Nebraska Book Festival 2011


Paul AmandesPaul Amandes

Paul Amandes is the Associate Chairperson of the Theatre Department at Columbia College Chicago. He is a playwright, actor, director, singer, guitarist, and songwriter. He co-adapted (with Virginia Smith) and wrote original songs for Local Wonders, which he produced professionally & was the featured performer in 2010-11. He and Virginia have collaborated on many plays including Romeo and Juliet, Judevine, The Little Humpback Horse, and Female Transport. His play This Last Little Christmas is currently in development and Trouble Shoot, commissioned to be produced this summer by the Theater Within of Indianapolis, will also be performed in Chicago in 2012. Paul will participate in the Keynote Panel.

Sue BaumannSue Baumann (writing as Laura Landon)
More than Willing (The Wild Rose Press)
Shattered Dreams (Prairie Muse Publishing)
When Love Is Enough (Prairie Muse Publishing)

Sue Baumann (aka Laura Landon) enjoyed ten years as a high school music teacher and nine years making sundaes and malts in her very own ice cream shop, but once she penned her first novel, she closed up shop to spend every free minute writing. Since she started writing, she’s written more than a dozen Victorian historicals. Her dream of being published became a reality in 2010, when she saw three of her novels achieve publication. She lives in a small Nebraska town and stays busy penning new stories and getting more novels ready for publication in 2011. Sue will read from and discuss her 2010 works.

Christopher CartmillChristopher Cartmill
The Nebraska Dispatches (University of Nebraska Press)

Playwright, actor, and director, Christopher Cartmill teaches at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. His plays have earned awards from the Kennedy Center, Chicago’s Joseph Jefferson Committee, and the Los Angeles Drama-Logues. Nebraska’s Lied Center for the Performing Arts commissioned Christopher to write a play about Chief Standing Bear, and the experience of writing this play, titled Home Land, became the solo performance and memoir The Nebraska Dispatches (University of Nebraska Press). He will read from and discuss his 2010 work.

Marilyn June CoffeyMarilyn June Coffey
Mail-Order Kid: An Orphan Train Rider’s Story (“out West” Press)

Marilyn June Coffey is a best-selling, national prize-winning, internationally published author of poetry and prose. Her “Pricksong” won a Pushcart Prize, Atlantic Monthly featured her Great Plains Patchwork: A Memoir on its cover. Called a prose stylist, Marilyn trained as journalist (B.A., University of Nebraska, 1959) and creative writer (M.F.A., Brooklyn College, 1981). Her work has appeared in Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, India, and Japan. Her latest book, Mail-Order Kid (a best-seller on Amazon and Kindle) is a biography of an orphan-train rider. Already it’s considered a classic. Marilyn will read from and discuss her 2010 work.

Ted KooserTed Kooser
Bag in the Wind (Candlewick Press)
Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps (University of Nebraska Press)

Ted Kooser, a two-time U.S. Poet Laureate (2004–2006), received his bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University and his master’s degree in English from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. He is the author of 12 collections of poetry, including Delights & Shadows, which won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. His other honors include two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, a Pushcart Prize, and the Stanley Kunitz Prize from Columbia University. He teaches in the English department of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln as a Presidential Professor. Ted will read from his 2010 book for children and participate in the Keynote Panel.

Jeff LaceyJeff Lacey

Jeff Lacey completed his bachelor’s degree in philosophy and English at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and his master’s degree in English at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Recently, his poetry has appeared in publications such as The Hiram Review, Nebraska Life Magazine, Christianity and Literature, and The 2011 Nebraska Poet’s Calendar. He was the editor for The Loren Eiseley Reader Teacher’s Guide. A writing teacher who lives in Ralston, Nebraska, Jeff helps direct the Omaha Metro Area High School Poetry Festival, and has presented at numerous poetry workshops. His first book of poetry, Keep Going, will be published this year. He is a writers’ workshop facilitator.

Desmond LaVelleDesmond LaVelle
Thirteen Cats LaVelle (Lulu)

Desmond LaVelle is a longtime advertising copywriter. In his experience, he found that billboards and bus benches were rarely big enough to tell really great stories. While crafting Super Bowl commercials and Sunday circulars, LaVelle began writing his literary debut, Thirteen Cats LaVelle. LaVelle grew up in Omaha, Nebraska and studied Journalism at the University of Kansas. He moved to Chicago immediately after graduation and, after a short decade spent riding the elevated train, traveled west to Sausalito. A Midwesterner at heart, living in beautiful California gave him an overwhelming feeling of guilt. He currently resides in Chicago. Again. He will read from his 2010 work.

Matt MasonMatt Mason

Matt Mason received his MA in English from the Creative Writing Workshop at the University of California at Davis in 1994, then returned to Omaha, where he works to promote public poetry readings and poetry readers as executive director of the Nebraska Writers Collective and through, an online listing of poetry events. Matt’s first book of poetry, Things We Don’t Know, We Don’t Know, won the 2007 Nebraska Book Award for Poetry and was a Contemporary Poetry Best Seller. He runs the monthly poetry slam and open mic at the Omaha Healing Arts Center and was on 5 poetry slam teams at the National Poetry Slam. Matt has helped with poetry events for bookstores, high schools, junior highs, colleges, libraries in the U.S. as well as in Nepal and Belarus through the U.S. State Department. He is a writers’ workshop facilitator and coordinator fo the morning activities at the Nebraska Book Festival.

Sarah McKinstry-BrownSarah McKinstry-Brown
Cradling Monsoons (Blue Light Press)

Winner of the Academy of American Poets Prize, Sarah McKinstry-Brown studied poetry at the University of New Mexico, the University of Sheffield, England, and the University of Nebraska. In 2004, she won the Blue Light Poetry Prize for her collection When You Are Born and has since been published everywhere from West Virginia’s standardized tests to Omaha bus benches. Sarah received her MFA in Poetry at the University of Nebraska, and her creative thesis, Cradling Monsoons, won the 2010 Blue Light Book Award. She lives in Omaha with her husband, the poet Matt Mason, and their two beautiful, feisty daughters. Sarah will read from and discuss her 2010 work.

Jim ReeseJim Reese
Ghost on 3rd (New York Quarterly Books)

Jim Reese is an Associate Professor of English; Director of the Great Plains Writers’ Tour at Mount Marty College in Yankton, South Dakota; and Editor-in-Chief of PADDLEFISH. Reese’s poetry and prose have been widely published, most recently in New York Quarterly, Poetry East, Prairie Schooner, Paterson Literary Review, Louisiana Literature Review, Connecticut Review, and elsewhere. His Pulitzer Prize nominated poetry collection, ghost on 3rd (New York Quarterly Books 2010), is riddled with love, latent violence, humor and prison life. Reese has been the National Endowment for the Arts’ Writer-in-Residence at the Yankton Federal Prison Camp since 2008. He will facilitate a writers’ workshop and will read from and discuss his 2010 work.

Marjorie SaiserMarjorie Saiser
Beside You at the Stoplight (The Backwaters Press)
Rooms (Puddinghouse Publications)

Marjorie Saiser was named Distinguished Artist in Poetry in 2009 by the Nebraska Arts Council. Her awards include the Little Blue Stem Award, the Nebraska Book Award, the Literary Heritage Award, and the Vreelands Award. Her poems have been published in Prairie Schooner, Field, Georgia Review, Cimarron Review, CrazyHorse, Cream City Review, and have been featured on “The Writer’s Almanac” and Ted Kooser’s “American Life in Poetry.” Marjorie will read from and discuss her 2010 works.

Timothy SchaffertTimothy Schaffert

Timothy Schaffert is the author of four novels, most recently The Coffins of Little Hope. His work has been a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, and an Indie Next “Great Reads” pick from the American Booksellers Association. He teaches creative writing and literature at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, directs the Nebraska Summer Writers Conference, and serves as digital development editor for Prairie Schooner, a literary journal. He is also the director/founder of the (downtown) omaha lit fest. He is a writers’ workshop facilitator.

Roy ScheeleRoy Scheele
A Far Allegiance (The Backwaters Press)

Roy Scheele is a poet who has been published in The Sewanee Review, Poetry Northwest, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Commonweal, and many other places. He has published profiles of/interviews with Gwendolyn Brooks, Hayden Carruth, W.R. Moses, Susan Starr Richards and W.D. Snodgrass in Poets & Writers, Verse, and other magazines. He is Professor of English, poet-in-residence, and director of creative writing at Doane College in Crete, Nebraska. Roy will read from and discuss his 2010 work.

Barbara SchmitzBarbara Schmitz
What Bob Says (Pudding House Press)

Barbara Schmitz is the author of How Much Our Dancing Has Improved (The Backwaters Press), which won the 2005 Nebraska Center for the Book Award for poetry, and How to Get Out of the Body (Sandhills Press). Her poem “Uniforms” appeared in South Dakota Review and will be featured in Ted Kooser’s newspaper column “American Life in Poetry.” Barbara was a Writer-in-Residence at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, NM, and won a Nebraska Arts Council Award in 1997. She has received Emeritus Status from Northeast Community College, where she taught creative writing, literature and coordinated the Visiting Writers Series for thirty years. Barbara will read from and discuss her 2010 work.

Virginia SmithVirginia Smith

Virginia Smith is an Associate Professor at the University of Nebraska’s main campus in Lincoln. She teaches acting and directing, and has been the Artistic Director of the Nebraska Repertory Theatre (NRT) since 2005. She also heads the M.F.A. program in Directing for Stage and Screen and the B.A. undergraduate emphasis in Directing and Management. She became part of the theatre faculty at UNL in the fall of 2000 after sixteen years working as a professional in Chicago. In December of 2010, Local Wonders, a play with music, played in Chicago at Chicago Dramatists under Virginia’s direction. She co-adapted this piece with Paul Amandes, who also wrote the music and some of the lyrics, from poet Ted Kooser’s book Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps. Virginia will participate in the Keynote Panel.

James SolheimJames Solheim
Born Yesterday: The Diary of a Young Journalist (Philomel/Penguin Young Readers)

A poet and children’s book author, James Solheim won the Academy of American Poets Prize as a student at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His new book for children, Born Yesterday, received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, which chose it as one of the year’s ten best picture books. His work has appeared in many literary magazines and won a Pushcart Prize. He’s also the author of the children’s books It’s Disgusting — and We Ate It! from Simon & Schuster. James will read from and discuss his 2010 work.

Dwaine SpiekerDwaine Spieker

Dwaine Spieker teaches British Literature, Composition, and Creative Writing at Wayne High School in Wayne, Nebraska. After growing up on a farm outside Elgin, Nebraska, at the eastern edge of the sandhills, he attended the University of Nebraska at Kearney, graduating in 1997. In 2001, he received his Master of Arts in English from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, and more recently has been the recipient of the Nebraska Book Award for Poetry for Garden of Stars. He is a writers’ workshop facilitator.

Mary Helen StefaniakMary Helen Stefaniak
The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia (W.W. Norton & Co.)

Mary Helen Stefaniak’s second novel, The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia (W. W. Norton), has been awarded a 2011 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction. The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia was also selected by independent booksellers as an Indie-Next “Great Read” in September 2010. Mary Helen’s first novel, The Turk and My Mother, won the 2005 John Gardner Book Award and has been translated into several languages. Her first book, Self Storage and Other Stories, received the Banta Award for Literary Excellence from the Wisconsin Library Association. She is an Associate Professor of English/Creative Writing at Creighton University in Omaha. She will read from and discuss her 2010 work.

Wendy TownleyWendy Townley
Nerdy Thirty (WriteLife)

Wendy Townley (@wtownley on Twitter) is an author, blogger, and award-winning writer whose first book, Nerdy Thirty, was published in 2010 by WriteLife. She fancies social media, handwritten correspondence, NPR, and the Macintosh. Townley earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2002, and will graduate this year with a master’s degree in communication, also from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Visit and to learn more. Wendy will read from and discuss her 2010 work.

Willa Cather FoundationWilla Cather Foundation
At Willa Cather’s Tables: The Cather Foundation Cookbook; Ann Romines, Ed. (Allen Press)

The Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial and Educational Foundation (Willa Cather Foundation) was founded in 1955, through the efforts of a small group of volunteers in Red Cloud, Nebraska, led by Mildred R. Bennett. Today the Foundation is directed by a thirty-member Board of Governors that includes nationally recognized scholars, teachers, and business and professional people from throughout the United States. The Willa Cather Foundation is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting understanding and appreciation of the life, time, settings, and work of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Willa Cather. Willa Cather Foundation Board of Governors member Lynette Krieger will read from and discuss this 2010 work.