Source File: cat.bohlke.i.13.xml

from Willa Cather in Person: Interviews, Speeches, and Letters

Selected and edited by L. Brent Bohlke

Lincoln & London: University of Nebraska Press, 1986

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Cover of L. Brent Bohlke's Willa Cather in Person

1921: OMAHA

Cather ended her lengthy stay in Red Cloud on 27 October 1921, her departure being noted in true small town fashion in the Argus that day: "Miss Willa Cather, Mrs. W. A. Sherwood, and Mrs. Irene Weisz were passengers to Omaha this morning." Her companions were her childhood friends, the Miner sisters. They stayed at the Fontenelle Hotel, where Cather was scheduled to speak on Saturday, 29 October. On Friday evening she was visited by interviewers from the World-Herald, the Daily News, and the Bee, and three interviews were published the next day, a fourth a little later. Though short, the interviews contain interesting statements with remarkably little overlapping.

The World-Herald interviewer deals most with One of Ours, the novel Cather had just completed, and her early journalistic work in Lincoln and points out that she had only been in Omaha once before this occasion.

WILLA CATHER WILL SPEAK TO FINE ARTS SOCIETY TODAY

Willa Sibert Cather, Nebraskan, whose pen has given Nebraska prairies a place in literature along with the far west of Bret Harte and the New England of a dozen writers of that region, is in Omaha to speak before an Omaha audience for the first time. Not unusual for one so close to Nebraska's heart to be in the state's metropolis one might say, but this is her second visit to the city in her life.

Miss Cather is to speak before the Omaha Fine Arts society at the Fontenelle at four o'clock today.

Refreshed after a visit to the home of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. C. F. Cather at Red Cloud, Nebraska, Miss Cather is returning to New York to prepare her latest novel for the publishers. Except to state that the title of the new work is One of Ours, and that it is the story of a Nebraska boy presented in an entirely new way, the woman novelist is silent regarding it.

"It's a secret, and it's something new," she said at the Fontenelle last night. And when the writer of My Ántonia, O Pioneers!, and The Song of the Lark, not to mention a score or more of other writings equally read, declares "it's a secret," no one is going to know much about "it." She did say, however, that she intends working over eight pounds of page-proof of the novel, which will consume most of the winter.

Miss Cather spoke lightly of her success as a writer. Graduating from the University of Nebraska when nineteen, she went to Pittsburg, Pa., to the Pittsburg Leader. She taught in the Allegheny high school, soon joining the staff of McClure's magazine, where she rose to be managing editor. Holding that position until 1912, she resigned and entered the independent work which has since brought her to the fore among writers of the country. Nearly all of her work has been done in the east.

"I really had to work to go through college," she declared. "I was dramatic critic on the Lincoln State Journal, receiving one dollar a night for my work. On Sundays I had four columns of trash in the paper. I got four dollars for this. It was just trash, too, for what could a kid of nineteen write?" Her previous visit to Omaha was made when she was engaged in this work. She came to see Sarah Bernhardt.

"What are you to speak on before the arts society today?" Miss Cather was asked.

"Oh, on the 'Standardization of Literature and Art,' " she laughed. "I was too lazy to make up a good title for it. That won't be it exactly, but it will be something like that."

Omaha World-Herald, 29 October 1921.