Monday 13 February 2012


So much to tell, so little time...Where do I begin on the Nebraska trip? Our lovely hosts? The sweet book shops in Lincoln? My fellow readers? It was a whirlwind of a few days and it was action-packed. It's a bit of an antic-climax to be home, mopping up baby sick, cleaning my scruffy house, and imploring my eldest to study for his mock Leaving Cert exams (to no avail). Sigh...

Marianne Kunkel, managing editor, Prairie Schooner
The trip was a huge success, mostly because of the warmth (and efficiency) of the Prairie Schooner crew: Stephen Behrendt, Kwame Dawes and Marianne Kunkel, and everyone else who helped us out and made everything easy and enjoyable.

Bike in the snow, Lincoln
I arrived to snow in Nebraska - well-managed snow that didn't bring the country to a standstill, as it does in Ireland. It was cold. Oh so cold. And they have a wind in Lincoln that would skin a mink. There's a local 'joke' that says that if one day God decided to take away the Nebraskan wind, everything and everyone would fall over. This wind has ice at its heart and may have accounted for the empty streets I encountered each morning on my walkabouts. We had the mornings free so I spent from 9am to midday, each of the three days, wandering the streets of Lincoln, exploring book shops, cafés and vintage shops. I rarely get to be alone so this was nirvana for me.

Kwame Dawes interviews Deanie Rowan-Blank

Aidan Rooney, reading
On the two afternoons each of us guests - myself, Aidan Rooney, Sandra Bunting and Deanie Rowan Blank - were interviewed and we read at the Sheldon Art Gallery. The Sheldon owns the Edward Hopper painting 'Room in New York', which brought to mind Pictures from Hopper the brand new short fiction collection from Neil Campbell. I'll be reviewing that collection here soon. The Hopper was so captivating I went back to see it a second time.

'Room in New York', Edward Hopper
Also at the Sheldon, Aidan and myself took part in a panel on contemporary Irish literature, chaired by Stephen Behrendt, and with two PhD CW students, Karen Babine and Bret Shepard. We talked a lot about sense of place in Irish writing and we hit on poetry reviewing and the role of the internet in literary publication.

Cody Lumpkin interviews Sandra Bunting
Kwame and Marianne brought us for dinner in the Green Gateau, an atmospheric French(-ish) restaurant where I got my first taste of lavosh, a delicious Armenian flatbread. Mmm. The talk and banter flowed on poetry, writing, teaching, whiskey, publishers and lots more besides.

On the second afternoon we listened to a group of PhD students from the English Department at UNL read extracts from the Irish issue of Prairie Schooner. Crystal Gibbins read Ann Tannam's wonderfully witty poems, John Schulze read an extract from William Wall's novel extract, and there was also a section read of Aiden O'Reilly's short story 'A Drop to Warm my Blood'.

Irish Car Bomb truffles
That evening there was a reception in The Sheldon Gallery to celebrate the issue's launch and there was Irish-themed food. I had already had dinner with the lovely Scott Winter who runs Air Schooner, the podcast for the journal, in The Blue Orchid, a Thai place, great for veggies like me. So I didn't get to sample the food, which included Irish Car Bomb Truffles (!) and Shamrock Martinis (all I know is they had Baileys in them).

Stephen Behrendt, editor of the Irish issue and us
After the reception the four of us read, mostly from our selections in Prairie Schooner. The backdrop to our reading was a slideshow of beautiful photos from Alen MacWeeney. It was a lovely evening and we enjoyed a drink afterwards at our hotel, before parting fondly. We all were leaving at various times the next day.

Indigo Bridge Books & Café
As for my mornings that I spent to myself, I enjoyed very much two book shops in particular: Indigo Bridge Books, a spacious shop with gorgeous displays and a dinky coffee shop. I got Juno a pink Pride and Prejudice t-shirt with a peacock on it. Perfect for her in so many ways :)

Eddy, the beautiful shop cat in A Novel Idea
The other book shop I loved was one that sold secondhand books, A Novel Idea. It houses two shop cats - the one called Eddy followed me around. I got some Nebraskan poetry anthologies there which was pleasing.

Compare and contrast
I also had a great time at the Nebraska History Museum which houses a vast and impressive display of Native American artefacts: dolls, weapons, beaded clothes, paintings, photos, war bonnets etc etc. It was brilliant.

Me with snowbank
OK, this has turned into a very looooong blog post (and I hate long posts). Overall, it was a great trip: the people were incredibly friendly and welcoming; our suites in the hotel were roomy and comfy; we were treated like royalty; there was lots of interesting chat about literature and Lincoln is a really nice city to visit. I only saw one section of the downtown area but it was fun, lots of good places to eat, tons of culture etc etc. I'd go back in a heartbeat :)

Begorrah - breakfast in Lincoln :)


Unknown said...

Sounds like a great trip. Was the special Ireland issue only being launched now?

Glad you were there to represent Ireland. I would have loved to hear a stranger read my story.

WiseMóna said...

It sounds (and looks) like you had a wonderful little getaway. I envy those few hours of meandering you had from Café to bookshop to vintage stores. We would share a space in Nirvana for sure. I just followed the link to Alen McWeenys site... Lovely stuff there indeed. Welcome home... I am sure they were happy to have you back, baby sick cleanup and all x

Órfhlaith Foyle said...

Hey Nu, delighted that you had such a wonderful time in Nebraska. Enjoyed reading your post and seeing the photographs!

Rachel Fenton said...

Thanks so much for posting all this! It's not really a long post - more a picturebook/photo album - and they're no bother! Fab. I'm looking forward to the review of Neil's book now - must have been great to see the Hopper in situ!

Group 8 said...

Hi Aiden, yes, this was the launch event for the issue. It was good to hear your story being read out - the guy who read it loved it.

Group 8 said...

For me it's long - I'm not a fan of long posts. It's my low boredom threshold.

Tania Hershman said...

Gosh, it sounds heavenly, how lovely! I must put Nebraska on my Wish list, although maybe when the snows have melted. And how could you not try the Irish Car Bomb Truffles and report back to us? Shame! I love your long blog post, took me out of my humdrum routine!

Group 8 said...

Thanks Tania - I was so full of cake from the restaurant I hadn't room for a car bomb, much as I would have liked to try one!

Kar said...

Ah pet, it sounds wonderful and I can't believe the amount you squashed in, well done! and not even a mere mention of the jet lag, you sprang to mind a few mornings when I was heading to work. Dying to hear more about it and see more pics oh and see Juno's t-shirt! She survived without you TG. Your post as always is brilliant and I LOVE the photos x

I'm v.sick at the mo but I will give you a call later in the week when I’ve a bit more voice.

p.s. Happy Valentines Day x

Group 8 said...

Aw Kar - are you off work? Get well soon. Juno is v sick, poor pet.
The jetlag hit in the late evening and I was wide awake at 4am each morning but I managed it pretty well.
It was great all in all. But I knew it would be :)

Insinbad said...

Great post babe. It all sounds, and looks really great. I love to go there with you next time, and bring check-in luggage.

Group 8 said...

Thanks, hun. Wish you could come with me everywhere I go :)

shaunag said...

Oh this sounds like you had a fantastic time. A perfect balance between alone time, reading and socialising. Nebraska sounds amazing, I especially like all those fab bookstores. Congrats to all the PS crew for being such fab hosts. Hope your little lady is better soon...poor mite!

Cinnamon Dokken, A Novel Idea Bookstore said...

Lovely to meet you when you were in the bookstore! (Eddy is hands-down our most popular staff member - glad you enjoyed his company.)

Warm wishes,

Group 8 said...

And you, Cinnamon. You have a lovely shop and I am now following your good work on Facebook too :) Nuala x