Meet Larksong Board Member, Twyla Hansen

Amanda Shu

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Hello! I’m Larksong’s intern Amanda Grace Shu, bringing you another interview with one of the talented members of the Larksong Board of Directors. Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you all to Twyla Hansen, Nebraska’s State Poet from 2013 to 2018.

Twyla met Karen Gettert Shoemaker, Larksong’s founder, through the long-running writing group Prairie Trout. “[Larksong] has been a dream of Karen’s for a long time,” Twyla said. “I got involved when Karen called me and explained that in order to be a non-profit, we needed to have a board of directors—otherwise she would have done it all herself! I was happy to say yes. I think it’s in our best interest for this to be a community organization.

“It’s a brand-new concept for Lincoln,” she added. “There’s nothing quite like this in Nebraska. But there have always been good writers here, and I think Larksong is going to be the key to developing that network of writers. Our goal is to really be that center of the writing universe.”

­As State Poet—not Poet Laureate, she explained, as John Neihardt holds that title in perpetuity—Twyla has traveled all over Nebraska. “I probably averaged 4000 miles a year,” she said. She loved visiting high schools and especially middle schools due to the students’ enthusiasm: “They don’t hold back at times,” she said, beaming. “I just love it when they can’t wait to write something! They’re so eager.”

Twyla has seen the same enthusiasm in the class she taught at Larksong in January. One prompt she gave sparked so much inspiration that participants had already written a full page of notes by the time Twyla finished explaining it! “[Larksong] is a great place for both new and experienced writers to practice writing,” she said. “It’s something I believe in strongly—you have to practice writing.”

When I asked how her own writing practice routine has been affected by the pandemic, the conversation took a somber tone. “We’ve all had a lot of losses,” she said. “Almost everybody knows somebody who has passed away [due to COVID]. But this culture doesn’t really allow open grieving.” For Twyla, writing is how she processes everything that has happened in the past few years, which include personal losses as well as global concerns.

It’s a comforting thing to hear from a fellow writer, which touches upon another important aspect of Larksong: building community among writers in Nebraska and beyond. “There’s a lot to be said for writers supporting each other,” Twyla said. “And I think that’s what could make Larksong unique. It’s hard to get people together right now, but post-COVID, I think Larksong can be a place where people come together.”

Her advice to young poets? Read extensively, try new things, and write every day, even if nothing comes of it. “It’s kind of like inviting the muse to visit,” she said. “The muse may not be with you that day, but at least you’ve honored that process.”

Meet Larksong Board Member, Linda Kallhoff

Amanda Shu

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Hi, everyone! This is Amanda Grace Shu, Larksong’s intern, here with another blog post introducing you to our Board of Directors. Today, we’re featuring Linda, the Program Coordinator for Larksong Writer’s Place.

Of all the board members, Linda has known Larksong’s founder, Karen Gettert Shoemaker, for the longest time of all the board members—the two are sisters and remain incredibly close. Linda was “enthralled” by the Write on the River retreats that her sister organized, which reawakened her own impulse to write. She and Karen wondered if there was a way to make these workshops accessible to writers the whole year round—an idea which would evolve into Larksong.

“At the time, I was winding down my professional career as an administrator,” Linda said. “I worked in personnel management, budgets, and marketing. In my last job, I implemented an internship program and set up adult education programs across state for new guardians and conservators. I learned how to create curriculum, schedules, registration system, evaluation system, which was especially helpful during COVID when everything went virtual. Those were all areas that I felt Larksong was going to need to develop to survive—to thrive, really.”

Linda’s vision for Larksong is rooted in her deep belief in the power of the writing process. “Writing can help you see deeper into your own experiences,” she told me. “The deeper you can see, the more wisdom you can walk away with. Sharing that vision with others, expanding that clearer vision of the world, is something that I believe Larksong can foster in writers of all levels.”

Larksong has also helped Linda develop confidence in her writing and sharing it with others. “I always thought I was just writing to my future self and keeping track of lessons learned—sort of like my own memoir,” she said. “Through Larksong, I also learned that writing was a way to clarify even the moment I was living in. When I learned to do that through some of the workshops at Larksong, I actually began to see myself as a real poet, rather than just somebody who writes.”

When I asked if the pandemic had changed her writing habits or process, the answer was yes and no. “Retirement and the pandemic came on the same wings,” she said. “The idea of the pandemic has been reflected in my writing, but whether it changed how I behave as a writer? I can’t really tell you because it was right in the middle of another huge transition in my life.”

That transition, it seems, has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. “I am grateful beyond measure to have ended up where I have in the development of Larksong,” Linda said. “Having the time at this stage of my life to be able to commit to making it happen—I’m pleased and grateful about that.”


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.