I Thought All Headlines Were the Same Until What I Did After I Read This Open Letter from Ernest Hemingway to Upworthy That You Need to See Changed Everything

Dear Upworthy,

A poor fisherman from Santa Cruz del Norte who lived beneath a corrugated metal roof that would rattle and wake up his baby during the rainy months taught me all that I need to know about baiting. The fisherman was a man of great modesty and would dream of silver flanks thrashing in the deep and cool waters beneath his tiny skiff. He was used to cutting a small strip of leather from an old boot while the early morning stillness hung low over the village. He would dip the leather strip in a can filled with chicken blood and scraps and then slide one of the ends over a sharp hook. For a man who must fish to eat, there is great dignity in patience and reserve.


Hooking marlins in the Gulf or trout from the clear stream waters of Northern Michigan is no different than hooking your reader. Your line must be strong enough and your bait must not be so sweet as to turn away the catch.

I was not going to write this letter. But today I have been dodging those sucker punches you call headlines. They come from all angles these days. So this is what I have to say to you and it is said in the spirit of what is true and good. Your writing is the worst shade of yellow.


I have been dodging those sucker punches you call headlines.

I have searched your publication for “things that matter.” Shit. I can remember how difficult it was to pitch stories when I was a young stringer. But any author worthy of a byline knows that each man must decide for himself what truly matters according to his own heart and conscience.

What dignity could there be in pimping yourself out or duping folks like the moneychangers and hustlers that loiter in the Porto Vecchio when it is autumn and the waterfowl shooting is good in Trieste? A writer who hides behind weak sentiments instead of saying what he means forthrightly and clearly is without courage. The reader must of his own determination choose when and where to laugh out loud and must do so from deep within his chest.


There is no amazement in “what happens next.”

Are your writers truly so awestruck by everything? Are they that green and untraveled? On the great savannah or crossing the Ebro, where a soft breeze or moving shadow quickens the flow of blood and raises every hair on one’s neck while the early morning stillness hangs low, there is no amazement in “what happens next.” I can think of a far more economical way to have your mind blown.