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63rd annual Willa Cather Spring Conference

63rd annual Willa Cather Spring Conference

Thursday, May 31, 2018 to Saturday, June 2, 2018
National Willa Cather Center
413 North Webster Street
Red Cloud, NE 68970

“Here at Last is an American Novel”: Celebrating 100 Years of My Ántonia

Red Cloud, NE | May 31–June 2, 2018

When critic Randolph Bourne heralded My Ántonia as the arrival of the “American novel,” in 1918, he could not have known the many ways the novel would remain relevant to today’s American experience. As we celebrate the centennial anniversary of My Ántonia’s publication, we invite paper proposals that examine the life and writings of Willa Cather with a focus on My Ántonia and its reputation as a most “American novel.”

As we examine My Ántonia's legacy during its centenary, the Willa Cather Foundation is pleased to welcome Nina McConigley as our keynote speaker. McConigley is the author of the story collection Cowboys and East Indians, which won the 2014 PEN Open Book Award and a High Plains Book Award. She was born in Singapore and grew up in Wyoming. She holds an MFA from the University of Houston and an MA from the University of Wyoming. McConigley was named by Glamour Magazine as one of "50 Phenomenal Women Making a Difference" in 2014, and her book was named one of 2014's Best Prize Winning Books by O, Oprah Magazine. She has been a fellow at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and for The Best New American Voices. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Orion, Salon, Virginia Quarterly Review, American Short Fiction, and The Asian American Literary Review among others. She lives in Laramie, Wyoming, and teaches at the University of Wyoming and at the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers.

Saturday evening, we look forward our conference banquet and to a Red Cloud Opera House performance by John Reed-Torres, a self-taught, against the grain pianist and composer born and raised in South-Central Los Angeles. In fifth grade, an ice cream wagon rolled by, playing Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer." Reed-Torres was hooked and began teaching himself piano. Since his performance beginnings in front of friends and family, he has become nationally known as a performer and composer. He has performed in Old Town Music Hall and Orange County Ragtime Society, the West Coast Ragtime Festival, the Blind Boone Festival, and the Sutter Creek Ragtime Festival.  In Red Cloud, we are looking forward to Reed-Torres performance of the works of John William "Blind" Boone," a program which will be fashioned after the late-1880s programs given by Boone throughout the Midwest, including in the Red Cloud Opera House. Saturday night banquet and performance are sold as a separate ticket! 

We're also planning a number of experiences, activities, and surprises—including parlor games, music from around the world, kolache-making, exhibits from our museum collection, and so much more! Please join us!


Conference Schedule

Conference Schedule
Conference Schedule

Thursday, May 31

9:00-10:30 a.m.   Welcome and Opening Plenary Lectures
10:45-5:30 p.m.   Concurrent sessions
5:30-7:00 p.m.      Roger Welsch and Antonia Welsch, "Our Ántonias"
6:30-9:00 p.m.      Social at the Burlington Depot, with musical performance
                                       by Chris Sayre, food trucks, and cocktails

Friday, June 1

9:00-10:30 a.m.     Scholarship presentations and awards
10:45-12:30 p.m.  Panel Presentation "Teaching My Ántonia in the 21st Century"
12:30 - 1:45 p.m.   Lunch on your own
2:00-3:00 p.m.        “‘Black Hawk, the new world in which we had come
                                         to live’: Stories from the Red Cloud Community”
3:10-3:30 p.m.        Barbara Tetenbaum, "The Slow Read" project
3:30-5:00 p.m.        Alternating activities:
                                        Kolache baking; parlor games  and entertainments
5:00-6:00 p.m.       Artists & Authors Reception & Book signing
6:00-7:15 p.m.       Keynote address by author Nina McConigley
7:30-9:00 p.m.       Dinner and crossword competition

Saturday, June 2

7:30-10:00 a.m.      Coffee and kolache
8:30-9:30 a.m.         Services at Grace Episcopal Church
10:00-11:45 a.m.   The Passing Show
12:00-1:30 p.m.      World Café Luncheon
1:30-2:30 p.m.         Panel presentation by Dr. Ramon Guerra and students
                                       "Students Respond to My Ántonia
3:00-5:30 p.m.         Film screening and discussion, The Golden Door 
                                         Pavelka Farmstead Pilgrimage (by caravan)
                                         Hosted by the descendants of Anna Pavelka
                                         with a special genealogy program by Mary Sramek Levesque
6:00-9:00 p.m.        Banquet and Red Cloud Opera House performance
                                         John Reed Torres, ragtime performance

High School Educators' Scholarships

High School Educators' Scholarships
High School Educators' Scholarships

To further our educational mission, the Willa Cather Foundation created the High School Educators Scholarship in 2016. Through this program, up to five high school educators receive a Spring Conference registration scholarship, in order that they may experience the historic sites, the cultural opportunities, and the Cather research that Spring Conference offers and draw upon these experiences in their own classrooms. It is our sincere hope that these partnerships will facilitate a dynamic exchange of ideas between Cather scholars and high school educators, upon whom we rely for our next generation of Cather readers.

To apply for the High School Educators Scholarship, please complete the form below or contact education director Tracy Tucker, at 402-746-2653 or Deadline is April 15, 2018.