Visiting Red Cloud 2.0

Two weeks ago at this time I was taking in my first experience of the annual Willa Cather Spring Conference. For months my excitement grew for the event, which included a 700-mile solo road trip each way.

I gave my presentation over her novel My Antonia the first day of the conference, and for the rest of the conference, I listened to other presentations on Willa Cather and on this great novel. I visited the various shops in Red Cloud, and wandered excessively in the gift shop and exhibits in the Willa Cather Foundation building.

I took a walk on the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie. The morning was sunny, breezy, and everything I expected for a journey across the open landscape.

On the Saturday of the conference, along with many other attendees, I visited Grace Episcopal Church for a worship service, a church in which Willa Cather had been a member. It was a cool morning inside the small church whose wooden pews creaked and whose lovely stained-glass windows glowed in the sunshine. It was wonderful to sing hymns along with pump organ, to hear so many voices packed into the church, to take communion.

The three days left me excited for future iterations of the conference, and you can be confident that I’ll share more picture from my future visits.

(If you want to see pictures from my first visit to Red Cloud, you can check out this post.)

Plainswriter outside the home of Willa Cather

outside Willa Cather’s childhood home

Living room of Willa Cather childhood home

living room

Upstairs of Willa Cather childhood home


1892 Calendar from office of Charles Cather (Willa's father)

1892 office calendar from Charles Cather’s insurance office

Willa Cather Memorial Prairie sign

Willa Cather Memorial Prairie #1

Willa Cather Memorial Prairie #2

Willa Cather Memorial Prairie #3

Sign for Grace Episcopal Church

Inside Grace Episcopal Church

way early for the worship service at Grace Episcopal

From exhibit in the Willa Cather Center: Red Cloud, NE

#truth from an exhibit in the Willa Cather Foundation


A few weeks ago during my daily scroll through Twitter, I stumbled upon an idea that writer Jami Attenberg proposed: write 1,000 words each day from June 15-29.

Writing challenges intrigue me, and I’ve twice “completed” first drafts of novels during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). For those unfamiliar with what happens each November, writers around the world attempt to finish a draft in thirty days, with a minimum required word count of 50,000.

For me, both of those NaNoWriMo experiences were wonderful, if not hectic. A clear finish line, and if you do the math, a reachable daily word count minimum: 1,666.66667. 1,000 is more doable for me, especially in the summer when I’m off from teaching.

The only catch this time? After Day 6 of #1000wordsofsummer, I’ll be on vacation for the duration of the writing challenge. Traveling. Visiting family and friends.

There is another catch, too. I’m not certain while I’ll write. This lack of knowing isn’t cause for panic. Yet. I’ve been writing long enough to trust the process, to know that if I start writing, words will happen, and I’ll fill that daily word count. And just as with my NaNoWriMo adventures, no one else needs (or is allowed) to see the draft(s) from my adventure with #1000wordsofsummer.

Maybe I’ll restart my last NaNoWriMo novel that’s been waiting for a second draft since 2011. Maybe I’ll revise the first draft of my book-length memoir from last summer. Maybe I’ll write a couple new short stories and/or essays. Whatever I decide to work on though, I’ll plan above all to enjoy the adventure, the fun pressure, of an intensive period of writing.