Tammy Marshall, "Novel Thoughts"

During October, I had the distinct pleasure of hearing two Nebraska writers speak at my local library. I was reminded – once again – of the great literary treasure trove that exists in this state and that writing is alive and well here.

The first was Tosca Lee. I will admit to not having heard of her, even though she has written many books and is widely known.

Prior to her visit, my book club decided to read one of her more recent novels called “The Line Between.” We enjoyed it, but we enjoyed even more getting to meet her and hearing about her writing journey. I think that is something that readers most like to learn about authors whose works they’ve read.

As a writer, I really appreciated hearing Tosca Lee share her unique path to publication. Hers involved a lot of travel overseas, including time spent in Jerusalem, a sweet love story and even sweeter marriage proposal, and a large dining table on a farm for her writing desk.

It always warms my heart to know that those who have found success as published authors still maintain a level of total normalcy that makes them completely approachable and relatable.

The second writerly event I attended was a reading given by the Nebraska state poet, Matt Mason. It’s one thing to dryly read a poem by yourself where the words simply bounce around inside your head; it’s a totally different experience altogether to hear the poet deliver his poems – especially when that poet delivers his lines with energy, inflection, gestures, and facial expressions as Mason does.

He’s less than a year into his five-year tenure as the state poet, and Mason said that his goal is to visit and present his poetry in each of the 93 counties of Nebraska. Not only does he want to share his own pieces with the state, but he also wants to show people that poetry is accessible to everyone and that it is fun as well as educational.

His own poems lean sharply toward the fun side, especially when he delivers them, and he has many to share since he strives to write a new poem every week.

Both authors presented their writings and their information in a small library before relatively small groups of people, yet they gave us their full attention and their time. They were compensated to a certain degree from funds earmarked to promote literary projects like these, and they each managed to sell a few books after their talks.

However, I suspect they, even though they are far more successful than I am, get the same satisfaction as I do from meeting and sharing their work with readers — that magical connection with others who share their love of the written word and the knowledge that even though a writer tends to work alone, what he writes impacts so many others.

Tosca Lee was nice enough to pose for a photo with me after her talk, and she signed one of her books for me. With luck, I’ll run into either her or Matt Mason, or both, at future Nebraska literary events. As I’ve long stressed, Nebraska is much more than football, cattle, and corn; and more people should take advantage of the rich, cultural events that are offered at small and large venues across our fine state.

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Contact Marshall at tamreader@gmail.com.

This month’s reading selection is “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles.

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