Monday, November 28, 2016

Delbert's Weir

Nebraska Notion is taking a trip to Northwest Washington to join fellow Women Writing the West author Carmen Peone and learn about her young adult novel Delbert's Weir!

Carmen will give away an e-book copy of Delbert's Weir for Kindle to a lucky person who leaves a comment at the end of this blog post. So read on and leave a comment!

Let's find out what Delbert's Weir is about!

In a time when the west was still untamed, sixteen-year-old Delbert Gardner leads two friends into the backcountry for a three day adventure. Little did they know three days of hunting and fishing would turn into eight days of near starvation, injury and illness. When hope of returning home seems out of reach, Delbert recalls watching his Native American friends construct a fishing weir and sets out to build one himself. To him, it is the only way out.
Let's read an excerpt from the book!
He watched the leaves of the quaking aspen ripple in the breeze as if to encourage him. “Get up. Keep going,” is what they seemed to say. His mind flashed images of him watching Pekam. He and some other men walked up a stream and pushed fish toward traps. The same traps he’d made.
Delbert jumped to his feet and sprinted to camp. He shook each tent, even his own in the wake of excitement and yelled, “Get up!”
Jed popped his head out first, a grumpy frown on his face.
Ross attempted to open his blinking eyes.
“Come on. Get dressed. Daylights a burnin’. We’ve got work to do.”
Ross rolled over on his back and groaned. “What’re you babbling about?”
“The traps are empty, but I have a plan.” Delbert shook the tents until the boys crawled out. “Pekam spoke to me. No, God did, through Pekam.”
Jed’s sleepy eyes strained to focus. “What?”
“This better be worth it,” Ross sneered.
“I was sure there would be fish in at least one of them. But listen, when I was young, I saw Pekam and his pals walk up a creek toward different types of fish traps filling ‘em pretty fast. I think we should try it. It’s like herding cattle, but with fish. In water.”
“Now?” Jed complained. “Can’t we at least give the horses a drink first?”
Delbert turned his attention to Jed. “When did you start caring about the horses’ well-being?” Delbert felt hair on the back of his neck spike outward, so he spoke in a calm, slow tone, “Did you hear me?”
“Yes, I heard you. Did you hear me? It’s early. I wanna finish sleepin’.”
“Sure ya do.” Ross walked off.
“Hey, we can water the horses. Then how ‘bout trying to catch some breakfast.  How’d ya like worms for breakfast?  If you’re really fast, maybe you can snatch a grasshopper or two with a flick of your tongue.  I’ll start callin’ ya frog, or does toad suit ya?  Or would ya like to go on a Sunday afternoon stroll?” Delbert felt his patience leave his body as quickly as his last meal disappeared from his fish-oiled fingers.
Ross glared at him.
Delbert held out his hands. “You got a better idea? We’re outta of food. You think it’s gonna magically drop on our plates, cooked and all?” His tone sounded as impatient as a hungry wolf.
“Well, no…” Ross slouched and rubbed his eyes.
“Well, let’s get goin’.” Delbert marched toward the beach. He sat on the cool, damp sand, tore off his boots, and rolled up his pants. He slid the tip of his toe in and shivered.
Jed grunted and followed. He sat beside Delbert and peeled off his socks.
Ross straggled behind. He sat a spell before he yanked off his boots and rolled up his pants, grumbling about the injustice. “Maybe we need to cut off the legs of our britches. I have a feeling we may be in there–a lot.” He tilted his head toward the creek.
Delbert stared at his bare feet. No need to stir those two up any more than they already are. “Okay. Let’s walk downstream a ways, check things out, and meander back up.”
“Yep.” Ross’s eyebrow twitched. “Whatever you say, boss.”
Ross’ll be eatin’ his words soon enough.

Buy the Book!

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About Carmen Peone:

Carmen Peone has lived in Northeast Washington, on the Colville Confederated Indian Reservation since 1988 gleaning knowledge from family and friends.  She had worked with tribal elder, Marguerite Ensminger, for three years learning the Arrow Lakes-Sinyekst- Language and various cultural traditions and legends. She has owned and trained her horses for thirteen years and competed in local Extreme Challenge Competitions for three years.  She lives with her husband and tribal member Joe.  They have four grown sons who are also tribal members and seven grandchildren.  With a degree in psychology, the thought of writing never entered her mind, until she married her husband and they moved to the reservation after college. She came to love the people and their heritage and wanted to create a legacy for her sons.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Kimber Leigh Writes: Researching A Fence Around Her by Brigid Amos

Kimber Leigh Writes: Researching A Fence Around Her by Brigid Amos: Welcome to fellow Clean Reads author, Brigid Amos, with a post about researching her novel, A Fence Around Her! I was on the editing te...

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Sound of Summer

(Author's Note: Yes, I have been a negligent blogger, but Nebraska Notion is back! Here is a post that is a year late, but to a Brood IV Cicada, a year is nothing. Enjoy!

Hang on!
They say that smell is the most evocative of the senses. The mere whiff of a scent closely associated with our past can, if only for a moment, speed us back in time and space faster than any invention H.G. Wells could have conceived. For me, sound is also such a time hopping vehicle, often as fast and efficient as smell. An old song comes on the car radio and I am on summer break from college, driving down a different highway in a different state, and the song is new and climbing the charts. The cacophony of children playing during recess at the elementary school on the corner carries me further back in time, to a blacktop far away, full of children who are now on the final lap of their careers, playing with their grandchildren, caring for elderly parents. Some may no longer be alive, a sobering thought. This past June, I took such a sound-powered journey back to the summers of my childhood courtesy of the very loud and rather large insect known as the Cicada.

It all started when I opened the Lincoln Journal Star on May 25th 2015 and read an article entitled “Cicadas emerge after 17-year sleep.” The article said that Brood IV, commonly referred to as the Kansan brood, was about to emerge for the first time since 1998. I moved to Nebraska from California in late summer of 1998, which is why I was completely oblivious to Brood IV. The article explained that some species emerge every seven, thirteen, and seventeen years. They mate and die in about three weeks. The females inject their eggs into tree branches, and the baby Cicadas crawl down into the tree roots where they molt and complete their development. So this brood will hang out underground until 2032. It is amazing what a species will do to survive!

A bridge in Platte River State Park. Yes, this is Nebraska!

We missed the actual emergence, but saw much evidence of it. That was fine with me. I was there for the sound. I grew up on the East Coast in New Jersey and Connecticut. We must have had a lot of yearly emerging cicadas, because that huge chorus of rapid ticking seems to be the base track of the soundtrack of my summers. But I wonder if I had witnessed one of these broods that emerge only once in a while. One of my most vivid memories of growing up in Madison, Connecticut is of walking down Horse Pond Road passing a dense thicket of trees and bushes. Apparently, in order to not go completely insane, I had learned to tune out the cicadas. But suddenly, I became aware of this wall of sound and turned to stare in wonder into a large bush by the side of the road. The sound was overwhelming, deafening, like standing under a jet airplane right before it takes off. How was it that I had tuned out this sound before?

"Hey Mister, is it time to go underground yet?"

So on a warm muggy evening in June, by husband and I set out for Platte River State Park in Louisville, Nebraska for a “cicada hike.” Even with the windows closed and the air conditioner on, I could hear them whenever we passed a clump of trees at the edge of the fields along the road to the park. And when we parked the car and opened the door, I was back in a childhood summer, daydreaming to that cicada symphony.

I don’t know where I’ll be in 2032, so I don’t know if I’ll hear Brood IV again. At the end of our visit, my husband and I decided that once in a while, we’ll pack a picnic dinner and go hiking at Platte River State Park, and when we do, it will be nice to know that Brood IV is there, safe underground.

At the end of our visit to Platte River State Park, enjoying an ice cream cone by the lake.

Monday, July 13, 2015

A Playwright's Out of Body Experience

There is magic in the process of taking a play from the page to the stage; for a playwright, this process can feel like an out of body experience.

Timothy Scholl directs actors Cecilia Burkhart and John Burkhart in my ten-minute play Kitchen Garden. 

Back in 2011, my play Kitchen Garden began as a vague idea in my head, which became a conversation with my husband Bob during a long evening walk, and then morphed into a hastily scribbled first draft over a cappuccino in the Mill in College View. It went through various lengths and versions and then lay dormant for four years as nothing more than a computer file. I took a playwriting class, wrote more plays and saw them performed, but always wondered if there was a future for that first play. Then came Angels Playwriting Collective and the First Flight Festival, so I dusted off Kitchen Garden, tightened it into a ten-minute play with the astute feedback from my fellow Collective playwrights, and now am experiencing the magic of watching it make that leap from page to stage.

Cecilia Burkhart and John Burkhart rehearse my ten-minute play Kitchen Garden.

The out of body experience hits me during rehearsals as I watch my amazing director Timothy Scholl find subtext, character traits, motivations, and conflict that enrich the play so much beyond the written word. In succinct direction to the actors, he can communicate ideas that for me are so internalized that I can only get at them indirectly through dialogue. The actors, Cecilia and John Burkhart, inhabit my characters with a stunning familiarity, as if they were inside the characters’ heads, which translates to inside my head, a bit unnerving when you think about it. So watching a rehearsal of my own play is like watching the contents of my head take shape outside myself. Hopefully, I’ll get used to this strange phenomenon by opening night and be able to enjoy seeing my play on stage just like any other audience member, though I seriously doubt it. If you suspect that someone in the audience is having an out of body experience, that would be me.

More information about the Angels Theatre Company First Flight Festival at
Contact Brigid through her website at

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Live Theatre in Nebraska City!

Getting ready to take a bow. Left to Right: Bob Hall, Brigid Amos, Paula Ray, Robin Buckallew, and Bob Graybosch.

"It's live theatre!"

The waiting audience burst out laughing as the staff continued to fiddle with the lights in the conference room, at one point plunging it into utter darkness. The observation came not from an actor but rather from an ebullient audience member. The live theatre had not, in fact started just yet.

Let me back up a bit and explain how we got to that point.

About a week before my husband and I were to leave for a family Christmas/ski vacation in Montana, I received an email from fellow Angels Playwriting Collective member Robin Buckallew saying that she was still looking to fill some roles in a reading of her one act play "Until They Forget". She also had some exciting news about the play: it had been chosen as one of three regional finalists in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre one-act competition. But that reading was to be in Minneapolis toward the end of January. The reading she needed to cast was to take place at the Lied Lodge & Conference Center in Nebraska City, Nebraska on Sunday January 4.

Robin is completing her MFA in Playwriting at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. "Until They Forget" is one of the plays that make up her thesis, and one of the graduation requirements of the program is a reading of an excerpt of a play. Hence the concern about finding actors. When my husband Bob Graybosch got home, I approached him about the idea of the two of us taking the roles. I assured him that it would just be a reading, i.e., sitting at a long table with our scripts open in front of us. At the most, perhaps standing at podiums. What was I thinking?

The reading was scheduled for 5:15 pm, and there was to opportunity to rehearse before convening at 1:30 pm in the timbered lobby of Lied Lodge. The other two actors arrived: Paula Ray, playwright, actress, and psychologist (also an Angels Playwriting Collective member) and her husband Bob Hall, playwright, actor, director, founder and artistic director of Flatwater Shakespeare Company, comic book creator, and artist. We were in great company, and that was reassuring. Robin introduced us to our director Michael Oatman, Playwright-in-Residence of Karamu House in Cleveland, Ohio. We followed him into the conference room where we would rehearse, and after the first read through, Michael cordially dismissed the stage direction reader and announced that we would perform the play as a staged reading (i.e. still reading from the script, but up on our feet, moving around and carrying out the physical action of the play).

Michael is what I would call an "actor's director," and it was such an exciting experience to work with him. He is the type of director who can intuitively sense the potential in actors, and knows how to draw that potential out. My husband Bob has no stage experience (although he and I did once take an acting class with Sarah Imes Borden, and I thought he did quite well.) In a very direct, demanding, but kind way, Michael challenged Bob to find the character within himself, to loosen up, and to deliver some of his lines with confidence to the audience.

I should also say that we were very grateful to have theater veteran Bob Hall in the cast. It is always nice to have a really solid actor that leads the way and whose performance everyone else can latch onto! 

We moved into the big conference hall for one last run through, which brings us to the last minute light checks and other technical scuffling about. After very moving speeches by Charlene A. Donaghy, Robin's playwriting mentor, and by Robin herself, we launched into the performance. Although the play examines serious themes of life and death, there is a great deal of comedy in it, and the very engaged and appreciative audience laughed throughout. We received wonderful comments afterwards, as did Robin for her writing, and we all retired to the Timber Dining Room for a well-
deserved meal. (By the way, I also had a chocolate martini and my husband had a Guinness.)

An epilogue:

A few days after the staged reading, I was hanging up the slacks I wore that day. (In order to tell this story, I have to reveal a bit about my housekeeping habits.) Out of the pocket of the slacks fell a '63 Corvette. OK, that sounds weird, so let me back up again with a spoiler alert. At some point during the play, Bob Hall's character, Larry, pulls a toy '63 Corvette out of his pocket. My character, Andi, takes the car and plays with it for a while. I needed to get the car out of my hands, and it seemed natural to put it in my own pocket. Each time we ran through the play, I handed the car to Bob Hall to put into his pocket, but of course, after the performance, we ate dinner instead. I sent the car to Robin, and she will take it to Minneapolis for the reading there. That little '63 Corvette sure gets around!

Reading through the script. Left to Right: Bob Hall, Paula Ray, Brigid Amos, and Bob Graybosch.