to eat or sleep. They went from café to café to live public lives. Prohibition had started in America.

The two favorite bars frequented by the expatriate Americans was “The Dingo” and “The Jockey.”

MacLeish became acquainted with the silence his poetry required. He spent days in the Paris library reading everything he could. Pound’s advice to his friend was to read and to get to the European classics inside and out.

All of them felt if they immersed themselves in ancient literature while living this extravagant lifestyle they felt they could somewhere with it. Another poet who followed this advice was E.E. Cummings.

In 1917, with the First World War ongoing in Europe, Cummings enlisted in the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps, along with his college friend John Dos Passos.

Due to an administrative mix-up, Cummings was not assigned to an ambulance unit for five weeks, during which time he stayed in Paris. He fell in love with the city, to which he would return throughout his life.

Cummings returned to Paris in 1921 and remained there for two years before returning to New York. His body of work encompasses approximately 2,900 poems, two autobiographical novels, four plays and several essays. He was an artist with numerous drawings and paintings.

Cummings is remembered as an eminent voice of 20th century English literature.

John Dos Passos traveled all over Europe and Asia using Paris as a stopover to rest and plan. He captured all of it in his novel “Manhattan Transfer.” It was all about the tactile experience that could be used to fuel writing.

Manhattan Transfer

The Outcome

American writers living in Paris were writing about their native land. Paris allowed for a deepening of their ideas. It strengthened their concept of what they were doing and what they wanted.

In time they become a collective grouping of the way forward for writing. Even as their writing became more widely read they were not popular with big publishing companies. The long-established publishers saw them as brash and arrogant.

As in James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” small presses allowed a lot of younger writers to get the word out. The best part was with no censorship.

James Joyce

Hemingway’s first set of short stories was published this way. America immediately took notice of the lean, muscular prose and vernacular writing filled dialogue. It was F. Scott Fitzgerald, who introduced Hemingway to Scribner and Sons publishing.

Scott had already published “This Side of Paradise.” The novel turned the Princeton grad into the chronicler of the Jazz Age. He was an overnight American success story. Along with his wife Zelda, he embodied the excess of the Jazz Age.

Upon arriving in Paris as a successful writer had the opposite effect. He was not seen as a serious writer because he had not suffered for his art. Being poor and scrounging had a certain nobility to it.

Scott was more Right Bank Paris. A place filled with deluxe hotels and gold, white lobbies. This is the image of all that was wrong with America for the Left Bank writers.

Hemingway was the darling of the Left Bank. The real difference between Fitzgerald and Hemingway was the discipline they brought to writing.

South of France

Fitzgerald went to the South of France to finish his book, “The Great Gatsby.” Here he met Sara Murphy. She had dated Picasso and was now married to Gerald Murphy.

Gerald and Sara were wealthy, expatriate Americans who moved to the French Riviera in the early 20th century. With their generous hospitality, they threw legendary parties.

They created a vibrant social circle that included a great number of artists and writers of the Lost Generation. They made an art out of eating and drinking.

For Scott and Zelda to in the orbit of Gerald and Sara was an exciting thing. This experience would become the basis for “The Great Gatsby.”

Scott and Zelda

Learning a Craft

Hemingway would agonize over his manuscripts. He would make corrections and scribble things out and rewrite. Over and over until he got it just right with the right words.

Hemingway felt that writing was something to be done to perfection. Hemingway felt that writers like Fitzgerald, who changed their writing for slick magazines like Esquire hoarded their talent. Too much could destroy the talent of the telling the truth.

When Hemingway read a rough draft of the “The Great Gatsby” he knew it was a masterpiece.

The Great Gatsby

Hemingway went to Pamplona, Spain for the bullfights. It gave him the material for “The Sun Also Rises.”

His landmark novel of wild years spent in Paris and Spain popularized the expression of “The Lost Generation.” In the work, there are clear, sad overtones of an unhappy ending.

In The End

The phrase along with Hemingway’s book depicted this generation as characterized by doomed youth, hedonism, and uncompromising creativity. The wounding of their generation, both literally and metaphorically, by the experience of war.

To varying degrees, these virtues and vices were to be found in the life-story of nearly every member of the Lost Generation. It was their way of finding sanity in a world gone mad.

Aside from their wild lifestyles, though, what is most striking is the astonishing range, depth, and the influence of the work produced by this community of American expatriates in Paris.

This outburst of creativity was supported by an explosion of small-scale entrepreneurialism in the creative arts. Much of the literature produced by the American Modernists was published by small presses, also run by expatriates, including Shakespeare & Company, Contact Editions, Black Sun Press, Three Mountains Press, Plain Editions, and Obelisk Press.

A list of the canonical works of inter-war American literature produced in Paris, following the landmark publication of Joyce’s Ulysses by Shakespeare & Co. provides a key to the literary future of the United States.

Fitzgerald described the generation as finding, “All Gods dead, all wars fought, all faith in man shaken.”

The Now

I believe we have stumbled on such a unique in time again in the here and now. The new “Lost Generation” are the two million American men and women who have fought for the last decade-plus in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Winston Churchill said, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” Churchill was referring to the ongoing efforts of the Royal Air Force pilots fighting the Battle of Britain. This pivotal air battle was with the German Luftwaffe with Britain expecting a German invasion.

But the same can be said of the many young Americans who have fought this same war in continuous back-to-back tours. Along the way losing loved ones both “over there” and “back home.” The excess of the “The Lost Generation” can be seen in today’s veterans.

A Hemingway Fan

Why am I such a big Hemingway Fan?

That’s a great question. I will try and answer it.

I am a closet Hemingway junkie. His books seem to talk about every part of the human condition- action, sex, lies, deceit, love, lust, bravery and passion. I love them all.

A good book in the hands of an admiring reader is a personal relationship, it’s a love affair. Hemingway gave me ways to think deeply about myself and how I viewed the world, especially war.

In his books, I saw the battlefields of Europe, bullfights in Spain, hunted big game in Africa and fished the palm-fringed paradise of the pristine waters of the Gulf Coast of Cuba. Reading an author you love, you can learn a lot.

Hemingway as an old man

This is what I learned from reading Hemingway.

American Literature

American literature is one of the world’s youngest literary art forms. In many ways, it is an offshoot of English literature, over time it has achieved its own independence and vigor.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the United States produced only a small number of notable writers. In the 19th century, as the country expanded westward and grew, the number increased greatly. By the early 20th century the number of outstanding writers almost became a flood.

Ernest Hemingway may be America’s most famous writer of fiction. His characters and stories made him the most influential writer English prose in the 20th century.

For nearly 40 years he cast a shadow over the American literary scene. His work was imitated, reworked, or assimilated by almost three generations of writers and fans.

The Distinct Hemingway style

Hemingway introduced me to the richness and purpose of spare language. Saying something in simple and succinct prose rather than in an elaborate or, God forbid, boring style.

Hemingway in his prime was de-furnishing, stripping away the English-American writing language of the early 20th Century. He was leaving things out to pull people in. His style soon became the dominant one. We tend to forget that in his time he was an experimental, avant-garde writer.

Hemingway used that style on the oldest American story of them all: the boy who sets out his grand adventure. He made that subject go with his new style of writing. Hemingway is sometimes described as being simple. You will never run to get a dictionary when reading a Hemingway novel.

Hemingway is far from simple. In his writing, he uses pure colors to describe something. The effects are not simple. His simplicity was used to evoke an emotion.

He loved to take sentences and boil them down to their bare bones. His terse, minimalist style of writing stripped away adjectives and, like his heroes got straight to the point.

His clear, simple sentences strike some readers as “hard-boiled” and “tight-lipped.” The opposite is true. His simplicity camouflages deep, hard-to-control passion. A Hemingway scene in short, sharp, with no adjectives text, is a camera “shot” of what the character is doing, seeing, smelling and most important-feeling. Hemingway would describe a scene so you would feel it as if you were really there.

Hemingway as a writer

Hemingway the Writer

Hemingway’s public image as a war correspondent, big-game hunter, and deep sea fisherman competes with his own image as a writer. He is a master of the short story.

To Hemingway, every other pursuit, including drinking, fighting, chasing women, took second place to write. He was almost superstitious about writing. That by talking about it might inhibit his muse. Putting together ideas on paper can be a demanding task.

There are suggestions and tricks of the trade that we can learn by looking at his working habits and advice he gives to aspiring writers. Like in most professions, those who can’t, teach. Writing is something I teach well, lol. By looking at Hemingway’s career as a writer, we can learn a little about the craft.

Man of Letters

First and foremost Hemingway is a literary man- a writer who loved to read books. Sometimes that’s forgotten in all the talk about safaris, deep sea fishing tales and war stories.

Most folks think of Hemingway as a romantic soldier-of-fortune wandering from the bars to the bedrooms of beautiful ladies to watching bullfights. He was a very serious writer, with a self-discipline approaching severe.

The Hemingway Hero Code

There is a cult of manhood around Hemingway. He constantly wrote about the “virility” and “manhood” of his protagonists. He uses action as a way of not having to confront the complexities of the human soul. His heroes deal with their problems by acting, not thinking.

He addresses the way a man should act with personal courage and integrity in the face of inevitable defeat. His heroes are sometimes defeated. Yet, they return to battle and certain death.

Shaping of the Man

Two episodes of Hemingway’s life take shape in his writing. First, a German mortar shell wounded him in World War I. The explosion and wound both nearly kill him.

First, he suffered for months a painful and terrible wound to his right leg. His wounded leg was almost amputated.

Second, his father committed suicide when he was 28 years old. Hemingway was close to his dad, who taught him how to hunt and fish.

The two themes play out again and again in his work.

Dom’s Theory

I am writing a biography of Hemingway based on the provoking theory that Hemingway’s severe wounding in World War I, and the suicide of his dad, so traumatized the novelist that his fiction was to a significant degree unwitting self-psychoanalysis.

As a wounded veteran who lost a beloved father at a young age, these are themes I relate too. The passivity of your emotions due to the chaos of war and overwhelming loss are things avoided at all costs in Hemingway’s stories. His work, I believe, is about him resolving these two issues. Writing about him is my way of resolving my own issues.

His heroes run out- shooting something or getting into a fight. It’s the ultimate act of evasion. I just read and write about Hemingway, lol. Okay, time to move on and finish this one out- stay curious and work hard!

Hemingway and My Dad

Writing Class

I am taking a writing class. One of the books we are using is “On Writing Well” by Williams Zinsser. This is a great book to learn how to write. Zinsser gives the following advice: Writing is hard work. A clear, concise sentence is no accident. Clutter is the disease of writing.

We got an exercise to cut 50% of the last thing we wrote. I did that with yesterday’s email. It took me a long time, but it is much better.

I rewrote some sentences over and over again. I fiddled with it until I came as close to 50% as I could. I cut the piece I sent you from 1742 words down to 982. I promise to do this with all future pieces. Your time is valuable.

I did my best to strip away every sentence to its cleanest components. Every word that served no function was erased. I think it’s much cleaner without losing any of the original intent. I am learning that good writing is a craft. Clear writing is clear thinking. I hope you like it. Thank you for taking this journey with me as I learn to become a writer.

Intro

I love to write. Learning to write well is the hardest thing. I aim for spare and simple prose like in a children’s book for easy reading. I am happy when I do it well. I try to boil down my sentences without spreading them too thin. I throw out adjectives and adverbs.

Tack-Tack-Tack

I imagine each paragraph like the sound a machine gun or a typewriter- tack-tack-tack, then silence. I begin the next paragraph- tack-tack-tack, period. I want the boat to be steady and deliberate.

I am a historian, but I want to write like a novelist. Good writing is telepathy. I want my readers to “experience” my writing in a mental picture they can see, feel and taste.

Editor

Few sentences come out right the first time or the fifth time. Good writing gets great through exhaustive editing. I stick to a daily schedule. Writing is a craft, not an art. The more you practice, the better you get.

A Job

I am not a deep thinker. My work has no symbolism or deep meaning. I use my own experience to give credibility to my work. Trying to get names, dates, locations, smells and tastes right is tough. The trick is to pile up items, like bricks, to give a physical effect on the reader with a complexity of emotion.

I want the reader to see my picture in their mind. This is the real magic trick, and it will take a lifetime to master.

The Why

I write about two things: death and my dad. He died when I was twenty-one years old. Freud and Dr. Phil couldn’t unsnarl my relationship with my dad. I felt I was never “man enough” for him.

Father and Son

Vince Oto was born poor and hungry in the Great Depression. His parents were immigrants from Italy. His first memories were about work. He woke up at 4am to deliver newspapers with his older brother, he was four years old.

Hunger and poverty-plagued him throughout his childhood. His family never had enough to eat. There were too many kids (11 brothers and sisters) and not enough food or love. He was no intellectual, but he had uncommon common sense. His instinct was what was important. His family was the most important thing.

My dad was not an emotional man, but he felt deeply about the things he thought worthy of his feelings. He cut straight to the core of things. He was charming and generous, but private and distant. My dad only had a few close friends. He loved them for what they were, not who they were.

My dad had an undiagnosed learning disability. He read words and numbers backwards. Later in life, he discovered he had dyslexia. He felt dumb and slow but was a quick learner. He could watch something physical and do it. He could build engines and fix things in one lesson.

He’d watch it, and learn it. He was smart about people. He said, “People are like books. All you have to do is listen.” His disability made prove himself physically. He was an extraordinary athlete.

His experiences made him tough. He fought for everything he ever had. Physical achievement gave him dignity and self-respect. He went to war and came home a hero.

My dad was a real life, Hemingway hero. He was forty-three years old when I was born. Short and stocky, he was a powerful man. He had thick shoulders, arms, and chest from hard, manual labor. I see his eyes looking back at me in the mirror.

My dad had a patchwork of scars from war and construction accidents. His injuries left him crippled and in constant pain. He never complained. Despite the pain, he lifted weights every day.

He was all hard work and manhood.  When I asked him about his war experiences, he said, “I did my job.” He didn’t talk about what he did. He was a warrior without a war.

A Gentle Father

My dad was gruff, blue-collar man with calloused hands, but he knew how to love a son. He taught me how to box and shoot. As a boy, we talked girls and lifted weights.

Baby boy and dad

Later, our relationship got complicated. We argued. I loved books more than sports. He tried to nurture my inner athlete. I was a wimpy bookworm. He wanted a buddy to hang out with. My world was books, his was hard work and physical courage.

He loved me and told me so many times, but it never seemed enough. He was not a tough-love dad. He shared his hyper-masculine love by teaching me how to impress women, how to tip waiters, and how to fight. I wanted to win his approval. I copied his mannerisms. I ate what he ate and walked like he walked.

His shadow grew after he died. He defined my manhood.

Approval

I joined the Army for him. I spent the next fifteen years trying to be the man I thought he wanted me to be. I became an infantry officer. I did tough stuff because I thought, “This is what he would do.” I was terrible at all of it.

Father and Son holding hands

My father was a natural leader of men, not me. I am better at reading history than making it. I was too young when he died. I never knew him as a man. Now, older and wiser, I know he only wanted me to be happy.

I was a terrible soldier, but I loved the amazing people I met in the army. It gave me miles of writing material. I know he would be proud. Writing is a way to visit him, if only in words.

 

 

Ernest Hemingway- His Early Life 1899-1917

Introduction

I first read Hemingway in high school. Hemingway was a war veteran, a big game hunter, a deep-sea fisherman, and most important one of the world’s greatest storytellers.

Hemingway always fills me with a great pride and a little sadness. On July 21, 1962, he ended his own life. It was a tragic way to end a journey packed with adventure, travel, awards and more than its share of tragedy.

Ernest Hemingway’s words have touched millions of lives around the world. His tales of adventures allowed his readers to share the excitement in locations they otherwise could not have experienced.

In 1950, the New York Times declared that Ernest Hemingway was the most important writer since the death of Shakespeare. By dedicating his life to the ideal of writing one true sentence, Hemingway revolutionized the face of literature.

Hemingway is the quintessential American writer. Yet, public schools have threatened to ban his books. His macho attitude towards love, death, and war have come under fire by the politically correct.

His life mirrored his writing. His adventures made him an icon of super masculinity. Hemingway was a war hero in Italy, a white hunter in Africa, and an expert deep sea fisherman in Cuba.

Beyond the macho image lay a man touched by tragedy and haunted by death. His genius illuminated the “Lost Generation.” His depression led him into despair and darkness.

“Everyman’s life ends the same way,” wrote Hemingway. “It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguishes one man from another.”

Early Life

Ernest Miller Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in Oak Park, Illinois, the oldest son of Clarence “Ed” Hemingway, a physician, and his wife, Grace Hall Hemingway, a music teacher. Ernest’s parents were both strict Christians.

Hemingway Family

Ernest was raised in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, a place he described as having big lawns and small minds. Like many Victorian children, Ernest was dressed in girl’s clothing as an early age. Until he was six, his mother raised him as a twin to his older sister Marcelline.

baby Ernest

His mother dreamed of being an opera singer. She had a rich voice, and she performed at Madison Square Garden in her youth. Grace couldn’t continue in her career because her eyes were too sensitive to the stage lights.

Grace never let her family forget that she could have been a star. “But I have you, children,” she would say. Settling for life as a music teacher, Grace married Ed Hemingway, a physician in Oak Park, Illinois, just outside of Chicago.

Ed was an avid outdoorsman, and Ernest followed his example. For two months every summer, they would go to a camp in Northern Michigan on a lake. There Ernest was allowed to dress and act like a boy. His father gave him a gun and took him hunting and fishing.

Ed was a rugged man, but it was Grace who had the upper hand. She bullied her husband into developing his hopeless music ability and put him in charge of all their domestic chores.

Hemingway one day wrote of a character like his father, “He was married to a woman with whom he had no more common than a coyote has with a white female poodle. For he was no wolf, my father, he was sentimental. And like all sentimental people, he was cruel.”

Ed was often harsh to his children if they misbehaved. He would often make them pray to God after he whipped them with a razor strap. Sometimes after receiving punishment, Ernest would go out to the shed and take his shotgun and take his dad’s head in his sights.

Sometimes after receiving punishment, Ernest would go out to the shed and take his shotgun and take his dad’s head in his sights.

Yet, Ernest tried to please his parents especially his mother. He would feel a deep guilt over any wrongdoing. Grace remembered Ernest would whip himself, “so, mama won’t have to punish.”

Young Ernest

In high school, Ernest strove to be the center of attention. He would take any dare and laugh it off when he hurt himself. With girls, he was well-liked but very shy.

In high school, Ernest would play football, but he was a poor athlete. So he would make up stories of his heroics on the field. It was in those stories that Hemingway found his true talent.

He began writing for the school newspaper. His short story about a hunter who ends his life in suicide was published in his high school’s literary magazine He also had his first published piece of work in the school newspaper The Trapeze. Hemingway had found a career for life. Ernest attended Oak Park and River Forest High School, graduating in 1917.

Ernest in high school

Ernest decided not to go to college. Instead, he decided to get a job. His uncle was a close friend of the editor of the Kansas City Star. Ernest used his uncle’s contacts to get a job as a cub reporter for the newspaper where he handled the crime beat.

Although he was initially shy about interviewing people about their lives, Hemingway went after reporting with great energy and diligence. The Kansas City Star had its own style book that emphasized short sentences and vigorous English. Hemingway said they were the best rules he ever learned for the business of writing.

Hemingway’s life was soon to change with the assassination of an Archduke across the Atlantic. In 1917 the fervor of war called to America’s youth and Hemingway was no exception.

Practice Writing Like Hemingway

Writing Class

I am taking a writing class. One of the books we are using is “On Writing Well” by Williams Zinsser. This is a great book to learn how to write.

Zinsser gives the following advice: Writing is hard work. A clear, concise sentence is no accident. Clutter is the disease of writing.

We got an exercise to cut 50% of the last thing we wrote. I did that with yesterday’s email. It took me a long time, but it is much better.

I rewrote some sentences over and over again. I fiddled with it until I came as close to 50% as I could. I cut a piece from 1742 words down to 982.

I promise to do this with all future pieces. Your time is valuable.

I did my best to strip away every sentence to its cleanest components. Every word that served no function was erased. I think it’s much cleaner without losing any of the original intent.

I am learning that good writing is a craft. Clear writing is clear thinking. I hope you like it. Thank you taking this journey with me as I learn to become a writer.

Intro

I love to write. Learning to write well is the hardest thing. I aim for spare and simple prose like in a children’s book for easy reading. I am happy when I do it well.

I try to boil down my sentences without spreading them too thin. I throw out adjectives and adverbs.

Tack-Tack-Tack

I imagine each paragraph like the sound a machine gun or a typewriter- tack-tack-tack, then silence. I begin the next paragraph- tack-tack-tack, period. I want the boat to be steady and deliberate.

I am a historian, but I want to write like a novelist. Good writing is telepathy. I want my readers to “experience” my writing in a mental picture they can see, feel and taste.

Editor

Few sentences come out right the first time, or the fifth time. Good writing gets great through exhaustive editing. I stick to a daily schedule. Writing is a craft not an art. The more you practice the better you get.

A Job

I am not a deep thinker. My work has no symbolism or deep meaning. I use my own experience to give credibility to my work. Trying to get names, dates, locations, smells and tastes right is tough. The trick is to pile up items, like bricks, to give a physical effect to the reader with a complexity of emotion.

I want the reader to see my picture in their mind. This is the real magic trick, it will take a lifetime to master.

The Why

I write about two things: death and my dad. He died when I was twenty-one.

Freud and Dr. Phil couldn’t unsnarl my relationship with my dad. I felt I was never “man enough” for him.

Vince Oto was born poor and hungry in the Great Depression. His parents were immigrants from Italy. His first memories were about work. He woke up at 4am to deliver newspapers with his older brother, he was four years old.

Hunger and poverty plagued him throughout his childhood. His family never had enough to eat. There were too many kids (11 brothers and sisters) and not enough food or love.

He was no intellectual, but he had uncommon common sense. His instinct was for what was important. Family was the most important thing.

He was not an emotional man, but he felt deeply about the things he thought worthy of his feelings. He cut straight through the core of things.

He was charming and generous, but private and distant. He only had a few close friends. He loved them for what they were, not who they were.

My dad had an undiagnosed learning disability. He read words and numbers backwards. Later in life, he discovered he had dyslexia.

He felt dumb and slow, but was a quick learner. He could watch something physical and do it. He could build engines and fix things in one lesson.

He’d watch it, and learn it. He was smart about people. He said, “People are like books. All you have to do is listen.”

His disability made prove himself physically. His was an extraordinary athlete.

His experiences made him tough. He fought for everything he ever had. Physical achievement gave him dignity and self-respect. He went to war and came home a hero.

My dad was a real life, Hemingway hero.

He was forty-three years old when I was born. Short and stocky, he was a powerful man. He had thick shoulders, arms and chest from hard, manual labor. I see his eyes looking back at me in the mirror.

 

He had a patchwork of scars from war and construction accidents. His injuries left him crippled and in constant pain. He never complained. Despite the pain, he lifted weights every day.

He was all hard work and manhood. When I asked him about his war experiences, he said, “I did my job.” He didn’t talk about what he did. He was a warrior without a war.

A Gentle Father

He was gruff, blue-collar man with calloused hands, but he knew how to love a son. He taught me how to box and shoot. As a boy we talked girls and lifted weights.

Later, our relationship got complicated. We argued. I loved books more than sports. He tried to nurture my inner athlete. I was a wimpy bookworm. He wanted a buddy to hang out with. My world was books, his was hard work and physical courage.

He loved me and told me so many times, but it never seemed enough. He was not a tough-love dad. He shared his hyper-masculine love by teaching me how to impress women, how to tip waiters, and how to fight.

I wanted to win his approval. I copied his mannerisms. I ate what he ate and walked like he walked.

His shadow grew after he died. He defined my manhood.

Approval

I joined the army for him. I spent the next fifteen years trying to be the man I thought he wanted me to be. I became an infantry officer. I did tough stuff because I thought, “This is what he would do.” I was bad at all of it.

My father was a natural leader of men, not me. I am better at reading history than making it. I was too young when he died. I never knew him as a man. Now, older and wiser, I know he only wanted me to be happy.

I was a terrible soldier, but I loved the amazing people I met in the army. It gave me miles of writing material. I know he would be proud. Writing is a way to visit him, if only in words.