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Meet Larksong Board Member, Lucy Adkins

Amanda Shu

Monday, April 5, 2021

Hello, everyone! This is Larksong’s intern, Amanda Grace Shu, with another blog post! I’m interviewing each talented member of Larksong’s board of directors. This time, I have the pleasure of introducing you to Lucy Adkins, a writer who has accomplished the hat trick of genres—poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.

Lucy had known and admired Karen Shoemaker, the founder of Larksong, for a long time before joining the board of directors. She went to a writers’ retreat run by Karen and Twyla Hansen just before the pandemic struck. This was back when the Larksong’s Kitchen Table Series, which actually took place around a kitchen table, was changed to a Zoom platform because of the pandemic. 

When asked to be on the board, she had no second thoughts.

“I knew it was something I wanted to be involved with,” she said. “What I think is really special about Larksong is that it offers more than a social connection. It allows you to spend some time focusing on improving your writing. It’s an extension of a community that already exists, but it’s also a place to learn.”

Lucy’s experience as a teacher is something she hopes to bring to Larksong, as well as a positive voice and connections to writing communities across the state and beyond. “I believe that for writers, a community is one of the most important things that you can have,” she said. Although the pandemic has impacted their ability to meet in person, Lucy’s writing groups are more important than ever in these stressful times: “It’s kind of a depression, I think. The pandemic just makes you blue. But thankfully I do have my online groups to keep me going, and I’m teaching a class at Larksong.”

I asked Lucy what advice she would give to a young poet. “Read lots and lots and lots of poetry,” she said. “As you continue to read, you will come across certain poets that you feel an affinity for. Consider those people that you admire. They are your peers. You’re working on the same thing, toward the same goal—they’re just a little further down the road.”

More great advice about all kinds of creativity can be found in her forthcoming book of essays, The Fire Inside: A Companion for the Writing Life, co-authored with Becky Breed and set to be released in June. Additionally, Lucy’s first full-length poetry collection, A Crazy Little Thing, is coming out in the fall.

As our interview was wrapping up, I asked Lucy if there was anything else she wanted to add. This is what she said:

“Sometimes you want something, and you want it so bad that it seems like you wait a long time and you don’t think it’s going to happen. Then things start coming together, like a synchronicity, and an opportunity comes up. And that is what Larksong has been to me, as a writer and as a teacher. Sometimes we’re too afraid or too tired to say yes to those opportunities, but I think it’s important to say yes to what excites you. Then your whole world opens up.”

Meet The Larksong Board!

Amanda Shu

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Hello! My name is Amanda Grace Shu, and I’m Larksong Writers Place’s new intern, working remotely from Boston, Massachusetts. This is the first in a series of blog posts about each of the Larksong board members, their hopes for the organization, and—of course—their writing. This week, I had a chat with Karen Gettert Shoemaker, author of The Meaning of Names and Larksong’s founder.

“I think writing is a lonely craft, but like most people, writers don’t like to be lonely,” Karen told me. “When I traveled all over the state, especially the rural areas, for One Book, One Nebraska programs (Karen’s novel The Meaning of Names was chosen for the state-wide reading program in 2016), one of the questions I was most often asked, beyond those particular to the novel was, ‘How do I find other writers?’ I realized there was a need that wasn’t being met.” Larksong was created to fill that need, building a community of writers who support and encourage one another. Karen also wanted to expand Nebraska’s presence in the wider literary world: “I wanted people to get to know Nebraska writers, to remind them that there’s always something happening in the literary scene in Nebraska.”

The first step on the journey toward creating Larksong, Karen said, was “finding the confidence to believe I have the right to do it.” Coming from a big Catholic family in a small town, she wrestled with the self-doubt she had internalized growing up. “When you got out of your lane, the ‘Who do you think you are?’ question came up, explicitly or implicitly,” she said. “I had to learn to believe I could do it before I could actually do it.” She ended up surprising herself with her own success after creating and running the first “Write on the River” retreat: “I remember lying on the upper deck of the River Inn the night it was over and looking at the sky and laughing. I couldn’t believe I had pulled this off!” That success led to other efforts that eventually led to forming the Larksong nonprofit organization.

Although the initial plan was to set up Larksong Writers Place in a physical location in Lincoln, the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed that search. However, it has also provided Larksong with new opportunities in the form of Zoom classes, transforming Larksong from a regional to an interstate and even international community. Writers from from Los Angeles to Boston, and even Canada and Portugal, have been able to virtually attend Larksong’s classes. “The silver lining of COVID for Larksong is that it gave people a space to go and stay creative,” Karen said. “It’s a tremendous service to help people deal with difficult times.”

A newfound sense of community rising from a pandemic is not a new theme for Karen, whose novel The Meaning of Names takes place during the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic. Even before the days of COVID-19, Karen was struck by the similarities between WWI America and the climate of the early 2000s. In fact, the original title of The Meaning of Names was This Is Now. When I asked if her research into the past pandemic gave her any insight or advice into the current one, she laughed, still not sure she had any wisdom to offer, then reflected on “the ways in which ordinary people become heroes, and simple actions become heroic . . . Each of us had to help everybody else, in some way. [I see in both eras] the necessity of individuals to help other individuals.” That certainly sounds like wisdom and insight to me.

“The pandemic is what pushed this dream [of Larksong Writers Place] into being,” she said.  “The 1918 pandemic thrust me into spotlight, then Larksong sprang to life because of the next one.”

Hopefully, we won’t have to wait for another pandemic to bring Karen’s next great idea to life. In the meantime, Larksong continues to expand and strengthen the community of writers, in Nebraska and beyond.

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