Chip Livingston, "The One Who Is"


It’s December 21. Chip Livingston, author of Naming Ceremony, has a few words for Hemingway.

How would you describe your story?

CHIP LIVINGSTON: A chance to give voice to the voiceless characters in Ernest Hemingway’s “Indian Camp,” in which thirteen characters participate, but only the three white characters have names or dialogue.

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

CL: I wrote it as a prompt for an upcoming anthology conceived and edited by Achy Obejas. It differed greatly from my writing of other stories, as I stayed true to the original plot facts and sequence of Hemingway’s story. But I reimagined the events from one particular character’s point of view and took the liberty to challenge Hemingway’s colonial perspective on why my POV character does what he does at the end.

What kind of research went into this story?

CL: I had to familiarize myself with the original, obviously, and I did a little research on the lumber camps in Minnesota boundary waters during the 1910s, which is when and where Hemingway set his story. And because the story is set in Anishinaabe territory, I asked Ojibwe friends to first read the story for potential problems with cultural appropriation. I asked them permission to use their names for my characters (Hemingway doesn’t give any of the Native characters names). And to go back partially to Question 2, this was very different for me to write, to write from outside my own culture. I’m also Native, Muskogee Creek, but from a completely different place and people from those Hemingway set his story among.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing can't?

CL: I think the short story is special for the restraints we give it in how we focus a narrative—the brevity, the condensing of plot, with the compressed transformation or resistance of the protagonist’s desire. The short story is my favorite form of writing to read. It’s the most rewarding, and difficult, for me to write.

Where should people go to learn more about you and your work?

CL: I have a very infrequently updated website with a few links to online publications at I have two books of published prose and two collections of poetry available. I teach in the Low-Rez MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. People interested in a Masters of Fine Arts degree in creative writing can study with me there, and with a host of generous and recognized faculty.

What's the best gift you've ever been given?

CL: An intricately handmade and personal figurine and the suggestion to cross the Río de la Plata and visit Uruguay.

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Michael Hingston