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Yes Is The Answer In So Many Words

Karen Shoemaker

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Is this a place for me?

It was one of those blistering hot days Nebraska summers are famous for. I was pulling tools and supplies out of the backseat of my car when I heard her calling out. I turned to see her rushing toward me across the parking lot. Breathless when she reached me it took a moment for her to speak.

“I saw your sign and I just had to find out what you are and what you do here!”

We stood in the sun talking about writing, the desire to write, the need for guidance and community.

“Just this very morning,” she said in a voice full of wonder, “I wrote in my journal that now is the time. I must start my book even if I don’t know how, and then suddenly, here you are!”

Is this a place for me?

 He stopped by one rainy afternoon and peered hesitantly through the door.

“I saw your sign out front,” he said. “Is this a real . . . are you . . .what is this place?”

He seemed to have trouble formulating his questions and at first I didn’t know if he was looking for the bank that had been in this building for decades or if he was asking about us – Larksong Writers Place.

Either way, the construction mess behind me wasn’t helping him make sense of what exactly we were so I told him about our plans for the building, our current and planned online offerings, and gave him a brochure. Again, a sense of wonder was evident in how he looked around the room, as if he too could see it as we envision it: a place for writers to gather.

“I drive a cab,” he shook his head slowly. “I want to be a writer. I can hardly believe this place is here.”

 Is this a place for me?

She knocked on the front door, the one so seldom used it sticks tight and takes both hands and all my body weight to open.

“I saw your sign,” she said, pointing at the monument sign that sits in our front yard on the corner of Fairfax Ave and N. Cotner Blvd. “Are you really a writers place? Please tell me you are!” She’s new to Lincoln, she said, and in search of a writing community like the one she knew out on the West Coast. She sat on the edge of the chair as I explained our mission and our plans. Her words bubbled out, tumbling over themselves as she realized we were just what she was looking for. “I’ve so missed working alongside other writers!”

On average these exchanges occur one to two times a week. Some people come to our door, some contact us online, some flag us down on the street. They are looking for help getting started, for guidance on how to be better writers, for education, connections, community, and support. All have the same basic question, is this a place for me?

Yes, I say to them, this is a place for you. Welcome to Larksong.

Updates On What's Happening Inside That New Writers' Place

Karen Shoemaker

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Can you tell I’m playing catch up this week with communicating with the outside world? It turns out buying a building and remodeling can take up a bit of a person’s time. It’s all good though! We love our new place, and we really love being in the Bethany neighborhood. I live at the edge of Lincoln and lots of people walk in our neighborhood, but it’s walking for exercise more than walking to get from one point to another. Not so here in Bethany. All day long I see people walk by on their way to the library or one of the shops along Cotner Blvd. or back and forth between homes and living centers. It feels like the small town it once was.

 This week the Dittmans (former owners of this building) stopped by with gifts for us – photos of the neighborhood from the early part of the century. I am ridiculously pleased by such gifts! Like a kid at Christmas. I love the way having those photos on the wall root us in this place. There’s history here, and now Larksong is a part of it.

 The building that now houses Larksong was built in 1925 and was a family home until the 1960s when it was converted to a commercial building. A bank or credit union held the main floor, and the second floor with its separate entrance was leased out for office space. It had been a Cornhusker Bank branch since 1987. The building is so entrenched in the public mind as a bank we still get people driving through several times a day trying to make deposits or withdrawals. Aside from a change of signs out front – and our yellow door – the exterior hasn’t changed much in the month we’ve “lived” here.

On the outside it won’t change a lot. The drive-thru is being converted to an outdoor patio but that’s about it in the foreseeable future. The location is close to perfect as it is. I’ve joked with John Dittman, Chairman of Cornhusker Bank, that I wished them out of this building. I had been driving around various neighborhoods in Lincoln for years looking for a suitable home for Larksong and I had had my eye on this building for almost as long. I spent so much time looking at it I worried someone would think I was casing the joint. But no, I was just wishing. As far as we were concerned this place had it all – a beautiful home-like appearance, lots of parking, commercial zoning, situated on a well-traveled street, near mid-city in a highly walkable neighborhood. When I saw Cornhusker Bank was closing this branch, I was certain my wishes had something to do with it. (Sorry to all the bank employees and customers who loved having a bank here! We promise to be good neighbors! Though, of course, we won’t lend you money….)

On the inside changes started being made the morning after the Open House. First on the agenda was to tear out the teller stations. (Did anyone lose $3.67 in loose change? If so, we found it beneath the stations.) Next, walls and ceiling panels started coming down in preparation for putting in a handicapped accessible bathroom on the main floor. Pulling panels out of the suspended ceiling revealed the bones of the old house and the modifications that created the open floor plan of today. The main floor, which would have been divided into a kitchen, dining room, living room and possibly a parlor back in the days of being a home, is currently one big room with an open staircase in the center.

That open floor plan is exactly the sort of space we want for readings and other events as well as both individual and co-working space. Whenever people ask me how we’ll use the space I tell them to think coffee shop without the barista – it’s a gathering space specifically for writers. A writers’ place, after all, is essentially a place to write.

When all the dust settles – and Covid restrictions allow – we’ll have Open Writing hours for members to come to write in the company of other writers. We’ll have in-person workshops and classes, we’ll host events and readings, and we’ll welcome established writing groups and encourage new ones.

For now, we’re continuing our classes on-line, and working at turning 1600 N. Cotner from a bank to gathering place for writers. It will be, as our motto states, a place “Where writing happens.”

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Larksong is committed to supporting both the writers who come to us for instruction and the writers who come to us to teach. We keep our class fees low, offer free programming, and pay our instructors. Please consider supporting our mission by making a donation.