The Write Places: 4 Florida Authors Whose Homes You Can Visit

By: Gary McKechnie

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Perhaps it is Florida’s diversity that lends itself to an author’s literary expression. Our state is a cauldron of content and inspiration that bubbles up through a rich mix of landscapes and cultures and unforgettable characters.

And through books and articles and films, Florida authors and writers are continually extending an open invitation to readers around the world to visit their home state.

Even better, in a few special cases readers can even visit the author's actual home.

Marjory Kinnan Rawlings – Cross Creek
1896-1953

The gifted but struggling writer arrived in the rural Central Florida environs of Cross Creek in the 1920s. With determination (as well as income from her citrus grove), Rawlings managed to stay solvent for a full decade until she achieved lasting success with the publication of The Yearling, her 1939 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and 1946 feature film starring Gregory Peck.

Although she died in 1953, the Cracker setting that inspired several more novels as well as a popular cookbook (Cross Creek Cookery) is still here, and still intact. About 20 miles southeast of Gainesville, the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park appears just as it was in Rawlings’ day, with her own typewriter, books, and furnishings still at the homestead. Even the park’s docents dress the part, wearing period (ie: 1930s) apparel to add to a wonderful level of historical realism.

Still remote, still rural, it takes very little to envision the author at work here. You can still see her breathing in the fragrance of the surrounding citrus, listening to the call of the crickets, and gaining inspiration from Old Florida.

Ernest Hemingway – Key West
1899-1961

Of all the writers who have called Key West home, none are so closely associated with the island as Ernest Hemingway. Between 1928 and 1940, the house at 907 Whitehead Street was the author’s primary residence and while here he wrote all or parts of A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, To Have and Have Not, and The Snows of Kilimanjaro – reasons enough why the island hosts Hemingway Days each July.

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum will give you a sense of how Hemingway could work at such a prolific pace. He enjoyed the privacy provided by Key West’s remote location, savored the tropical landscape that surrounded his estate, and created a sanctuary for himself in his personal writing studio. When his workday was done, Hemingway could wrap up a chapter and stroll over to a Duval Street watering hole for a cold one with his pals.

Just like the island’s writers do today.

Zora Neale Hurston – Eatonville
1891-1960

While her home is no longer here, writer and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston’s impact on Eatonville, America’s oldest incorporated black community, has been long lasting.

Although she lived here only until her teens, this formative connection, return visits, and her subsequent reputation as one of the leading writers of the 1920s Harlem Renaissance is enough for the town to celebrate the author who influenced generations of writers, black and white, including Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker through works such as Jonah’s Gourd Vine, Mules and Men, and Their Eyes Were Watching God.

The Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts features a gallery with changing exhibits and a small shop selling Hurston’s books. A few blocks away the Moseley House is where Hurston stayed when visiting her hometown. But to truly appreciate Hurston’s legacy, arrive in time to enjoy the highlight of the town’s cultural calendar: Zora! Festival, an annual celebration of art, music, and literature held each January.

Jack Kerouac – Orlando
1922-1969

Before a New York Times review of ‘On the Road’ shot him to fame, the author who transformed American literature and the nation’s youth culture spent his last anonymous days in Orlando at 1418½ Clouser Street, working his next book, ‘The Dharma Bums.’ In 1996, nearly 30 years after Kerouac died in St. Petersburg at age 47, author Bob Kealing launched a drive to buy and restore the broken down rental home and create the Kerouac Project, a retreat for a writer in residence. The home is on the National Register of Historic Places and, notably, is Orlando's only historic literary landmark.

Epilogue: The Florida Book Shelf

As you travel around the state, consider delving into the works of other Florida writers, past and present.

Shel Silverstein, Author/Musician – Key West

Where the Sidewalk Ends, The Giving Tree, A Light in the Attic

George Abbott, Playwright – Miami Beach

Damn Yankees, The Pajama Game, Pal Joey

Harry Crews, Author/Screenwriter - Gainesville

Florida Frenzy, The Hawk is Dying

Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Author/Journalist – Coconut Grove

The Everglades: River of Grass

Stetson Kennedy, Author/Folklorist/Journalist – St. Augustine

The Klan Unmasked, Southern Exposure

John D. MacDonald, Author - Sarasota

Travis McGee series, The Executioners

Randy Wayne White, Author – Pine Island

Dead Silence, Night Moves, Chasing Midnight

Carl Hiassen, Author/Writer – Vero Beach

Native Tongue, Skinny Dip, Bad Monkey

Patrick D. Smith, Author – Merritt Island

A Land Remembered, Forever Island, Angel City

Tennessee Williams, Playwright/Author– Key West

The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire

Cat On a Hot Tin Roof

Elmore Leonard, Author/Writer – Pompano Beach

Get Shorty, 3:10 to Yuma, 52 Pick-Up

Janet Evanovich, Author - Naples

Stephanie Plum series, Wicked Appetite

Pat Frank, Author – Tangerine

Alas Babylon, Hold Back the Night

Dave Barry, Author/Writer – Miami

Dave Barry Slept Here, Dave Barry Turns 50, Dave Barry's History of the Millennium (So Far)

 

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