Award-winning author Tosca Lee’s newest books take place in her home state of Nebraska

By RICK BROWN, Yard Light Media

KEARNEY — Best-selling author Tosca Lee often encounters fans who assume that she must live on either the East or the West Coast.

“When I go to events or conferences, a lot of people assume that if you’re a bestselling novelist you must live in New York or someplace like that,” the author said from her home in Fremont. “As you know, Nebraska has a rich literary tradition. There are such wonderful writers and authors living here. I’m always glad when one of us gets an award so we can help draw the focus to the talent in the state.”

An announcement by the American Book Fest currently highlights Nebraska’s literary tradition — along with Lee’s contribution to that legacy. In July the organization honored Lee’s work with two International Book Awards, one for mystery/suspense for “A Single Light” and another one for science fiction for “The Line Between.” The International Book Awards celebrates excellence in all sections of the publishing industry. More than 2,000 entries were submitted to this year’s awards.

The books feature Nebraska settings.

“I consider myself a novelist who has lived almost all my life in Nebraska,” Lee said. “These two books are my first novels that I’ve been able to set in the area just because of the subject matter I’ve written about.”

Both books tell the story of Wynter Roth, a 22-year-old woman who has escaped a Midwest cult just as a frightening disease spreads across the country. Both stories have been optioned for development for television/film.

Lee is the author of 11 novels. Her books have been translated into 17 languages.

During this time of COVID-19 shutdowns, Lee sees this as a perfect time for enjoying novels.

“This is a great time to be reading fiction, especially during this time of quarantine and lockdowns,” she said. “It’s all about escapism. I think that’s why you also saw a lot of people binge watching shows on Netflix. I’ve read varying reports; some people are reading a lot and others are having a hard time concentrating because of the current climate.”

Lee feels that fiction’s main goal is to entertain.

“It’s meant to act as a portal away from the current reality to somewhere else,” she said. “It’s meant to usher us out of reality and help us escape. This is a good time to be reading fiction as a way to deal with the stress of living through a pandemic and through uncertainty of the financial stresses that so many people are undergoing right now.”

What about reading pandemic fiction?

“That’s a different question,” Lee laughed. “In a normal time I think people turn to pandemic fiction just out of curiosity. In the back of their minds they are wondering, would I be able to survive? What would I do in these situations? I think the ‘fun’ of that literature is that it does away with the noise of everyday living. It boils everything down to the simple question of survival.”

Booksellers noted an uptick in pandemic fiction in mid-March and April.

Part of the driving force of her books relies on understanding the motivations of the characters.

“Figuring out who you can trust in a novel makes the story really fun,” she said. “It’s also something that makes our jobs, as writers, so difficult. Readers are now so savvy these days. It’s hard to pull off twists and turns that readers won’t see a mile away. That’s the challenge, especially with books like ‘Gone Girl’ where you have an unreliable narrator. Finding new ways to surprise and thrill readers — or throw a wrench into the works — is the fun and challenging part of it.”

Lee considers winning the International Book Award as a big encouragement.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had two books that have garnered quite as many awards as these,” she said. “That’s been really exciting. Practically speaking it’s also very good because I’m up for a new publishing contract now. Coming off the heels of an award like this is very good for getting my next book contracted.”

Lee co-authored a WWII story. She’s currently in the process of revising the manuscript.

“We hope to find a home for that story,” she said. “After that I plan to dive into medieval thriller. I have some other suspense ideas that I’m really excited about but it will probably be later this year before I start proposing that. We’ll just see what publishers are interested in.”

August 13, 2020 | Kearney Hub

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Upcoming Events in September

A new month brings new events! Check out the NCB calendar to see a list of literary events that are happening near you.

Due to the current pandemic, some events may have been cancelled, postponed, or shifted to an online format.

Dates, locations, and times are subject to change. Some workshops or events may charge a fee. Contact us to submit your event!

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August Literary Events

Happy first day of August! Check out the NCB calendar to keep up with literary events near you!

Due to the current pandemic, some events may have been cancelled, postponed, or shifted to an online format.

Dates, locations, and times are subject to change. Some workshops or events may charge a fee. Contact us to submit your event!

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‘All the Gallant Men: The first memoir by a USS Arizona survivor’

By SHERRY PRESTON Columnist

Donald Stratton, native of Red Cloud, Nebraska, tells the story of how he survived the sinking of the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Stratton was severely burned and survived only by crossing a rope, hand over hand, far above the water to another ship. Stratton was one of the 335 men onboard who survived the attack. Over 1500 sailors were onboard the USS Arizona at the time.

Hundreds and hundreds of books have been written about World War II. This slim book stands out because it tells a personal story, with just enough backstory to put the reader in the time and place but not so much that someone who isn’t a WWII buff wouldn’t enjoy it.

Stratton’s story of grit and perseverance is incredible. After being medically discharged he recovered from his burns and then reenlisted in the Navy. Stratton fought in the first battle of WWII and the last major battle of the war, at Okinawa. Towards the end of the book he warns the reader to not forget lessons learned at Pearl Harbor. As a veteran he is proud of his country, but he sees serious flaws in how the government and the armed services in particular handled information hinting at an impending Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He encourages leaders to be expedient with passing down information so military leaders can make informed decisions.

“In January 1941, Admiral Kimmel and General Short were advised by the secretaries of the Navy and the Army that Japan might launch a surprise attack against the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. They went on to say the attack would most likely be from the air…Overconfident is too generous a term. The more accurate word is arrogant. We just thought we knew it all.”

Donald Stratton passed away this spring in Colorado Springs. He wanted people to not forget what happened during the attack on Pearl Harbor and he fought for recognition of the sailor who tossed the rope, against orders, that he and his crewmates were able to cross over into the USS Vestal.

You can find “All the Gallant Men” on the biography shelf at the Gering Public Library. We also have a large variety of WWII biographies and more detailed books about the war.

June 21, 2020 | www.starherald.com

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Upcoming Events in July

A new month brings new events! Check out the NCB calendar to see a list of literary events are happening near you this month.

Due to the recent pandemic, some events may have been cancelled, postponed, or shifted to an online format.

Dates, locations, and times are subject to change. Some workshops or events may charge a fee. Contact us to submit your event!

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Coronavirus forces National Book Festival to shift to online-only format this year

One of Washington’s most cherished events has been felled by the novel coronavirus. The National Book Festival, set to celebrate its 20th anniversary this year, will not be held as planned, the Library of Congress announced Thursday.

The literary extravaganza, which in recent years has drawn an estimated 200,000 people to the Washington Convention Center, was scheduled for Aug. 29. But due to the ongoing covid-19 crisis, the presentations by scores of best-selling and award-winning authors will be moved to the weekend of Sept. 25-27 and presented online only.

The news had been expected, but still came as a disappointment. With authors unable to travel amid social distancing restrictions, most major literary festivals this year have been canceled or shifted online.

Appropriately, the theme of this year’s National Book Festival is “American Ingenuity,” a quality that will be required to effectively reimagine the event in a new virtual format. A statement from the library notes that the move online will “serve a global audience and demonstrate how authors and their stories help to connect and illuminate the world.”

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden issued a statement saying, “Although we cannot hold our usual National Book Festival, which attracts more than 200,000 attendees of all ages, I believe this virtual festival has the potential to convey the same spirit of inventiveness and creativity to an even wider book-loving community.”

This year’s list of authors includes novelists, historians, poets and children’s authors such as Madeleine Albright, John Grisham, Colson Whitehead, Melinda Gates, Kate DiCamillo, Poet Laureate Joy Harjo and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Jason Reynolds.

The festival, which was started in 2001 under the direction of then-first lady Laura Bush, has been underwritten in recent years by Washington-area philanthropist David M. Rubenstein.

The Washington Post is a charter sponsor of the festival.

Thursday, May 28, 2020 | www.washingtonpost.com

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Upcoming Events

Check out the NCB calendar to see a list of literary events that are coming up this month!

Due to the recent pandemic, some events may have been cancelled, postponed, or shifted to an online format.

Dates, locations, and times are subject to change. Some workshops or events may charge a fee. Contact us to submit your event!

Don’t forget that June is Audiobook Month! Who doesn’t love listening to a good book every now and then? This month is all about celebrating this growing format. Let us know what you’re favorite audiobooks are!

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Calling All Poets

Nebraska Writers Guild Poetry Submissions

Grand Island, NE – Poets, in celebration of the Guild’s 95th year, we want you to show us your best work. You can enter up to six poems free of charge. Guild Membership is not required. Our judges ask that you please familiarize yourself with submission guidelines and links found on Nebraskawriters.org under News and Events, 2020 Poetry Chapbook. Selected poems will be published fall of 2020 in the NWG’s Verses from the Plains: A Poetry Collection.

Submission deadline: May 30, 2020

Calling All Designers! Are you interested in a chance to design the chapbook covers? Please contact us at nwgpoetrychapbook@gmail.com for more information or submission questions.

About Nebraska Writers Guild:

What do Willa Cather, Mari Sandoz, and John Neihardt have in common?
They were all members of the Nebraska Writers Guild, one of the oldest writers’ organizations in the country.

MISSION: Nebraska Writers Guild is a nonprofit (501c3) organization dedicated to empowerment and individual growth through involvement with a community of writers and related professionals; promoting authors and the craft of writing through events and publications; and advancement through professional development. For more information please visit nebraskawriters.org or facebook.com/nebraskawritersguild.

For more information contact: Poetry Chair, Charlene Pierce
Phone: 402.594.1917 Email: Charlene_pierce@icloud.com

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#NationalPoetryMonth – “Walk on the Prairie” by Twyla Hansen

Walk on the Prairie
by Twyla Hansen

There is mystery here, in the shapes of grass,
in the dim movements of an inland sea,
connections to an earlier time. Wander barefoot,
hypothesize the dance of millennia, the unbearable
carvings of the built environment, this ragtag escape.

Let its divine simplicity ooze into your pores.
Comb the steel from your hair, blanket your
tongue with orange. Your breathing will slow.
Breathing slow, unbutton the child within.
Give her permission to fly like a kite.

From Prairie Suite: A Celebration, Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center, 2006.

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As part of #NationalPoetryMonth, we’re highlighting some of our favorite poems by Nebraska authors. If you have a favorite, feel free to send it to us!

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#NationalPoetryMonth – “At the Edge of Town” by Don Welch

“At the Edge of Town”
by Don Welch

Hard to know which is more gnarled,
the posts he hammers staples into
or the blue hummocks which run
across his hands like molehills.

Work has reduced his wrists
to bones, cut out of him
the easy flesh and brought him
down to this, the crowbar’s teeth

caught just behind a barb.
Again this morning
the crowbar’s neck will make
its blue slip into wood,

there will be that moment
when too much strength
will cause the wire to break.
But even at 70, he says,

he has to have it right,
and more than right.
This morning, in the pewter light,
he has the scars to prove it.

From Gutter Flowers, Logan House, 2005.

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As part of #NationalPoetryMonth, we’re highlighting some of our favorite poems by Nebraska authors. If you have a favorite, feel free to send it to us!

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