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.

First Snow and Coming Attractions

Karen Shoemaker

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

A couple weeks ago my six-year-old granddaughter announced that she was using her “witchy powers” to make it snow. I replied - like the adult I am - with “Oh yeah? Well I’m using my witchy powers to make it NOT snow. And I’m a bigger witch than you are.”

By the time the sun had fully set the ground here in our witchy corner of the world was covered with white stuff, so I guess I lost that competition. Not really though. The delight on her and her little brother’s faces as they looked out at those first big flakes was a complete win for me. Looking at them looking at snow won me over – bring it on winter! Let it snow snow snow!

I might as well embrace it, after all. Winter is coming whether I invite it to come or whisper hexes to urge it to stay away. The new season is going to offer up many good things expected and unexpected, I’m sure. Some of the good things are happening at Larksong this year. We’re is gearing up for a new round of winter session classes and planning an online holiday writing party that just makes me happy to think about. I’m still smiling about the fall classes.

“Every experience with Larksong is uplifting because the instructors are so respectful of all writers at all stages of our development.”
– previous workshop participant

Let’s start with the Holiday Party news. Mark your calendar for Saturday, December 12 from 10 – noon for a virtual sampler tray of writers and teachers. We will be hosting a two-hour event where published writers will lead participants through a speed-writing session. Each writer will have 15 minutes to introduce an exercise that illuminates some element of craft and gets people writing. Between each writing sessions other published writers will give five to seven-minute readings. Over the two-hour period, attendees will have an opportunity to write with four different writers and listen to four different readers. It will be a wild ride of creativity and celebration of writing. Because it’s a party you need to RSVP by registering, but you don’t have to pay to join. Because we at Larksong are committed to paying our artists there will be a “donate” option, but all are welcome to join us.

The party is just an appetizer for the classes we’re offering during the Winter Session. There will be more memoir writing classes, more fiction writing classes, and more poetry classes. We have new teachers lined up, some you know well and some you will be so happy to get to know. I promise to keep you posted about who will be teaching what at what time.

It’s going to be a great winter, even with the little too early snow. And now I need to contact someone about using her “witchy powers” to clean my sidewalk.


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.