Author Archives: Kyle Williams

The Blizzard Voices by Ted Kooser

 

Nebraska is notorious for its unpredictable and often extreme weather. While today we can anticipate shifts in forecast thanks to technology, those living centuries ago were subject to harsh, fickle nature. One of the worst of these dramatic episodes took place on January 12, 1888 across the Great Plains. Called the “Schoolchildren’s Blizzard,” this sudden snowstorm took the region by surprise, killing 235 people, including many trapped in schoolhouses, caught on farms, or trying to make their way back home in the storm. In his homage to those lost and those who survived, Ted Kooser wrote The Blizzard Voices, a book of poems that read like recounted memories of the event.

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Ted Kooser, Nebraska Author

United States Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006, Ted Kooser is known for his simple yet evocative poems distilling the wide-open spaces of the Great Plains into easy to digest scenes while managing to relate the wonder inherent in the everyday. Born in Ames, Iowa in 1939, he began writing in grade school and was a steady patron at the local library. Ted continued his education at Iowa State University studying English and student taught classes. After receiving his Bachelor’s he was offered a graduate readership opportunity from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, moving there with his wife in 1963. Despite winning awards for his poetry, he lost his readership due to a poor GPA.

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The End of the Dream by Neihardt

John G. Neihardt’s collection of short stories, The End of Dreams and Other Stories, combines well-researched facts about the Omaha tribe with stories that reach all of humanity. Originally published around the turn of the twentieth century, the stories are an insight into both the everyday lives and the beliefs and customs of Native peoples. Neihardt fuses his love of Native history with his love of the Midwestern landscape, using nature as an integral part of each story, often anthropomorphizing the land in a manner similar to Native Americans in an attempt to relate their point of view.

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Neihardt, Nebraska Author

Renown for his writings on Native American culture and his poetry of the plains, John G. Neihardt holds the honor of being Nebraska’s first Poet Laureate and maintains this title in perpetuity. Born in 1881 in Illinois, he lived briefly in Kansas, residing in a sod house before moving to Kansas City, then Wayne, Nebraska in 1891.  From an early age, Neihardt felt a spiritual connection to nature, including the Missouri River and the rolling plains of Nebraska. These seemingly endless spaces gave him a numinous sense of the infinite and at age 12 he had a transcendental experience while in a fever dream that led him to choose his future as a poet.

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A Perfect Evil by Alex Kava

 

One week before Halloween, a young boy’s body is found mutilated beside the Platte River. The killing resembles a string of murders from years prior. The only problem is the original killer was caught and executed. Is this new murder the beginnings of a copycat killer, or was the wrong man killed by the state? To help stop the killings, Special Agent Maggie O’Dell, serial killer profiler, is called in.

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Sharon Kava, Nebraska Author

Prolific thriller writer Sharon Kava was born in the small town of Silver Creek, Nebraska in 1960. While writing was always an interest of hers, it wasn’t until she was 36 that she began to attempt it as a career. In the interim she received a B.A. in Art and English from the College of Saint Mary in Omaha, graduating magna cum laude. She worked variously in advertising and marketing, at a hospital sterilizing surgery and morgue equipment, doing public relations at a small college, taught and edited copy part-time, and delivered papers for the Omaha World Herald on the weekends.

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The Home Place by Wright Morris

Returning to a place we inhabited as a child can present many emotions – nostalgia, joy, sorrow – but more than anything it shows us the constant way things change, not only the place we visit, but ourselves as well. Wright Morris’ The Home Place tells the story of one day in the life of a loosely fictionalized version of the author as he returns to his family farm with his wife and children from New York City, hoping to escape their cramped city apartment for wide open plains. The narrator, Spud Muncy, tries to paint a picture of the verdant and prosperous farm as he knew it as a child to his city-dwelling family, but the dry, barren landscape that meets them resembles nothing of his past.

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Wright Morris, Nebraska Author

Perhaps Nebraska’s most overlooked author, Wright Morris is also one of its most decorated, having won two National Book Awards, three Guggenheim Fellowships, and the Mari Sandoz Award for “significant, enduring contribution to the Nebraska book world.” Born in Central City, Nebraska in 1910, Morris lived in Schuyler, Kearney, and other towns along the Platte before moving to Omaha. He spent summers on his uncle’s farm in Norfolk and moved to Chicago when he was fourteen. His mother died shortly after his birth and his father was a wanderer, leaving him in the care of neighbors and family.

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Slogum House by Mari Sandoz

The Western frontier is often portrayed as a landscape dominated by men – stoic, lone cowboys like John Wayne or heartless criminals like Jesse James. But in Mari Sandoz’s novel Slogum House, the roles are reversed in the figures of Gulla and Ruedy Slogum, a land-hungry proprietress of a boarding house and her husband who would rather spend time gardening. The novel centers around Libby, daughter of Gulla and Ruedy, who possesses her mother’s hardheadedness and her father’s aloofness. Sandoz explores the complex family dynamic in a drama fit for Dallas or Game of Thrones. Gulla comes from a poorer family, marrying Ruedy in order to raise her position in life. When his family shuts them out due to her low station, Gulla vows to become successful just to spite them, especially his sisters.

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