Nebraska has a rich literary history, and people all over the world have heard of Willa Cather, John Neihardt, Mari Sandoz, and Bess Streeter Aldrich. What some people fail to realize, though, is that Nebraska’s literary tradition isn’t stagnant and rooted in the past only. It is growing and thriving because there are many Nebraska authors.
The website of nebraskaauthors.org, based out of the Bennett Martin Public Library in downtown Lincoln, is dedicated to showcasing and celebrating “a literary tradition informed and nurtured by Nebraska as a place, a people, a heritage.” To be featured as a Nebraska author on the website, a writer must “be someone who was born in Nebraska, someone who lived here for more than a decade, or someone who had a significant life experience in Nebraska and wrote about it.”
I am one of the featured authors, initially because of this column, but my writing credits have grown. Since I recently published my third book, I needed to let them know that they needed to update my entry, so I visited the website to do that. While I was there, I took a little spin through some other author’s entries.
It’s truly amazing how many authors have come from Nebraska and who are currently contributing to the literary scene. Some have personal websites you can visit to learn more. Some have links to videos of them presenting at the John H. Ames Reading Series (which also takes place at the Bennett Martin Public Library in the Jane Pope Geske Heritage Room) -- visit Matt Mason’s entry for a good one of him discussing his work and doing a reading. Mason is the current State Poet, and if you’ve never seen him perform his poetry, then search for some on YouTube because he’s great. Some authors have truly impressive bibliographies and lists of awards. Check out Ted Kooser’s to be blown away. Kooser was the U.S. Poet Laureate -- twice -- and he won a Pulitzer Prize; frankly, he’s a Nebraska treasure.
You can search for specific authors on the website or use the browse button to be directed to information about three authors. On my first browse, I found listings for Dick Cavett, Melvin R. Gilmore, and Walter Shelley Phillips. I briefly met Cavett when he came to Norfolk for the Great American Comedy Festival a few years ago, but the other two were unknown to me. Gilmore was an ethnobotanist, and Phillips was a journalist who founded the magazine Outdoor Life.
A second browse introduced me to Beverly Deepe Keever, Loren Corey Eiseley, and Rosekrans Hoffman. Keever reported on the war in Vietnam and taught journalism in Hawaii. Eiseley was an anthropologist who studied at UNL and contributed to some of the exhibits you can currently see in Morrill Hall. Hoffman was an artist who also became a children’s book writer and illustrator.
There are so many authors featured on the website. I highly recommend that anyone who is interested in literature should visit this site to learn more about Nebraska authors, both living and deceased. Browse or search by name or genre and let the website lead you to your next read or to an interesting person you’ve never heard of before. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Contact Marshall at firstname.lastname@example.org. This month’s reading selection is “The Weight of Ink” by Rachel Kadish.