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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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The Willa Cather Foundation Announces Campaign for the Future

Announcing our Campaign for the Future

The Willa Cather Foundation’s Campaign for the Future is a $6.5 million campaign to restore historic Cather-related historic properties, expand educational programming, develop visitor ammenities, and build endowment for the nonprofit organization devoted to the great American author.

The public phase of the campaign is being announced just one year after History Nebraska, a state agency, transferred ownership of six historic properties and about 8,000 artifacts to the Willa Cather Foundation. The state had owned the properties since 1978, but History Nebraska and the Foundation had operated the site together since 1994. It is the largest single collection of nationally-designated buildings devoted to an American author.

The Willa Cather Foundation is now raising the funds needed to restore the sites and enhance the visitor experience for tourists from forty-eight states and five countries who visit the National Willa Cather Center and Red Cloud annually.

Former First Lady of the United States, Mrs. Laura Bush is the honorary national chair for the campaign’s public fundraising effort. Mrs. Bush, who spoke at the Foundation’s dedication of the National Willa Cather Center in 2017, stated, “Through Willa Cather’s writing, we have a better understanding of one of the most remarkable and compelling periods in American history.” She continued, “The sites and collections that make up the National Willa Cather Center in Red Cloud are cultural treasures. Your generosity ensures that our children and grandchildren will be able to travel back in time to hear the ‘nimble air’ and learn from Willa Cather’s example for many generations to come.”

In addition to Mrs. Bush, writer and historian David McCullough noted, “The marvelous thing about going to Red Cloud, Nebraska, is you can walk right into Willa Cather’s world. There’s the house she lived in, the bank, the opera house, the railroad depot, and the landscape. It’s one of my favorite places in all of America.”

Campaign for the Future has raised $4.7 million or 72% of its $6.5 million goal already, with just under $2 million left to be raised. The Foundation aspires to complete the campaign by its 65th annual Spring Conference in Red Cloud this June. The 3-day event will revisit the short stories of Youth and the Bright Medusa during its centenary year. Alexander Ross, Cather champion and writer for The New Yorker, will give the keynote address.

“Nebraskans have been very generous because they know we are fortunate to be home for such an iconic author,” said Ashley Olson, Executive Director. “We have had strong support from longtime friends and foundations and now hope to include individuals from across the country who appreciate Cather’s literature and value our work.”

Campaign funds will be used to restore eight historic properties, conserve newly acquired collection materials, expand educational programming, add exhibits, upgrade site interpretation, and invest in a downtown boutique hotel that will allow visitors to spend more time in Red Cloud. Olson said the highest site restoration priorities are Cather’s Childhood Home and the Pavelka Farmstead, which is central to Cather’s most celebrated novel, My Ántonia.

Adding to the success of the campaign is a Save America’s Treasures grant of $415,000 from the National Park Service for restoration of the Willa Cather Childhood Home—the jewel in the crown of the Foundation’s historic sites and a National Historic Landmark. The grant requires a 1:1 match in nonfederal funds.

Gifts of all sizes are welcome. To donate, send your contribution, clearly labeled Campaign for the Future to the Willa Cather Foundation, 413 N. Webster, Red Cloud, NE 68970.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2020 | https://www.willacather.org/announcing-our-campaign-future

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A Letter from our President

Dear Friends of the Nebraska Center for the Book:

What a great year for the Nebraska Center for the Book (NCB)! Thank you for your continued support of NCB and its programs. It was wonderful to see many of you at the Celebration of Nebraska Books in November!

With the close of 2019 we begin a new chapter with the NCB. One of the most notable changes is the move from a print newsletter to the online news blog. This will enable us to keep you up-to-date on NCB news and events in a timely manner. We will introduce you to members of the board, showcase One Book One Nebraska, the Celebration of Nebraska Books, and much more. 

We continue to promote Nebraska writers throughout the state. Each year the NCB celebrates One Book One Nebraska. For 2020 NCB will celebrate, All the Gallant Men by Donald Stratton with Ken Gire. It is the first memoir by a USS Arizona survivor.  Stratton grew up in Red Cloud and talks about how he ended up at Pearl Harbor and what happened after.

We encourage Nebraska youth to both read and write. NCB has received a grant from Humanities Nebraska to encourage student participation in the Letters About Literature Program. This program encourages students to write to the author who has made a difference in their life. 

Thank you for your continued support of the Nebraska Center for the Book! To all of you, who are such dedicated members of the NCB, we ask for your continued support through renewal of your membership in the Center. With a strong foundation the NCB can celebrate Nebraska and all those who read, write, or publish books that enrich our experience as we turn a page and discover new stories. 

For your convenience you are now able to join or renew your NCB membership online via PayPal.   

http://centerforthebook.nebraska.gov/get_involved/membership.html

We appreciate your continued support of the Nebraska Center for the Book and those in Nebraska who are reading, writing, and producing books!

Sincerely,

Nebraska Center for the Book, President

Follow us on Facebook! http://www.facebook.com/NebraskaCenterfortheBook

See us on the WWW! http://centerforthebook.nebraska.gov/index.asp

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