Visiting Red Cloud, Nebraska

For my first blog post I thought I’d share my trip to Nebraska that I went on thanks to the Janet Warner/Eric Rump Travel Award! I want to shamelessly promote this award because it allowed me to go on such a fun and educational trip! I am a little giddy just reminiscing…

Dear Fellow English Majors,

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Me at the Minneapolis Airport

I had the amazing opportunity to travel to the Willa Cather Conference in Red Cloud, Nebraska thanks to this generous grant. My love for Cather is quite simple: I had the distinct pleasure of reading her novel My Àntonia in the first ever English course I took at Glendon in my first year. The novel and this course as a whole are to thank for my realization that English is the field for me, and my subsequent major switch, as I was previously in Translation. Basically, by reading and critiquing Cather’s work, I had started down a literary path for which there is (happily) no turning back: when I found out about the Willa Cather Spring Conference, I knew I had to go and meet other people whose lives had been so changed as mine had. Thus, I embarked on my journey, first to Lincoln, Nebraska and then onto Red, Cloud, Nebraska, the place where Cather spent some o her childhood and continued to write about for years…

I arrived in Lincoln, Nebraska, just prior to the conference in order to visit this small college town and learn more about Cather’s state. I toured the city, which consisted mostly of visiting its State Capitol building, and waiting for my ride to the conference. There is no way to get to Red Cloud, a twelve-hundred-person town,except by car, and being too young to rent a car, I was dependent on the lovely people at the Willa Cather Foundation to get to and from the conference.

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The Plains

My ride was to be given to me by a gentleman named Tom – a former president of the Willa Cather Foundation and as I soon would discover, a fairy godfather of sorts. Tom and I hit it off right away and in addition to driving me to the conference, he also drove me to visit the memorial prairie (and to its close neighbour, the state of Kansas!) and to the home that he is renovating in Red Cloud that was the home of one of Cather’s characters. As we drove the two hours from Lincoln to Red Cloud, I watched as the scenery I had so often read about passed before my eyes.

The conference itself was, of course, another experience I will not soon forget. I got to listen to presentations of scholarly papers on Cather’s work but also on the other theme of the conference: The Great War. This was my first experience at a literary conference and I learnt so much. I also met so many individuals who have made me even more motivated to pursue graduate studies in English and maybe even on Cather!

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Catholic Church in Red Cloud

Attending this conference was a very significant moment for me; so much so that I  currently am pursuing a Cather directed reading course with my professor, Dr. Danielle Russell. My plan was to use this opportunity to prepare a paper for the next Cather Conference in Pittsburgh in June 2017 –  something that a number of professors in Red Cloud encouraged me to do! I am happy to say that my paper was accepted! I will write another follow-up post about the conference later… Stay tuned! Anyway, I feel terribly privileged to have been able to make these connections.

In addition to the presentation of academic papers, the Willa Cather Foundation provided guided tours of the historic buildings in Red Cloud. I thus had the pleasure of visiting so many of the places I love reading and writing about.

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Annie Pavelka’s House (Àntonia Shimerda inspiration)

I am so thankful for this experience – that without this grant would not have been possible. So, please do yourselves the favour of applying to this award! You have until March 24th. Find more info here: http://www.glendon.yorku.ca/english-studies/2015/03/24/janet-warner-eric-rump-travel-award/

If you wish, you can see more photos from my trip by accessing this link: http://www.imgrum.net/tag/EmsWillaCatherTrip 

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