International Imitation Hemingway Competition
Also known as "The Bad Hemingway Contest," The International Imitation Hemingway Competition is an annual writing competition begun in Century City, California. Started in 1977 as a "promotional gag", and held for nearly thirty years, the contest pays mock homage to Ernest Hemingway by encouraging authors to submit a 'really good page of really bad Hemingway' in a Hemingway-esque style.
Submissions have included such titles as "The Old Man and the Flea" (2002 winner), "The Bug Count also Rises," "Across the Suburbs and Into the Express Lane at Von's" (2000 winner) and "The Short, Happy Life of Frances' Comb."
The competition, as created, had two rules: mention Harry's Bar & Grill (the Venetian Harry's was long one of Hemingway's favorite watering holes) and be funny. First prize was round-trip tickets and dinner for two at Harry's in Florence, Italy.
In addition to the humor of the contest, there is irony in its existence, as Hemingway famously said: "The step up from writing parodies is writing on the wall above the urinal." Nevertheless, the contest had thousands of dedicated enthusiasts among writers and Hemingway fans, drawing more than 24,000 entries in its first ten years of operation. Many notable literary figures judged the contest over the years, including Digby Diehl, Ray Bradbury, Barnaby Conrad, George Plimpton, Bernice Kert, Jack Hemingway, A. Scott Berg, and Joseph Wambaugh.
In the late 1970s, seeking to promote Harry's Bar & American Grill in Century City, California, bar owners Jerry Magnin and Larry Mindel consulted advertising executive Paul Keye, who suggested the contest to capitalize on Hemingway's literary references to "Harry's". The contest announcement in The New Yorker magazine stated, "One very good page of very bad Hemingway will send you and a friend to Italy for dinner." For the 11th Annual Contest, to promote the contest's move from (closing) Century City to the San Francisco Harry's, PR firm Tellem Worldwide recruited noted San Francisco authors Herb Caen, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Cyra McFadden as judges.
In 1988, after 11 years of contests, Spectrum Foods Inc., the new owners of Harry's in Los Angeles, ended their sponsorship of the contest because of escalating costs. At this time literary organization PEN Center West took over sponsorship. American Airlines' in-flight magazine American Way began printing contest-winning entries, and continued the grand prize of a flight to Italy. In 2000 United Airlines assumed sponsorship of the contest, publishing winning entries in their in-flight and online Hemispheres Magazine. United Airlines' support continued until the 2005 contest. The final winning parody was entitled "Da Movable Code."
Hemingway's spare writing style had often been imitated prior to the contest. Since then, two anthologies of Imitation Hemingway have been published (The Best of Bad Hemingway, Volumes I & II) and include contest winners as well as satires of Hemingway written by E. B. White, Raymond Chandler, F. Scott Fitzgerald and George Plimpton.
- Schwartz, Amy E. (August 12, 1994). Homage to Poppa and Pappy. The Washington Post, p A27. Retrieved 2010-06-15.
- Smith, Jack (March 15, 1993). Wanted: One Really Good Page of Really Bad Hemingway. LA Times. Retrieved 2010-03-07.
- International Imitation Hemingway Competition Nelson Taylor, American Bizarro, St. Martin's Griffin, 2000. ISBN 978-0-312-26286-0. At 2Camels.com. Retrieved 2010-03-07.
- Avins, Mimi (September 5, 2002). The Bar Tanked: Many Suffered. The closure of Harry's Bar. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-06-15.
- Tellam (2009). Case History -- Harry's Bar & American Grill "11th Annual International Hemingway Contest" Tellam Corporate website. Retrieved 2010-06-15.
- 2000 International Imitation Hemingway Award. "Across the suburbs and into the express lane", Scott Stavrou. Personal website.
- UPI (March 11, 1986). Snooze Of Kilimanjaro' Is Best Of Bad Hemingway. Google News Archive; Mohave Daily Miner. Retrieved 2010-06-16.
- "The Contessa is not at home, my Colonel," he said. "They believe you might find her at Harry's." "You find everything on earth at Harry's." - Ernest Hemingway, Across the River and Into the Trees (1950).
- Ringle, Ken (September 24, 1988). At Harry's, A Farewell To Yarns. The Washington Post, p. C01. Retrieved 2010-06-15.
- Kissell, Joe and Jahnke, Morgen (October 19, 2004). Bad Fiction Contests. Interesting Thing of the Day; Alt Concepts
- "Sometimes you’ve got to be bad to be good.". Hemispheres Magazine. February 29, 2000. Archived from the original on 2000-07-08. Retrieved 2010-03-07. Announcement of contest sponsorship.
- "2005 Contest". Hemispheres Magazine. 2005. Archived from the original on 2005-11-19. Retrieved 2010-03-07. End of contest sponsorship.
- "2005 Imitation Hemingway Contest Winner". Hemispheres Magazine. 2005. Archived from the original on 2006-01-06. Retrieved 2010-03-07.
- The Best of Bad Hemingway Volume 1: Choice Entries. Harry's Bar & American Grill. Mariner Books; 1989. ISBN 978-0-15-611861-3
- The Best of Bad Hemingway Volume 2: More Choice Entries. Harry's Bar & American Grill. Harvest Books, 1991. ISBN 978-0-15-611866-8. Retrieved 2010-03-07.
- 1986 International Imitation Hemingway Award Winner "The Snooze of Kilimanjaro", Mark Silber.
- 2000 International Imitation Hemingway Award Winner "Across the suburbs and into the express lane", Scott Stavrou.