69th Annual Spring Conference graphic with open book pages.
Willa Cather reads to Jack and Elsie Cather.
Willa Cather reads to her brother Jack and sister Elsie.

69th Annual Willa Cather Spring Conference

Cather and the Readerly Imagination
Spring Conference


Our 69th Annual Willa Cather Spring Conference will celebrate Willa Cather and reading. Cather herself was an avid reader as well as a writer; she enjoyed sharing her book recommendations with friends, and she was pleased by hearing the comments of her own readers. From an early age, she established her “library,” with her books labeled and sometimes numbered in the back room of her father’s office. As our conference explores the many facets of Cather’s interactions with both her books and her readers, we hope attendees will be inspired to examine their own relationship to Cather's writing.

Funding was provided by Humanities Nebraska and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment.

The conference will begin Thursday, June 6th. Author Kali Fajardo-Anstine will join us as an invited speaker on Friday, June 7th, and the spring conference banquet and performance, " A Very Genuine Pleasure:" Willa Cather Readers Theater, will take place on Saturday, June 8th. Attendees are also encouraged to visit, Hommage: Willa Cather, on view at the Red Cloud Opera House Art Gallery, and Travis Hencey's new exhibit, The Field, The Fire, located in the Burlington Depot. 

Conference Lodging Options

Red Cloud

Rooms at Green Acres Motel in Red Cloud can be reserved by calling 402-746-2201.


A block of rooms is available at the Victorian Inn in nearby Superior at a rate of $80 or $125/night. To reserve, call Judy at 402-879-3245 before May 25 and mention the Willa Cather Spring Conference.

Other Area Towns



Kali Fajardo-Anstine

Kali Fajardo-Anstine

Featured Speaker

We are pleased to announce that Kali Fajardo-Anstine will join us for an invited lecture on Cather and the reader experience. In her introduction for the 2023 Penguin Classics edition of Death Comes for the Archbishop, Fajardo-Anstine writes, "The novel reminded me of my insatiable childhood reading habits...Cather had awoken in me a type of pleasure-reading that over the years had eroded with deadlines, assignments, and the long list of reasons why we do not read out of desire but instead out of duty." We look forward to hearing more from Fajardo-Anstine about the readerly imagination that Cather's work inspires. 

Kali Fajardo-Anstine is the nationally best-selling author of the novel Woman of Light and the widely acclaimed short story collection Sabrina and Corina, a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of an American Book Award. She is a 2023 Guggenheim Fellow and the 2021 recipient of the Addison M. Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Fajardo-Anstine is the 2022-2024 Endowed Chair in Creative Writing at Texas State University. She is from Denver, Colorado. 

Nebraska State Poet Matt Mason

Matt Mason

Featured Speaker


As part of this year's Willa Cather Childhoood Home dedication, we are excited to announce that Nebraska State Poet Matt Mason will read an original poem about Willa Cather and the house that brings so many of her readers to Red Cloud. 

Matt Mason is the Nebraska State Poet and has run poetry workshops in Botswana, Romania, Nepal, and Belarus for the U.S. State Department. His poetry has appeared in The New York Times and Matt has received a Pushcart Prize as well as fellowships from the Academy of American Poets and the Nebraska Arts Council. His work can be found in Rattle, Poet Lore, Prairie Schooner, and in hundreds of other publications. Mason's 5th book, Rock Stars, was published by Button Poetry in 2023. 

Nebraska Youth Poet Laureate Miranda Davis

Miranda Davis

Featured Speaker

We are delighted to welcome Miranda Davis, the 2024-2025 Nebraska Youth Poet Laureate, who will read an original poem about Willa Cather as part of our Willa Cather Childhood Home dedication. 

Miranda Davis is a senior at Norris High School in Firth, Nebraska and will be attending the University of Iowa to study English and Creative Writing. Her passions for poetry, nature, and music drive her to create a better world for herself and others through words. Davis's poetry has been published in multiple local anthologies and competes across the state at slam poetry competitions. She earned the prestigious title of Nebraska Youth Poet Laureate in April 2024. Davis has also been a member of the National Speech and Debate Association since 2021 and placed in the top 100 in the nation for poetry in 2022. 

Call for Papers - CLOSED

Cather and the Readerly Imagination

In her own time as in ours, Willa Cather’s books created vibrant and varied communities of readers. Cather’s literary works detail numerous acts of reading, and she herself was an avid reader with an acute awareness of the reading public. The 69th Annual Willa Cather Spring Conference seeks to celebrate and explore both the act of reading Cather and the presence of reading and readers within Cather’s fiction and letters. 

The directors invite papers on a variety of topics related to Cather, readers, and reading, including but not limited to the following areas:

  • Representations of readers and reading in Cather’s novels and short stories.
  • How readers navigate challenging topics in Cather’s fiction.
  • Book clubs, both historical and contemporary, and their approaches to Cather.
  • Teaching and pedagogical approaches; digital reading and / or the use of archival materials and Cather Archive documents.
  • Reading Cather alongside banned or challenged books.
  • Diverse communities of readers: women; immigrants; LGBTQ+ readers; Black, Indigenous, People of Color communities; disability communities; religious communities.
  • Reading and affect: how emotions such as joy, grief, pleasure, and escape are evoked by or represented in Cather’s works.
  • Cather as a reader: the works and authors she read and their influence on her writing; her personal library; and her family’s library.
  • Reader responses: how physical copies of Cather’s work (illustrations, typography, dust jacket and book cover design) affect readers' reception; how audiobook features and narration shape how readers experience Cather's work.
  • Genre: reading Cather within and beyond specific genres, including poetry, regionalism, modernism, and the history of the novel. 
  • Reading Cather alongside her contemporaries.

Proposals of no more than 500 words should describe papers or presentations approximately twenty minutes long. Innovative formats are encouraged. Abstracts, along with a short bio, your contact information and institutional affiliation, should be submitted to Rachel Olsen, Director of Education and Engagement, via the 2024 Spring Conference Proposal Form by March 1, 2024.

Responses to proposals will be sent by mid-March. At this time we intend to offer an in-person conference but remain committed to offering digital programming to our audiences. Questions may be directed to Rachel Olsen or Sarah Clere and Kelsey Squire, Academic Advisors of the 2024 Spring Conference, at or