This Sunday in Seward, Nebraska!

What to do on a Sunday afternoon? If you’re from around my area, near Lincoln, and you’re a fan of supporting Nebraska artists, or one who loves to read and enjoys poetry, I’d suggest you venture out on February 19th to Seward, Nebraska.

Like so many small Nebraska towns, Seward has so much to offer. There’s a Mexican Restaurant on South Highway 15 as well as a Chinese place downtown, and a little cafe downtown, too. Great little shops, a heck of a library, and two places in particular I encourage you to visit: Chapter Books & Gifts and Red Path Gallery & Tasting Room. These are both on Seward Street North of the court-house on the city square. Charming shops, both of them, and they’re both run by great ladies who care about their communities and about Nebraska. Seward is very fortunate to have both of these shops, and their owners, Carla Ketner of Chapter Books and Jeanne Wiemer of Red Path Gallery.

Last summer I had the pleasure of stopping by Red Path Gallery just to check it out. I visited with the owner and we got to talking about Nebraska writers and the Nebraska Writers Guild. Jeanne told me she’d been thinking about having Nebraska authors do readings there at Red Path. I told her I knew a number of Nebraska authors, specifically Guild members, who would make great speakers for her venue. An idea was born.

Good ideas have a way of rolling down hill and collecting speed. Carla of Chapter Books down the block visited with Jeanne and volunteered to help sponsor these events. So what we have now is a book store, an art gallery, and a member of the Nebraska Writers Guild, providing a monthly event to bring people out to the small town of Seward for a Sunday afternoon.

This Sunday, Red Path will feature Charlene Neely and Laura Madeline Wiseman, wonderful poets. Every third Sunday of the month will feature a different Nebraska Writers Guild author from screen writers, to biblical enactments, to young adult novelists, writing professors talking about the art of writing, romance novelists… truly, the Nebraska Writers Guild has a wealth of talent to share!

The poster at the top of this post tells you what you need to know. Come on out! Support small towns. Support small business. Support Nebraska artists and authors. Support Nebraska! But most of all, enjoy yourselves. Both events are free to attend. I’ll be there and I hope to see you this coming Sunday in Seward! It’ll be a great day in small town Nebraska!

An Author’s Voice

I’ve been kind of idling in neutral when it comes to writing. I think it’s because I’m second guessing my abilities. Wondering, even, if I have a style or a voice worth reading. I am what I am, and I want to write and tell stories, but… is the way I word things, the phrasing I use, the images I paint, unique enough? Or mainstream enough? Or just … enough?

As I drove into town to work today I tried to look at my small community like an outsider might. We’re a little weird like everyone is a little weird everywhere. Meaning, what seems very normal to us might be quirky or odd to someone else. We park in the middle of the street. Two full rows of parking around the square of our downtown. There’s room. It’s always been that way. Makes perfect sense to us. We have a noon whistle that blows at… you guessed it… noon. Very loud. Reminds us it’s time to take a break. Just always the way it’s been. Takes at least ten minutes on a quick day to get fast food in the line at our two fast food restaurants in town. Nope. Nothing really fast about it, but hey, we don’t have to get out of the car, so that’s progress!

Living in a small town seems like an easy life. It is in some ways. It’s harder in others. It’s easy in that when I want to go to the grocery story, I drive up, park by the front door, and go right in. I don’t have to time my shopping around rush hour or fight construction or wait at lights. I don’t have to park at the end of the lot, or circle the parking lot to find a closer spot. If there are more than two people in a check-out line, the cashier gets right on the intercom and calls for more checkers. Standing in long lines is a very rare thing.

What can make small-town life challenging is the same thing that makes being famous challenging. If a celebrity goes out on the town and has a couple too many drinks, it’s in the tabloids by morning. Same thing in a small town, but instead of the tabloids, it’s the big story at the coffee shop or hair salon. Now, if you get a fine driving, then that’s in the paper, but it’s okay because the paper only comes out once a week. Maybe by then you can put some spin on the gossip so it goes over better with your grandma when she reads it.

Yes. It’s hard to live under the spotlight, so to speak, and yet, the only folks around here who are real celebrities are the kids in high school who win the game, and that’s just fine. Most of us cringe when attention points our direction.

Back to this writing thing. My voice, my style, is certainly formed by my surroundings. I write in my way, the same way we do things in our own way here in our small Nebraska town. It’s normal to me.

When I write a book, I let you see me through my story-telling voice. I draw from cousins and aunts and uncles, neighbors, and silly little sayings and legends of the area, and mispronounced words and turns of phrases. I write like I think… like I talk. I don’t try to polish it. I want to make sure it’s real and… small town… but honest.

I want to show that it’s easy, but hard at the same time to live small. Small town life has as much duality and intrigue as any other life in any other place. It mustn’t be discounted because it’s ordinary. If anything, it’s special because it’s ordinary. That’s what I try to show when I write. Maybe that’s why I think I need to write—because I know I’m willing to be honest with my “voice.”

The voice I use when I write is the only voice I can imagine using when creating stories about people who might be like those I’ve lived around, in towns similar to the one in which I live, carrying out simple lives, just like me and mine. Simple lives, full of relationships and love and frustration and sorrow… the most honest basic feelings at the core of every story ever told.