Monday, March 16, 2015

4th Annual Writers' Weekend Schedule Available!

Everyone's asking, and we're delivering!

Here is the simple schedule for the 4th Annual Writers' Weekend. In the coming days, we will be adding descriptions and bios of each presenter, but for now, this is a quick and easy look at the overall weekend!

Tickets for the entire weekend or single days can be purchased here. For questions or to register by phone, please call 860-280-3130.


Writers’ Weekend Schedule: April 17th - 19th

Friday Evening:

Books on the Nightstand Podcast Conversation

Saturday: 9 - 10 AM Breakfast & quiet writing time

10 - 10:55 Session 1

Antoinette Brim: Poetry
Mary Sharnick: Fiction
Susan Campbell: Nonfiction
Stacey DeKeyser: Proofreading

11 - 11:55 Session 2
David Handler (fiction)- The Not So Gentle Art of Murder
John Stanizzi (poetry)- Poetry
Caitlin Thayer (social)- Social Media for Writers
Christine Palm (nonfic)- Writing the Personal Essay

12 - 1 LUNCH

1 - 2  Session 3:
CAPA Self Publishing Panel
Vivian Shipley (poetry)- The Poet as Imposter
Leslie Johnson (fiction)- Fiction
Mark Ferguson (fiction) - reading & Q & A from his novel

2 - 2:55 Session 4
Patrice Fitzgerald (self-pub)- Self-Publishing
Judy Mandel (memoir)- Finding the Theme for Your Memoir
Dan Pope (dialogue)- Dialogue
Je Benach & Terence Hawkins (interview): American Neolithic: the story of Terence Hawkins’ first book

3  - 4 Playwriting panel: Neil LaBute, Christopher Shinn, Mark St. Germain

4 -5 Reception

KEYNOTE: Dani Shapiro


9 - 10 Breakfast & Writing Time

10 - 11 Session 5
Mike Morin (pitch)- The Perfect Pitch
Mary-Ann Tirone Smith (nonfiction)- Memoir
Edwina Trentham- Poetry
Lucy Ferriss (fiction)- Writing a Dramatic Scene

11 - 12 Session 6
Matthew Dicks (birth of a book)- Birth of a Book
Yeliza Renfro(nonfiction)- Writing the Braided Essay
Christine Beck (poetry)- Poetry Prompts
Susannah Hardy (mystery) - Writing the Cozy Mystery

12 -1 Lunch & book shopping!

1-2 Session 7
Susan Schoenberger (agent)- Finding an Agent
Hunter Liguore (oral history)- Taking the Oral History of a Family Member
Wayne English(social media)- Writing for the Web
Leslie McGrath (poetry)- Poetry about Animals

2-3 Open Mic-- Syllable! 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Writers' Weekend Schedule & Session Descriptions Now Available

We're thrilled to inform you that our Writers' Weekend and Book Fair has come together with a stunning array of writers and subjects. The craft of memoir, researching for your writing, avoiding procrastination, the history of poetry, how to get published, getting a book signed by a favorite writer-- it's all covered in our lineup. See below for full details.

There is still space available to learn from this incredible weekend-- register by calling (860) 280-3130.  The conference runs from April 26th - 28th and includes breakfast, lunch, and an evening reception, as well as all lectures and sessions, for $150.



6:00 p.m. Registration and Reception catered by Salute

7:00 p.m. Anita Diamant in conversation with Julia Pistell, Director, Writing at the Mark Twain House

Anita Diamant is the bestselling author of the novels The Red Tent, Good Harbor, and The Last Days of Dogtown, as well as the collection of essays, Pitching My Tent. An award-winning journalist whose work has appeared regularly in The Boston Globe Magazine and Parenting, she is the author of six nonfiction guides to contemporary Jewish life. She lives in Massachusetts. Her most recent novel is Day After Night. She will talk to Julia Pistell, Director of Writing Programs at the Mark Twain House, about her life as a writer and her work.


8:30 a.m. Registration & Coffee

9:00 a.m. Concurrent one-hour sessions:

1. Mary Sharnick: “The Mississippi River and the Grand Canal:  From Geography to Characterization”

With a nod to Mark Twain and his mixed reviews of Venice, this workshop explores how geographical setting propels characters into the conflicts that vivify novels.  Employing practical, “hands-on” use of photographs, sensate imagery, and travel (virtual and otherwise), participants will draft realistic characters, apt and specific to their respective settings and universally recognizable due to the conflicts they experience with their authors and their readers.

Mary Donnarumma Sharnick was a recipient of a 2010 Hartford Council for the Arts Solo Writer’s Fellowship from the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation.  The fellowship afforded Mary the opportunity to live at Instituto San Giuseppe, a Venetian convent of cloistered sisters, during July of 2010, where she researched Thirst.  Chair of the English Department at Chase Collegiate School, Waterbury, CT, Mary leads her writing students on slow travel tours of Italy, the country she considers her second home.

2. Ravi Shankar: “Pan-Asian Poetics: Investigating the Formal and Contextual Possibilities that Exist in International Poetry

In this workshop, we'll look at our inheritance from the Eastern world where arguably the world's first novel was written (Japan's "Tale of Genji"), the oldest poem was discovered (a 4000-year old Sumerian love poem unearthed in Iraq), and where there were forms such as ghazals, pantoum and renga that predate the sonnet and the villanelle. We will work on discovering how to revivify these ancient forms for modern times, learning how we might appropriate an Eastern mode of perception and a pattern of rhythm to create new directions in our own work. This workshop is open to everyone, regardless of experience.

Ravi Shankar is the founding editor and Executive Director of Drunken Boat, one of the world’s oldest electronic journals of the arts. He has published or edited seven books and chapbooks of poetry, including the 2010 National Poetry Review Prize winner, Deepening Groove. Along with Tina Chang and Nathalie Handal, he edited W.W. Norton’s Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from Asia, the Middle East & Beyond, called “a beautiful achievement for world literature” by Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer. He has won a Pushcart Prize, been featured in the New York Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education, appeared as a commentator on the BBC and NPR, received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, and has performed his work around the world. He is currently Chairman of the Connecticut Young Writers Trust, on the faculty of the first international MFA Program at City University of Hong Kong and an Associate Professor of English at CCSU.

3. Susan Campbell: “Writing the Biography of You: How to dispassionately and honestly approach your favorite subject: yourself.”

If you're going to write a book, you'd better love your topic, and what topic do you love more than you? How to fearlessly write the truth about yourself.

Susan Campbell is an award-winning author of Dating Jesus and the upcoming biography, Tempest-Tossed: The Spirit of Isabella Beecher Hooker. For more than a quarter-century, she was a columnist at the Hartford Courant, where her work was recognized by the National Women's Political Caucus, New England Associated Press News Executives, the Society for Professional Journalists, the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, and the Sunday Magazine Editors Association. Her column about the shootings at lottery headquarters in March 1998 was part of The Courant's Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage. The mother of two adult sons, and the grandmother of seven, she has a bachelor's degree from University of Maryland, and a master's degree from Hartford Seminary, and she lives in Connecticut with her husband.

10:15 Concurrent one-hour sessions:

1. Kate Rothwell: “How Should I Publish?”

Your book is finished! What should you do next? What will a big publisher do for you? How about a smaller mostly ebook-driven publisher? How long will you have to wait to see your masterpiece in print? And what should you do if you publish on your own? The world of publishing is changing every few minutes, but we can talk about some of the trends and requirements for a successful book launch no matter how you decide to publish.

Award-winning author Kate Rothwell publishes romances under her own name and as Summer Devon. She has books with New York publishers (Kensington and Simon and Schuster) and with smaller presses (Samhain, Loose Id and Ellora’s Cave and others) and is now venturing into self-publishing for some of her work.

2. Denis Horgan: "Me and My Big Mouth: Writing About Yourself”

Denis Horgan is a veteran journalist and author, well-known to Connecticut readers for his books and 25-years of columns for the Hartford Courant. His latest book, The Bangkok World, is a memoir of his fascinating days as an Army officer during the war in Southeast Asia and later as editor of the English-language newspaper of that name in Thailand. Earlier books include: Ninety-Eight Point Six ... and other stories, The Dawn of Days and Flotsam: A Life in Debris. A West Hartford resident, he was born in a taxicab.

3. Jon Clinch: “Promises, Promises: First Sentences”

So much depends on your opening sentence -- not just technically, in terms of establishing tone, point of view, pacing, tense, and so on; but practically, in terms of lassoing and commanding the reader's attention. We'll look at the promises made in a handful of extraordinary beginnings, from Garcia-Marquez to Nabokov, from Chandler to Theroux.

Born and raised in the remote heart of upstate New York, Jon Clinch has been an English teacher, a metalworker, a folksinger, an illustrator, a typeface designer, a housepainter, a copywriter, and an advertising executive. His first novel, Finn—the secret history of Huckleberry Finn’s father—was named an American Library Association Notable Book and was chosen as one of the year's best books by the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and the Christian Science Monitor. His second novel, Kings of the Earth, was named a best book of the year by the Washington Post and led the 2010 Summer Reading List at O, The Oprah Magazine. His new novel, The Thief of Auschwitz  was recently praised by the Jewish Daily Forward as "a page-turner with style."

11:30 Concurrent one-hour sessions:

1. Tom Ratliff: “Research & Your Writing”

One of the most important aspects of writing is research, and all too often this stage of the writing process is overlooked or glossed over. Almost all creative processes involve some kind of research – and a good storyteller does not confuse the reader with anomalies, anachronisms, or inaccuracies. Integrating research to create a story that is precise, interesting, and exciting can be challenging but it can be one of the most rewarding aspects of writing.

Tom Ratliff teaches history at Central Connecticut State University and in the community college system. He is the co-author of the Matty Trescott series and has written for Scholastic Books, Barrons Publishing, the National Geographic Society, Salariya Books of London, and the Newspapers in Education Program.

2. Chris Knopf: “All Things Unknown: Creating a Mystery”

There are no rules for writing mysteries but there are general guidelines that successful writers often note.  This session will be a review of those “generally accepted practices,” including pacing, character development, plot structure, dialogue and POV.  We’ll also discuss defining sub-genres within the broad mystery category, the publishing process, and where to go to get more information – conferences, organizations, online/offline publications, blogs, etc.

Chris Knopf has authored ten books, including two series set in the Hamptons, one starring Sam Acquillo (Black Swan, 2011) and a spin-off featuring Sam’s lawyer Jackie Swaitkowski, including Ice Cap, released June, 2012. Dead Anyway, first in a new mystery thriller series, received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus and Library Journal. Publishers Weekly listed it as one of the Top Twelve Mysteries of 2012, and mystery critic Hallie Ephron, writing in the Boston Globe, named it a  Ten Best Crime Books of 2012 Kirkus honored it as a Book of the Day and listed it among their Top One Hundred Novels of 2012. A sequel, Cries of the Lost, will be published in 2013.

3. Carole Goldberg: “Pursuing Publicity: How to Get Attention for Your Book”

These days, authors must be their own marketers and publicists, and many publishers insist on seeing a marketing plan before offering a book contract. Free media coverage is out there, but you have to know what’s available, what you want (which may not be what you need), what best suits your book and how to get it. This workshop offers advice on publicizing books for new authors.

Carole Goldberg, of West Hartford, is a former Books Editor for the Hartford Courant. As a freelancer, she writes author interviews and a weekly books events column, the Write Stuff, for the paper’s CAL section. She also writes Under the Covers, a twice-weekly blog about new books acquired by the Hartford Public Library, at

12:30 Lunch, catered by Salute (included in registration)

1:30-2:30 Concurrent one-hour sessions

1. Cindy Brown Austin: "Memoir Writing; Unwrapping the Gift of Memory." 

Memoir writing is not simply about recording mental recall. It's about processing and developing those revelatory life-experiences that can produce redemption in the souls of readers.

Former columnist and cover-story writer for The Hartford Courant's Sunday magazine, Northeast, Cindy is best known for providing searing insights into the hidden world of Hartford's impoverished Street culture. She is the author of "By the Rivers of Babylon", (Simon & Schuster, 2007), and is at work on a Hartford memoir entitled, "Diary of a Dreamer."

2. Dan Pope: “Structure in Fiction”

We will examine the use of structural elements in crafting a story or novel, looking at beginnings and endings, the passage of time, the use of back story, etc.

Dan Pope is a 2002 graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop.  His first novel, IN THE CHERRY TREE, was published by Picador in 2003. His second novel, HOUSEBREAKING, is forthcoming from Simon & Schsuter in 2014. He has published short stories in McSweeneys, Iowa Review, Shenandoah, Harvard Review, Witness, Post Road, Crazyhorse, Best New American Voices 2007, and many other journals.

3. John Stanizzi: Natasha Trethewey: Our United States Poet Laureate

This lecture will introduce the audience to poet, Natasha Trethewey, one of the youngest writers to ever serve as U.S. Poet Laureate.  The 45-minute presentation traces Ms. Trethewey's early years with her bi-racial parents in Gulf Port, Mississippi, where bi-racial marriages were illegal.  It covers her influences, the issues that inspire her to write, and what she perceives as poetry's place in society.  Including excerpts from her poems, this lecture touches on Ms. Trethewey's handling of the themes of racism, feminism, slavery, prostitution, and history, and endeavors to give the audience a clearer look at Natasha Trethewey the woman, the person -- beyond her poetry, her Pulitzer Prize, her installment as U.S. Poet Laureate.

John L. Stanizzi is the author of Ecstasy Among Ghosts, now in its fourth printing, Sleepwalking, Windows, Dance Against the Wall (, and After the Bell (BigTable Publishing). His poems have appeared in The New York Quarterly, Tar River Poetry, Rattle, Freshwater, Passages North, The Spoon River Quarterly, Poet Lore, The Connecticut River Review, and many other publications, as well as being featured on The Writer’s Almanac.  Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, in 1998 Stanizzi was named The New England Poet of the Year by The New England Association of Teachers of English. He teaches English at Manchester Community College and Bacon Academy, where he also directed the theater program for fifteen years. He lives with his wife, Carol, in Coventry, Connecticut.

2:45 – Playwrights Panel: David Lindsay-Abaire, Nikkole Salter, and Theresa Rebeck

After last year’s Playwrights Panel became a highlight of the Writer’s Weekend, we’ve lined up another blockbuster panel of today’s hottest dramatists!  Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lindsay-Abaire snagged theatre’s top honor with his searing family portrait Rabbit Hole.  He is currently represented on screens worldwide with the blockbuster Oz the Great and Powerful.  Theresa Rebeck was a Pulitzer Prize-finalist for Omnium Gatherum and has been represented on Broadway with Seminar, Mauritius and Dead Accounts.  She has been a producer-creator-writer on television’s Smash and Law & Order: CI.  Rounding out the panel is Obie Award-winner Nikkole Salter who hit the ground running with her hit play, In the Continuum.  Her latest play Carnaval recently enjoyed a sold-out, extended run.  Moderated by Hartford Courant and Variety critic Frank Rizzo, this discussion will be an insightful look into the creative minds behind some of your favorite stage plays.

David Lindsay-Abaire is a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, screenwriter, lyricist and librettist.  His plays include Rabbit Hole, Good People, Fuddy Meers, Kimberly Akimbo, and Wonder of the World, among others.

Theresa Rebeck’s New York productions: Dead Accounts, Seminar, The Understudy, Mauritius, The Scene, The Water’s Edge, Bad Dates, The Butterfly Collection, Spike Heels, Loose Knit, The Family of Mann, View of the Dome, and Omnium Gatherum (co-written, Pulitzer finalist).
Her Publications: Collected Plays Volumes I, II and III, Free Fire Zone, all with Smith & Kraus, and two novels, Three Girls and Their Brother and Twelve Rooms With a View, with Random House/Shaye Areheart Books. Her Film: Harriet the Spy, Gossip, and the independent features Sunday on the Rocks and Seducing Charlie Barker (adapted from her play The Scene). Awards include the Writer’s Guild of America Award for Episodic Drama and a Peabody Award for her work on “NYPD Blue,” the National Theatre Conference Award, the William Inge New Voices Playwriting Award, the PEN/Laura Pels Foundation Award, the Athena Film Festival Award, an Alex Award, a Lilly Award and in 2011 she was named one of the 150 Fearless Women in the World by Newsweek. She is the creator of the NBC drama, “Smash.”

Los Angeles-born, OBIE Award-winning actress and writer Nikkole Salter arrived onto the professional scene with her co-authorship and co-performance of IN THE CONTINUUM (ITC). For its Off-Broadway run and international tour, she received an OBIE Award (2006), and the NY Outer Critics Circle's John Gassner Award for Best New American Play (2006), the Seldes-Kanin Fellowship from the Theatre Hall of Fame, and the Global Tolerance Award from the Friends of the United Nations. Miss Salter also received Helen Hayes and Black Theatre Alliance nominations for Best Actress for her performance. ITC, published by Samuel French, was pronounced - by New York Times, Newsday and New York Magazine - as one of the best plays of 2005 and was featured in Essence Magazine, American Theatre Magazine, the Los Angeles Times and NPR’s Leonard Lopate Show. Miss Salter can be seen in Gavin O’Connors feature film “Pride & Glory” and as the voice of ‘LATICIA’ in Rockstar Games' video game release, Midnight Club: Los Angeles. She received an IRNE award nomination for Best Actress for her performance in STICK FLY co-produced by Arena Stage and the Huntington Theatre in Boston. Ms. Salter’s most recent work, CARNAVAL, was selected to be a part of The New Black Fest 2011-2012 season and received its world premiere production at  Luna Stage's 20th Anniversary Season. Miss Salter also founded and serves as Executive Director of THE CONTINUUM PROJECT, INC., a non-profit organization that creates innovative artistic programming for community empowerment and enrichment.


8:00 — Coffee and breakfast

9:00 —Finding an Agent, Susan Schoenberger

In this era of self-publishing, do you even need a literary agent? This session will focus on what agents do for their authors as well as how to go about finding one. We'll talk about the query letter, the research required to search for the right agent, and how to stay resilient in the face of rejection.
Susan Schoenberger is a writer, editor and copy editor whose first novel, "A Watershed Year," won the William Wisdom-William Faulkner Creative Writing Competition in 2006 and was published in 2011. She has a contract with Amazon Publishing to re-release her first novel and for a second novel tentatively titled "The Virtues of Oxygen."

10:15 – Concurrent one-hour sessions

1. Mary-Ann Tirone Smith: “The Art of the Memoir:  The Remembered Life”

Autobiography skirts the surface of a life without allowing the reader access to the messy, conflicted and unapologetically subjective material of a memoir. Let us speak of that subjective mess and learn how to embellish everything but the truth through the creation of an irresistible and compelling narrative voice.

Mary-Ann Tirone Smith has written nine novels including The Book of Phoebe, an American Killing and Masters of Illusion: A Novel of the Hartford Circus Fire. She collaborated with her son Jere Smith on Dirty Water: A Red Sox Mystery. Her memoir, Girls of Tender Age, published in 2006 is still merrily making the rounds of book clubs, and has been optioned for the stage.  She was the recent recipient of the Black Mountain Institute's writing fellowship, and was awarded a writing grant by the Connecticut Commission for the Arts. Her work has been published in seven foreign languages.  She teaches fall sessions of Fiction classes at the Mark Twain House & Museum.

2. David Handler: “Howdunit”

A modern master shares the secret to how he creates an intricate mystery plot.  Exactly what is the difference between a thriller and mystery? What does it mean to call a crime novel "hard-boiled" as opposed to a "cozy?" All will be revealed.

David Handler, the Edgar Award-winning master of the witty whodunit, has written eight novels about the dapper celebrity ghostwriter Stewart Hoag and his faithful, neurotic basset hound, Lulu, as well as nine books in his bestselling series featuring the mismatched crime-fighting duo of pudgy New York film critic Mitch Berger and the lovely Connecticut State Trooper Desiree Mitry. In August of 2013, his novel Runaway Man will mark the debut of young Benji Golden, the feisty and street-wise 137-pound New York private detective. Mr. Handler has written extensively for television and films on both coasts and coauthored the international bestselling thriller Gideon under the pseudonym Russell Andrews. He presently lives in a 200-year-old carriage house in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

3. Hillary Rettig: "Seven Secrets of the Prolific”

Why do some writers seem to write effortlessly, turning out page after page, chapter after chapter, and book after book, while so many others struggle over every word? The difference often comes down to how one relates to one’s work. In this workshop you'll learn how prolific writers create a context for themselves that promotes their productivity, and in particular how they solve problems related to procrastination, perfectionism, ambivalence, traumatic rejections, and constraints of time and other resources. Come and learn how to write more per hour--and have more fun doing it--than you ever thought possible!

Hillary Rettig is author of The 7 Secrets of the Prolific: The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism, and Writer's Block (Infinite Art, 2011). She has taught productivity classes at Grub Street Writers in Boston and many other venues for more than a decade, and is also an internationally recognized productivity and time management coach. Hillary was born in the Bronx, currently resides in East Boston, and like Mark Twain himself is an animal lover and a proponent of author empowerment via indie publishing.

11:30-12:30 – Closing Session: Davy Rothbart, Found Magazine

Davy Rothbart is the creator of Found Magazine, a frequent contributor to public radio’s This American Life, and author of the story collection The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas. He writes regularly for GQ and Grantland, and his work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Believer. He’s the founder of Washington II Washington, an annual hiking trip for inner-city kids, and is also the co-director of the documentary film Medora, to be released in 2013. He splits his time between Los Angeles, California and his hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

12:30 — Writers are free to go, OR enjoy the book fair, bookstore, tours of the house, and museum center!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Gilded Age of Hartford: A Major Exhibit Now on View

The Mark Twain House & Museum is proud to present the new exhibition in the Museum Center: The Gilded Age of Hartford! The exhibit opened Friday March 15th and features artifacts and rare items from the museum’s collections revolving around Hartford Connecticut’s period of wealth, poverty, dynamism, oppression, plutocracy, populism, corruption, and reform. Twain was an active member of the community and his own ideas and life helped to depict the varying dimensions of the time.

            The Gilded Age spanned from the middle to the late 19th century. During that time, Hartford underwent many reforms and prosperous endeavors. Gas lighting was a major breakthrough for citizens; Mark Twain often felt annoyed about it and in 1891 complained to the Hartford City Gas Light Company about randomly shutting off lights without informing citizens ahead of time. Also, the telephone had been invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, and in 1877-1878, Mark Twain had a telephone line in his home connecting to the Hartford Courant and two of their editors. He was not the best, however, at operating the telephone and regularly recorded his troubles on a homemade chart. Another reform of this period was with sanitation. People began realizing the need for better sanitation to stop the spread of diseases and to make life better, in general, especially for the lower classes. The railway at Union Depot was introduced in 1843, fixing the problem carriages had previously run into of having to lower the gates every time they crossed the tracks, which was daily. The Union Depot has been on the National Registrar of Historic Places since 1975. The Hartford and Wethersfield Horse Railroad allowed people to move outside the city but still keep their city jobs.
A popular leisure time activity for people during this period was the social club. Between 1873-1874, there were more than 90 active clubs and societies in Hartford. Mark Twain belonged to many of these clubs and societies, including The Hartford Club, the Monday Evening Club, and the Saturday Morning Club. Twain felt that belonging to a club created a sense of belonging for himself in the community.
In 1872, Hartford began making some form of education mandatory. Because of this, by the end of the 19th century more than 10,000 children were enrolled in public school. Hartford Public High School was a popular school, but to attend, children had to pass an exam in reading, writing, math, and other subjects, plus be able to pay the $1.50 weekly tuition. Mark Twain’s children, Susy and Clara, briefly attended this school, but were mainly homeschooled by their mother, Olivia. Trinity College was also established in 1823 for men who wanted to receive higher education.
Another great aspect of The Gilded Age was the establishment of the headquarters in Hartford for The Chinese Educational Mission, headed by Yung Wing. The Chinese Empire would send 120 boys ages 12-15 to New England to study between 1872-1874. Mark Twain held a reception during this period of time for Yung Wing at his home. This program ended in 1881. Many students went on to become railroad builders, naval officers, or diplomats. One student in his old age said, “I used to dance with Mark Twain’s daughters.”

            Mark Twain wrote a book about his experiences during this period of his life called The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, and it was published by Elisha Bliss and the American Publishing Company in 1873.

            The exhibit runs through September 2nd, and is open during regular museum hours. The exhibit is free with a purchase of a tour of The Mark Twain House or $5.00 for a museum-only pass.

            “…& again Hartford is becoming the pleasantest city, to the eye, that America can show.”—Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) to Olivia Langdon, May 12th, 1869

-- Catie Calo, Communications Intern

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Get a Clue!

Have you ever wanted to take part in solving a murder mystery? Do you ever wish you could transport yourself into the Parker Brothers/Hasbro game CLUE? Well today’s your lucky day because the Mark Twain House & Museum is offering YOU the chance to be a detective of murder right here in Hartford!

The Mark Twain House & Museum’s “Get a Clue” Tour on Saturday March 9th from 6-10pm will lay out a full-fledged murder mystery in Mark Twain’s historic home. Visitors will be able to make accusations and try to deduct who sent “Pap Finn”—Huck Finn’s drunken father—to his grave, where it took place, and what tool was used. Mark Twain’s own Library, Conservatory, Dining Room, Kitchen and more will be potential scenes of the crime!

The Conservatory is a quite special aspect of the house. Located right off the Library, it houses many beautiful hanging and potted plants, as well as an ornate fountain in the middle. The Conservatory can remind visitors of Mark Twain’s fatherly qualities that can get overlooked by his literary achievements. He would pretend to be an elephant on mock safaris with his three daughters in their “Jungle” paradise. The room is surrounded by glass walls and a glass roof, letting in the most light of any room in the house. If the murder of Pap Finn were to have happened in this room, the whole world would’ve seen!

At the end of the night, in a dramatic reveal, the murderer will be unmasked and proven guilty!

Hartford’s Sea Tea Improv members will portray the suspects—characters from Mark Twain’s beloved books that were crafted in the very house where the murder mystery takes place.

Becky Thatcher is a cute little character from Twain’s book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. She is the daughter of Judge Thatcher and the love interest of Tom. Tom attempts to court her throughout the entire book, using various tricks and skills, but to no avail until he takes a whipping for her in school by taking the blame for something naughty she did. With her hair always seen in braids, she seems like a prim and proper young lady from a well-to-do family. But what if this little girl has a secret dark place inside of her capable of dangerous things? What if she was responsible for Pap Finn?!

Come join us for a night of detective reasoning and murderous plotting that is sure to be one thrilling event! And who knows, YOU could be the one to solve the mystery!

Tickets are $20 for adults, $16 for members, and $13 for children 16 years old and under. 

-- Catie, our new marketing intern!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

New Director: Cindy Lovell!

The Mark Twain House & Museum is thrilled to announce on our blog (and in every other possible way) our new Executive Director, Cindy Lovell. Cindy comes to us from another great Mark Twain site-- the Boyhood Home in Missouri.

"To have served in Hannibal and now in Hartford at the two homes where Sam Clemens resided the longest is the highest honor I could know," Lovell said. "I'm excited and eager to continue the collaboration between the two homes in our shared vision of preserving Mark Twain's legacy."

We couldn't be happier to welcome such a Twainiac into our midst-- welcome, Cindy!

Cindy begins her work here in Mark-- let's see if she grows a bushy white mustache like the rest of us.

Monday, November 19, 2012

How Hal Holbrook's Hartford Insurance Tale Ensnared Ed Sullivan

Hal Holbrook at the Mark Twain House, 1960

Hal Holbrook first showed up at the Mark Twain House & Museum when it was the Mark Twain Memorial, back in 1956. It was three months after he first performed as Twain on The Ed Sullivan Show. Sullivan had come to a New York club called Upstairs at the Duplex to see the young actor, who had a regular gig on a popular TV soap opera, do a new show he had designed in which he reproduced some of Mark Twain’s stage routines.

The performance had not been a smash. One audience member thought he was supposed to be Colonel Sanders. The New Yorker reviewed a young female singer at the club enthusiastically, but added: “I think you can overlook the young man who comes on first and impersonates Mark Twain.”

As Holbrook tells it in his memoir, Harold: The Boy Who Became Mark Twain, he was putting on makeup to make his smooth, 30-year-old face look like the wrinkled old visage of the 70-plus Mark Twain when a friend told him Ed Sullivan was out front.

“What in hell should I do for him?” Holbrook wondered. Then it struck him: He should do the routine that had gotten him the biggest laughs. It came out of Mark Twain’s Hartford days, and was about accident insurance. It was risky, given that this was the 1950s, and TV was not prone to blasphemy and dark humor, even as practiced by Mark Twain. And insurance companies -- potential TV sponsors -- were notoriously humorless.

Holbrook walked out and growled in slow, measured phrases, punctuated with studied  pauses, wreathed in cigar smoke.

I’ve just been reading an article in the newspaper which has so impressed me that I’ve got to tell you about it. The article speaks with enthusiasm about our railroad system and its splendid record of achievement. It says that the trains only destroyed – let me see – three thousand and seventy lives last year by collisions, and twenty-seven thousand two hundred and sixty by running over heedless and unnecessary people at crossings.

He continued. It was the early show, four or five people in the back, Sullivan right up front.

My home is in Hartford, which, as you know, is a city whose fame as an insurance center has spread to all parts of the world. As a matter of fact, we citizens of Hartford have got the reputation of being a triple band of brothers working sweetly hand-in-hand. First, the Colt Arms Company making the destruction of our race easy and convenient; second, our life insurance companies paying for the victims when they pass away; third, our fire insurance comrades taking care of their hereafter.

“If ever there was the sound of a chuckle, that was all the response I got,” Holbrook recalls. “I walked back down to the boiler room in disgust.” The disgust was short-lived. Sullivan sent for him, invited him to audition, and Holbrook went on the show. “The curled wig and the mustache and white greasepaint was about all I had to introduce Mark Twain to America,” he writes.  

In fact, he had a lot more to offer, and he has proceeded to display it over the next five decades, right up to today, when at 87 he continues to perform Mark Twain Tonight! Including just last weekend in Twain’s boyhood town of Hannibal, Missouri. And this Sunday here at the Mark Twain & Museum, he’ll be on stage again, but this time the focus will be on "Hal Holbrook, Himself."  

He’ll be interviewed onstage by Ray Hardman of  National Public Radio, and then we’ll dedicate the Great Hall of our Visitor Center in his honor, and then we'll celebrate further with a reception. He’ll be telling stories of his own life, and perhaps what it was like to go on the Ed Sullivan Show eight years before the Beatles did. (You can read more about this event at Tickets to the on-stage interview, dedication ceremony and reception are $100. They can be obtained at 860-280-3130.)

As mentioned above, three months after that Sullivan appearance, he was at Mark Twain's Hartford house  to help raise funds. It was the first of many such visits over the decades: Sunday’s is only the latest.

It appears to be a labor of love. When we asked Hal to write an introduction to our keepsake book on the house, The Loveliest Home That Ever Was, he put his affection into elegant prose: “We can only recapture the past for a future generation by preserving it,” he writes, “allowing them to measure their own way of life against its presence and to find what is precious in it. Mark Twain’s Hartford house, its design inspired in places by his own mischievous vision, the memories of its former great tenant and his family seem to whisper there in the rooms and on the porches – a way of life gone long ago and dearer now for the loss of it.”

Ed Sullivan never knew what was getting under way when he listened to Hal Holbrook’s Hartford insurance routine.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The House in Fall

This time every year, we love walking to work. The fall foliage surrounds the house in pure New England glory. Last weekend, the Hartford Half Marathon passed by the house, the runners undoubtedly reveling in the orange and yellow leaves. It's a busy time for us, as the leaf-peepers love to stop by the house on their daytrips through Connecticut. If you haven't been to the house in fall, this is a great time to come.

Our guess is that it was in autumn that Twain decided, "You do not know what beauty is if you have not been here."

What's your favorite season at the Twain House?

-- The Mark Twain House

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tapping Into Twain: Year 5

Five years ago, the wonderful Caitlin Thayer decided it was time to honor Twain's love of a good brew. In our archives, we have sales receipts for all manner of brews the Clemens family had delivered to their home-- mostly lagers-- and so, the staff here decided to celebrate in a style our dear Sam would have enjoyed.

That first year, we had a bunch of great breweries and a few great local restaurants. The food went so fast we had to order a huge batch of fresh pizzas in the middle of the party. The second year, we had tons of fabulous food, and the years began to blur together. Year three: perfect. Year four: perfect. The Hartford Advocate called Tapping Into Twain "absolutely, positively, without any doubt whatsoever, one of the best charitable events Hartford has beheld in quite some time."

This year, we've got many new breweries and restaurants-- from breweries that just opened this years, to longtime restaurants we've never landed before. Please join us for the fifth annual celebration of fun and frolic  on Farmington Avenue. It's what Sam would have wanted.

Tickets: $45 in advance / $50 at the door
$40 for MTH&M Members
$20 for designated drivers

Last year sold out, so call (860) 280-3130 or as soon as possible.

Monday, August 6, 2012

This Summer in Twain

As the eyes of the world descend upon England for the Olympics, this country has welcomed the Olympians, spectators, and tourists who have descended upon London and the country at large. Yet, this country and its historic capital have drawn the admiration and attention of the world through the ages, drawing in tourists from across the world long before any Olympic torch was lit; one of these travelers was Sam Clemens himself.

In the summer of 1879, from Sunday, July 20th to Saturday, August 23rd, the Clemens family toured England, beginning their visit in London. Like most people encounter today, when the Clemens arrived in London, it was rainy and cold (the exact same weather which encumbered the women’s bicycling and volleyball competitions). Despite being in a new city, one of the first activities for Sam was shopping for cigars and whiskey. It seems that even across the Atlantic Sam couldn’t resist a smoke.

After a smoke and some touring, Sam met one of England’s iconic writers, Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It seems, however, that Sam wasn’t a fan, for he wrote that “he was only interesting to look at, for he was the stillest and shyest full-grown man I have ever met except ‘Uncle Remus.’”

With the end of his visit with Carroll,  the Clemens ended this brief London stay, moving to North Shropshire for some rest and relaxation on the coast. After this stay, the family moved back to their base of London, touring the main sites, like the National Gallery of London and the Royal Aquarium. At the conclusion of these visits the family went to hear the Baptist Preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon speak, and while today this may not be considered a main attraction, listening to sermons was vastly popular back in the days of the Clemens. Sam’s questioning and controversial attitude towards religion came out here as well, for he commented that they all were “A wooden-faced congregation—just the sort to see no incongruity in the Majesty of Heaven stooping to beg & plead & sentimentalize over such, & see in their salvation an important matter.”

This ended their stay in London for the rest of the duration for the trip, for the Clemens then traveled to the Lake District, a place that has inspired many English writers such as Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey, together known as the Lake Poets. Here, however, Twain did not talk literature, for evolution was more at the forefront for here he met Charles Darwin. After their stay in the Lake District, the Clemens sailed back to New York, ending their tour of England.

This tour of England was not the only for the Sam Clemens, who returned multiple times on speaking tours. While one hundred and thirty three years later, the England Sam visited has altered with time, it, as well as London, still remain a main center for visitors across the globe.

-- Sam Nystrom, Twain House Summer Intern

*All information from Mark Twain Day by Day: An Annotated Chronology Of the Life of Samuel L. Clemens, Volume One (1835-1885) by David H. Fears

Friday, August 3, 2012

Wagner Music Festival

Summer is a time for traveling, taking trips, and simply taking part in fun activities.  One such popular activity is Summer Music Festivals.  Everywhere you look these days there are outdoor concerts and festivals happening.  One might think that this tradition is something that recently came to be popular, but that is not the case.  Music festivals were very popular during the Clemens’ time, though the musicians and the music itself were quite a bit different than what people are listening to today.  Instead of hip-hop or pop music, they were listening to classical operas. On Friday, July 31, 1891, the Clemens party started traveling to Bayreuth for the Wagner festival, which they arrived at the next day, on August 1, 1891.  This festival was a huge deal-- such a popular event that the Clemenses had to reserve their tickets a year in advance. 
This festival was put on by Wagner’s widow, and included over 141 singers and an orchestra almost 100 strong all performing Wagner’s incredible compositions in his own home!  This event was one of such importance that the Hartford Courant reported on it.  “At Bayreuth the rehearsals for the Wagner festivals are now being pushed forward very actively.  The actual performances will begin on Monday, July 19, and will be on the usual monster scale which is so pleasing to the devotees of the music of the future.  Thus no fewer than 141 singers will be employed, and there will be in addition sixty-four ballet girls and dancers.  The orchestra, which is natural the exceedingly important factor in the presentation of these music dramas, contains thirty-two violins, two violas, twelve violincellos, eight bassos, five flutes, five oboes, five clarinets, five flageolettes, two trumpets and cornets, four harps and two drums.” (Hartford Courant, July 21, 1891).
This festival was great fun for the Clemens family, because though Sam did not love opera, everyone else in the family did, especially Susy and Clara.  Sam was much more interested in the parties and dining out in Bayreuth as opposed to the operas, being that he was more of a spirituals man himself.  Sam often left the opera early so that he could secure good seats for the family at dinner, as well as getting himself out of having to sit through the entire opera. 
Though the music may have changed, the sentiments and fun that are behind these events still hold true.  Going to see music of any kind with family is fun, particularly if there is a party afterwards-- at least for Sam.

-- Cassandra Saimond, Summer intern

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Happy Visitor, in Rhyme

A recent visitor was so overjoyed by her jaunt through the Twain House that she had to put her feelings down in verse. Here's what she penned:
Mark Twain’s House
Mark Twain’s house befits the man
Who wrote his famous writings.
Wish I could have been a guest
At his renowned invitings.
Recently I did the tour
And ambled room to room,
Imagining his essence
Which the house may yet entomb.
His library was furnished with
A charming reading nook,
Where he created bedtime tales
Not seen in any book.
His lucky daughters tapped his brain
Then bid their dad goodnight,
Retreating to the children’s quarters
Up a staircase flight.
The billiards room, one floor above,
Was where his stories flowed,
His back turned to the table
When engaged in writing mode.
I loved my time inside his house
Though it was bittersweet,
Since I live now and he lived then;
No way the Twain shall meet!
                                    Ilene Bauer
                                    July 31, 2012

Monday, July 23, 2012

This Summer in Twain History

Driving to The Mark Twain House & Museum, one can hardly fail to notice the ongoing construction on Farmington Avenue. Fixing our roads, the construction workers are bearing the unbelievable heat to help create a future of smoother commutes. While in this day and age constant construction during the summer months is common, if not expected, for Sam Clemens, even the most minor alteration to his local pathways was a cause for complaint, even when he was hundreds of miles away.

On Thursday, July 19th 1888, from Elmira, New York Clemens wrote a comically scathing note to Franklin G. Whitmore critiquing the City of Hartford’s audacity to move an electric lamp and post that resided on Forest Street. In this letter, Clemens writes:

"For fifteen years, in spite of my prayers & tears, you persistently kept a gas lamp exactly half way between my gates, so that I couldn’t find either of them after dark; & then furnished such execrable gas that I had to hang a danger-signal on the lamp-post to keep teams from running into it, nights. Now I suppose your present idea is, to leave us a little more in the dark out our way, so that you can have another light to stick in front of the granite shell of the Catholic Cathedral. Or maybe you want to add it to the Park lights, so that strangers can see the open sewer you maintain there . . . Please take our lonesome electric light & put it where you please. Put it down town by old Daniel’s dam, where you can count the catch of dead cats & forecast the rise of real estate in the cemeteries. Yours, in indestructible affection, S.L.C., Farmington Ave."

Clemens was insistent that his complaint be printed for he ordered Whitmore to post this note in the Courant without any apologies or alterations for his biting editorial, and if the Courant refused, then to go to the Hartford Times. If both of these routes failed, Clemens insisted Whitmore take it to William Mackay Laffan, who he hoped would print it in the New York Sun. Unfortunately for Sam, neither of the three papers would print his piece and his complaint was never printed for the world, and especially the City of Hartford, to see.

While this failure to print was unfortunate for Clemens, for us residents of Hartford today, perhaps it was for the best. Who knows what the results of this note would have meant for future public works on Farmington Avenue. Perhaps Farmington would not be getting repaired at this very moment, but would have been left to crumble in retaliation for Sam’s disrespect. Lucky for us, we’ll never have to know. 

-- Samantha Nystrom, Twain House Summer Intern

*All information is from David h. Fears’ Mark Twain Day by Day: An Annotated Chronology Of the Life of Samuel L. Clemens, Volume Two (1886-1896)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Spiritualism & Sam

Sam Clemens lived in an era where Spiritualism was prevalent in all areas of life.  Many dinner parties of the time had mediums for entertainment.  It was seen both as a party activity and as a way to deal with the losses from the Civil War, particularly the Gettysburg Battle in which hundreds of thousands of soldiers were killed.  Spiritualism was a way for people to not have to entirely give up their lost family members, a way for them to stay in touch.  The great losses that came about as a result of the Civil War also brought about a newfound popularity of Spirit photography.  These photographs claimed to capture a spirit in the background of a photo of their loved one.  One such photo is of Mary Todd Lincoln with the spirit of her husband, Abraham Lincoln behind her.

            Clemens first started to be actively involved in the Spiritualism movement when he moved to San Francisco in 1864, where there were a huge number of people who believed in spiritualism.  He started writing about spiritualism in many articles, which were later republished in a newspaper called, The Golden Era, in 1866.  He then started to go to Pellet Readings with Ada Foye, who was a famed spiritualist.  These Pellet Readings would include putting many names on balled pieces of paper into a hat and then writing a name on a piece of paper and then pulling out the pellets until they reach the person that they are called to, supposed to be the same name that the spiritualist wrote down.  Sam believed that these Pellet Readings were legitimate and did not find any untruthfulness to the first one he attended or any of the others that followed.

            Spiritualism was not only popular in San Francisco; the Nook Farm area was populated with many people who deeply believed in ghosts.  Harriet Beecher Stowe had many conversations with Charlotte Bronte through a medium, and later wanted to write articles about these conversations.  The Cheney’s would host many parties all the time, hosting mediums for the entertainment for the party guests. 

            Then in the 1880’s furthering his interest in Spiritualism, Sam joined the Society for Psychic Research. In addition to Sam’s many other connections to Spiritualism, no one can deny the strangeness of his being born and dying both times when Haley’s Comet came.  This renewed interested in spiritualism for Sam could have been tied to Suzy’s death, because she was the first of his children to die.  Sam continued to feel a connection to all of his daughters even after they died.  Sam was said to have felt a cool breeze in the bathroom, which was where Jean died.

            All these connections that Sam had to spiritualism has had its impact on the house, because today many people are said to have felt various spirits in the house.  Come to the Ghost Tours this month to find out!

-- Cassandra Saimond, Communications Intern

Graveyard Shift Ghost Tours
Friday, July 27, 6 p.m., 7 p.m., 8 p.m., 9 p.m.
Friday, July 27 and Saturday, July 28! Reserve early to get a spot on these limited and popular tours -- they're routinely sold out in advance.
Reports of ghostly apparitions, mysterious bangs, cigar smoke and other unexplained phenomena, featured on Syfy's Ghost Hunters, have led us to reprise these popular tours. Hear these creepy tales -- and learn about Mark Twain's own interest in the supernatural. Spiritualism and ghostly tales were a big part of the Gilded Age, an age of uncertainty, rampant materialism and credulity much like ours.
The tours are tsponsored by Tsunami Tsolutions.
Tickets - $20 / $16 for MTH&M Members / unlucky $13 for children 16 and under (not recommended for kids under 10). Reservations required. Call (860) 280-3130.