Tap into the creative spirits of two famous wordsmiths. Writers looking for a novel space in which to turn out poetry and prose can tote along a laptop, or put pencil to paper (no pens permitted), in Mark Twain’s library and Emily Dickinson’s bedroom.

twain-houseAt the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Conn., participants have three uninterrupted hours to craft tales and brainstorm plot ideas. With ornate, dark wood accents, teeming bookshelves, velvet furnishings, and teal-and-gold-colored walls, the library is one of the most elegant rooms in the house. In front of the fireplace, which is adorned with a mantelpiece from a Scottish castle, Twain once entertained family and friends by reciting poetry and reading aloud excerpts from his new works. Cost: $50. Limited spaces available in September. Reservations required.

Emily Dickinson MuseumThe Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Mass., is inviting writers, artists, and composers to spend time in the room where the poet turned out much of her verse. “Sweet hours have perished here; This is a mighty room,” Dickinson penned about the sacred space. She spent all but 15 of her 55 years living at her family’s abode, a 200-year-old brick manse, where she wrote poetry in secret and sewed the pages together in hand-bound volumes. Pricing ranges from $75-200. Reservations required.


Photos: © Mark Twain House and Museum, © Emily Dickinson Museum

Dorothy Parker

A “bi-coast toast” is taking place next week in celebration of Dorothy Parker’s August 22nd birthday.

New Yorkers can toast the witty wordsmith in Brooklyn at the Shanty/NY Distilling Co., makers of Dorothy Parker Gin. Guests are encouraged to bring a Parker book to the soiree and read lines aloud—perhaps after partaking of the “two at the most” martini special. Meanwhile, Los Angeles-based bibliophiles are invited to gather for cocktails at Canter’s Deli’s Kibitz Room.

Both get-togethers are hosted by the Dorothy Parker Society, which offers Parker-related walking tours and events throughout the year. Fans who can’t make the birthday bashes are encouraged to raise a glass or have a party on their own and share photos of the merriment on social media, using the hashtag #DorothyParker123.

1243_largePrecious relics of the life of Charlotte Brontë are taking center stage this year in a pair of special exhibitions celebrating the author’s bicentenary.

At the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, Charlotte Great and Small, curated by acclaimed novelist and Brontë enthusiast Tracy Chevalier, explores the contrast between Charlotte Brontë’s constricted life and her huge ambition. Growing up in the Haworth parsonage, Charlotte and her sisters lived in confined spaces, shared beds and worked together in one room. Despite being so contained, she had big ideas and longed to become “forever known”.

1183_largeExhibition highlights include Charlotte’s child-size clothes, several of the tiny books the Brontës wrote as children, and a scrap from a dress Charlotte wore to an important London dinner party. Another intriguing item on display is a moving love letter Charlotte wrote to her Belgian teacher, Constantin Heger, loaned by the British Library.

Additional objects from the Parsonage feature in the National Portrait Gallery’s Celebrating Charlotte Brontë, which transfers to New York’s Morgan Library this fall. The exhibition explores the story behind the only surviving portrait of Charlotte, Emily and Anne, painted by their brother Branwell. The painted was discovered folded on top of a wardrobe and subsequent acquired and restored by the Gallery in 1914.



bmws-news-banner-01William Shakespeare’s final will is among a treasure trove of documents linked to the Bard’s life that went on show at London’s Somerset House this week.

The collection, gathered from the National Archives, casts light on his rise to prominence in the cut-throat world of London theatre, and includes four examples of his rarely seen signature.

It includes his 1616 will, which gives  evidence of his wealth and lists bequests of memorial rings for his actor friends and a silver bowl for his daughter. There are also court papers alleging a “violent theft” of material from a north London theatre which was used to build The Globe, where Shakespeare worked. Other documents detail which plays were performed at the royal court.

By Me, Shakespeare: A Life In Writing runs until May 29 at the Inigo Rooms at Somerset House




Almost 420 years since Shakespeare’s lavish and magnificent house, New Place, was razed to the ground, archaeologists have discovered what they believe to be the Bard’s demolished kitchen.

Uncovered in the remains of  Stratford-upon- Avon’s ‘New Place’, experts have found a well hearth and cold storage pit, which was used like a fridge to store cheese.

Historians are still trying to piece together clues of what Shakespeare’s impressive home would have been like and this discovery has been described as ‘vital’ to the effort.

The Bard bought New Place in 1597 and lived there for the last 19 years of his life, but it was destroyed by a subsequent owner in a fit of pique over land taxes.

In 2016–timed for the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death–the re-imagined New Place will open as a heritage landmark.

Emily Dickinson Museum

Wish Emily Dickinson a Happy Birthday

The poet was born 185 years ago today. One of these times when her birthday rolls around, I’m going to make sure I’m in Amherst, Massachusetts, for the annual bash held at the Emily Dickinson Museum. What I’d really like is to sample some of the coconut cake, made from the wordsmith and avid baker’s recipe, that’s served at the gathering.

So if you’re in Amherst this Saturday, December 12, stop by the museum. The party takes place from 1-4 p.m. and—along with cake eating—includes readings by a dozen contemporary poets at three different times: 1:30, 2:30, and 3:30 p.m. You can also have a look at Dickinson’s bedroom, recently restored to its nineteenth century appearance.

Celebrate the Season with Dickinson and Dickens

Next Saturday, December 19, the museum is offering a special tour, “A Dickensian Christmas with the Dickinsons.” A guide leads visitors through the festively-decorated, side-by-side houses where the poet and her family lived, and shares how they celebrated the holiday season. Tours end with a reading from Charles Dickens’ classic tale A Christmas Carol given by award-winning author Tony Abbott.

Tours take place at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Advance reservations are strongly recommended. $20 adults; $10 museum members; $5 for students in grades K-12.

A Book from Shakespeare and Company

GiShakespeare and Company Stampft the readers on your list with a page-turner straight from Paris. The famous Left Bank bookshop Shakespeare and Company prepares every order by hand, packing purchases in a signature shipping box and offering a variety of custom options. Have the tome’s title page stamped with the Shakespeare and Company logo or a drawing of resident feline Kitty. They’ll even tuck a pocket-sized poem into the book’s pages.

As for which book to choose, how about Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast? The memoir, a colorful retelling of his days as a young journalist and fledgling novelist in Paris in the 1920s, has become a bestseller in France since the attacks on November 13. Parisians are finding the book to be a source of inspiration and comfort, embracing it, according to the New York Times, “as a celebration of the cultured, bohemian life the city has long stood for.” No doubt Hemingway would approve.


Jane Austen Replica Turquoise Ring

Janeite and mJane Austen Turquoise Ringusician Kelly Clarkson acquired the novelist’s turquoise and gold ring at auction for £152,450 (about $250,000) but returned it after an outcry ensued that the literary heirloom was going to be taken out of the country. Lovely (and more affordable) replica rings are available from Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, where the original piece of jewelry is on display. Recipients will need an IOU. The individually crafted rings, available in either gold (£365) or silver (£115), take up to six weeks for production and delivery. We’re betting that true Janeites will find it worth the wait.


My Ántonia Solid Perfume

My Antonia Solid PerfumePerfect for literary travelers, this solid perfume ($5) was inspired by the classic My Ántonia. The perfume’s creator was so taken with Willa Cather’s descriptions of the Nebraska prairie that she was inspired to create this scent, a rich blend of “darkly sweet cactus flower, cilantro, and an element of prairie sunset during Indian summer.”



Pride and Prejudice Throw

Pride and Prejudice ThrowArmchair travelers can curl up with this cozy throw adorned with illustrations and text from perennial favorite Pride and Prejudice ($75). Pair it with a copy of Novel Destinations for journeying on the page to Jane Austen’s Bath, Ernest Hemingway’s Key West, Harper Lee’s Alabama, and lots of other literary locales.




Library of Congress Main Reading Room Coaster

Main Reading Room Coaster LOCThe main reading room in the Library of Congress’ Thomas Jefferson Building is a visual extravaganza with gold marble columns, paintings, oversize statues, and a Renaissance-style dome. These stone coasters ($11.95 each) feature detailing from paintings adorning the dome—twelve seated figures, each from a different country that contributed to American civilization. Find out more about the library in our post The Library of Congress: Fun and Fascinating Facts.




NovelTeasLove a great pun along with a cup of tea? NovelTeas’ three book-shaped, tea-filled tins can be purchased separately or as a set. Don QuixoTea: The Man of La ManChai is an “adventurous brew” of traditional chai spices (red cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, and ginger root). War and Peach is a “purposeful and ponderous” tea blended with organic peaches, pineapple, chamomile, and sunflower. The Picture of Earl Grey combines organic jasmine green tea with rose-blended Calabrian bergamot to “radiate hedonism and reflect beauty.” The reusable tins are $29/each or $59/set.


The Great Gatsby NovelPoster

Great Gatsby NovelPosterThe entire text from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby is artfully arranged around a silhouette of Daisy Buchanan, the title character’s love interest, in this elegant poster ($39.41). And if you’re looking for yet more gift ideas, TheLiteraryGiftCompany.com has a plethora of bookish items in categories ranging from Homeware and Bags & Accessories to Fun & Games and Gifts for Writers. They even have literary-themed wrapping paper to present your gift in style.


The Gift of Choice

Strand eGift Card CatThere is always more room on a book lover’s shelves. If you’re not sure what to get the bibliophiles on your holiday shopping list, you can’t go wrong with a gift card so they can have the giddy pleasure of selecting their own reads. Purchase a gift card from your recipient’s local bookshop so they can peruse in person. We also recommend the Strand, a New York City bricks-and-mortar shop (home to 18 miles of books!) that also offers electronic gift cards redeemable on its website. Six different templates are available for e-gift cards, or you can personalize it by uploading your own photo.


Coming soon…. We’ll have information about a bracelet for Poe fans, inspired by “The Raven” and available exclusively from the Poe House in Baltimore.

Twain Boyhood Hometwain-house-2

This Monday, November 30, is the 180th anniversary of the day Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) arrived in the world, and the occasion is being celebrated at two literary sites associated with the writer.

Mark TwainTwain’s distinctive facial feature is being touted during a birthday bash at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum (above left) in Hannibal, Missouri. Part of the festivities include a Mustache Contest with categories such as the “Mark Twain” for the one that bears the greatest resemblance to the writer’s own (dubbed the Walrus) and the “Dapper Stache,” the one most full of character and originality (styling aids are encouraged). November 28, 1 p.m. There is a $5 fee to enter the contest, and prizes will be awarded to the winners.

The Mark Twain House & Museum (above right) in Hartford, Connecticut, is hosting a reading of “Colonel Sellers: Reanimated,” based on one of the writer’s forgotten pieces—with a twist. Steampunk and zombie stories like The Walking Dead are currently in vogue, but Twain was well ahead of the trend. In 1883, he and a friend penned a play, Colonel Sellers as a Scientist, that contained elements of both but was panned by critics. In “Colonel Sellers: Reanimated,” playwright and Mark Twain House staffer Jacques Lamarre has refashioned the original into a Steampunk-zombie mash-up comedy. November 30, 7 p.m. Tickets are $10; $5 for members.

At both events, revelers will be served birthday cake and given a sneak peek at the designs of Mark Twain commemorative coins in gold and silver to be released by the U.S. Mint in early 2016. A portion of the purchase price of the coins will benefit four sites: The Center for Mark Twain Studies in Elmira, New York; the Mark Twain Project at the University of California, Berkeley; the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford; and the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal. We’ll share more details about the coins soon.

Daniel%20Craig%20steps%20out%20of%20DB10-largeCars from the latest James Bond film join the popular Bond in Motion exhibition at the London Film Museum.

While Ian Fleming may have died over 20 years ago, his Bond franchise continues to thrill cinema-goers well beyond the shelf-life of his original fourteen novels . From today onwards, fans of SPECTRE can head to the London Film Museum to check out the props, costumes and cars used in the making of the latest film including the Aston Martin DB10 driven by Daniel Craig as well as the Jaguar C-X75 and Rolls-Royce Wraith driven by the villains Mr. Hinx and Franz Oberhauser.

“The Cars of SPECTRE” is part of the ongoing Bond in Motion exhibition, which features artefacts and cars from all 24 Bond films.

House of the Seven Gables

The House of the Seven Gables, Salem, MA

Celebrations of the printed word are taking place this month at literary extravaganzas in Salem, Massachusetts, and Miami, Florida.

November 12-14 and 18

WitchesMap of True Places

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stacy Schiff is slated to deliver the Lit Fest’s keynote address on November 13. She’ll discuss her new book, The Witches, Salem 1692, which delves into the dark history of this picturesque seaside town. The talk will take place in a storied locale, the East India Marine Hall, constructed in 1825 to showcase objects local sailors brought back from their global journeys. Salem native Nathaniel Hawthorne once showed the Hall (now part of the Peabody Essex Museum) to his writer friends Emerson, Thoreau, and Longfellow. Visit pem.org for information about admission costs and reservations.

Other events include a lecture by Salem resident and novelist Brunonia Barry on November 18 at the House of the Seven Gables, the dwelling featured in Hawthorne’s fictional tale and now a museum. Barry is the author of the contemporary novels The Lace Reader and The Map of True Places, her latest, both of which feature “an involving, intricately woven story and vivid descriptions of historic Salem” (Booklist). Visit 7gables.org for more information.

November 15-22

MuralistCircling the SunAt the Waters Edge

Among the week-long happenings at the Miami Book Fair are panels, readings, the Ibero-American Authors program in Spanish, a street fair showcasing hundreds of exhibiting publishers and booksellers, cooking demonstrations, musical performances, and even poets turning out impromptu verse.

If we were attending this year’s Fair, we would be sure to show up for “Tales of the 20th Century: New Fiction,” a panel on November 21 featuring four historical fiction authors: B. A. Shapiro (The Muralist), Sara Gruen (At the Water’s Edge), Mary Morris (The Jazz Palace), and Paula McLain, whose latest novel, Circling the Sun, centers on Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator caught up in a love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, who under the pseudonym Isak Dinesen penned the memoir Out of Africa.

Visit miamibookfair.com for ticketing details and other information. The street fair is free on Friday, November 20. On Saturday and Sunday, November 21 and 22, admission to the street fair is $8; ages 13-18 and over 62: $5.