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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.”

You've Got Questions? We've Got Answers.

The Larksong Board

Thursday, August 26, 2021

These notes were handed out at the Open House on July 15th. We thought you might like to read them in case you didn’t make it to our event. Hope to see you at future ones!

Welcome to Larksong Writers Place! We hope this is the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship. We anticipated a few questions you might have and wanted to offer you some information as you wander around our new place. Of course, if you have other questions, don’t hesitate to ask one of the Larksong Board Members. They’re the ones wearing name tags on those snazzy yellow necklaces.

Q: What exactly is a “writers’ place”?

A: Excellent question! We admit we didn’t have a clear idea about what it was until we dove into the dream of creating one, and to be completely honest we’re still in the process of creating this one so the definition is evolving all the time. Here’s the formal answer as recorded in our Articles of Incorporation: “The specific purposes of the corporation are to create an educational literary center offering writing workshops, writing-related community events, individual manuscript consulting, networking events, co-working space to beginning to advanced writers, and general support for writing and writers.”

In just plain people speak, a writers’ place is a community where writers of all stages can find space to work and gather, people to work with and learn from, and a way to tap into the literary culture in the city of Lincoln and beyond.

Q: What will Larksong Writers Place offer?

A: Larksong has been offering writing classes online for about a year and sponsoring weekend writing retreats at various locations for the past five years. We will continue to offer those options, and we are expanding our offerings now that we have a physical location. See our brochure for specifics.

We admit, we’re nimble on our planning feet right now so if you have any literary writing needs don’t hesitate to send suggestions to us via our website! www.larksongwritersplace.org

Q: Are there any other places like this?

A: Yes, there are! All over the country, though we think we’re Nebraska’s first Writers’ Place. (If you know of any please let us know. We’re all stronger together.) We’re glad you asked this question so we can share links to the centers we look to for inspiration and guidance and help promote the writing network:

n  Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver, CO https://www.lighthousewriters.org/

n  Hudson River Valley Writers Center in Sleepy Hollow, NY  https://www.writerscenter.org/

n  The Writers Place in Kansas City, MO https://thewritersplace.wildapricot.org/

n  Grub Street in Boston, MA https://grubstreet.org

n  Gotham Writers in NYC, NY https://www.writingclasses.com/

n  Write on Door County in Fish Creek, WI  https://writeondoorcounty.org/

Each of these centers were created to serve the needs of the community they’re in so no two are exactly alike. Larksong will reflect the needs of the community we’re in, both in Lincoln and on-line.

Q: Is everyone welcome at Larksong?

A: Another great question! You’re really getting the hang of this interview stuff! Yes, is the short answer to the question. Writers of any stage of development or interest are welcome. You don’t even have to think of yourself as a writer (yet) to find a place here. If you want to start writing or have been writing for years this is the place. If you don’t write at all but want to be included, you’re welcome here too. The public is invited to attend readings and book launches and other events that come up in this community. They can rent the office space or event space in the building. However, becoming a member of Larksong will convey several benefits that increase with the level of the membership.

Q: Wait, there’s a way I can actually join Larksong? I can become a member?

A: Yes! Yes you can! And we hope you do! Standard annual memberships will start at $60 a year. The Working Writer level will be $100 a year. Both levels will offer discounts for students and seniors. Additional “Friends of Larksong” levels will also be offered. The first benefits of all membership levels are use of the Open Writing Space during open center hours and discounts for classes, both in house and on-line. That’s about all we can tell you about the membership levels, not because we’re being secretive, but because we’re just getting started on all this and this is one particular aspect of creating a Writers Place that is still in process. (Hint: sign up for our newsletter and you’ll be kept informed of all things Larksong.) For those who can’t afford the membership fees we will have volunteer opportunities in lieu of payment.              

Q: Now that Larksong is in the neighborhood, when can we expect to see some action around here? Events I can attend? Classes I can take?

A: Let’s start with the last question first: you can start taking classes with Larksong right now! We have three on-line classes open for registration that will be held this summer and early fall. We have several more in the almost-ready-for-registration stage so keep an eye on our website for details – or sign up for the newsletter to stay informed. We do not have any in-house events or activities on the calendar yet, because, in part, we have a bunch of construction planned so, in answer to your first question – the action is starting soon, very soon. There’ll be people with trucks and hammers and such wandering in and out for a while so we’ll definitely have some action. At that point we will be at the mercy of the construction gods as to how soon we will be able to hold other events. If other factors don’t interfere (think Covid), we hope to hold classes in one of our lovely new workshops by October.

Okay, we’re not going to wait for you to ask if we’re happy to be here in Bethany in this fabulous old house, we’ll just tell you: We’re ecstatic to be here! We look forward to getting to know all of you, and to welcoming friends, old and new!

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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 tax-deductible donation.