Poetry Is My Livelihood

Nebraska Cultural Endowment:

Twyla Hansen, Nebraska State Poet, accepted the Word Sender Award from the John G. Neihardt Foundation November 9, 2014 at the Laureate’s Feast. . Read about Twyla Hansen in this re-blogging of “Poetry Is My Livelihood”.

Originally posted on What's Your Livelihood?:

Twyla’s Story
I did not attempt creative writing when I was young because I had no notion I could. My unlikely path to poetry—to creativity, really—was detoured by everyday life: growing up, marrying, starting a family, working, attending college as a non-traditional student. By the time I graduated with a degree in horticulture, I thought I knew what I wished to do and where I was headed. Not exactly.

I grew up on a small farm with three older brothers and without television. At an impressionable age, I lived and breathed hay bales and clover blossoms and topsoil. Because there were few distractions, I looked at things closely and let my imagination run wild. We listened to radio programs like Perry Mason, Lone Ranger and a creepy sci fi show that gave me nightmares. We attended a one-room country school K-8th. Saturdays, we drove to town for groceries and supplies…

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Bridging Cultures Is My Livelihood

Sovereign Youth Leadership camp

Sovereign Youth Leadership camp

Nancy’s story:
“You will wear two dresses” my great-grandmother told me, referring to my mixed heritage of Cherokee/Choctaw/Scots Irish and the challenges to be faced.

But, thankfully from an early age I had a great-grandmother who taught me about tribal traditions, and a grandfather who wanted me assured of a western education and willing to indulge me with trips to natural history museums, art galleries, historical sites; anywhere to feed my insatiable curiosity about the world both “out there now” and “long ago,” which led eventually to a career teaching college level history, anthropology, and sociology.

Nancy at Genoa 2014

Nancy – “Wearing Two Dresses”

Teaching was the obvious choice for such broad interests but two remarkable opportunities arose here in Nebraska melding avocations and vocation. In 1987 beginning work with a church on the Winnebago Reservation propelled me into public speaking across the country on its behalf seeking potential supporters; then in 1997 being hired by the Neihardt State Historic Site creating educational programming on Neihardt and related topics. Neihardt’s literary and journalistic career and his inextricable link to Native Americans (think Black Elk Speaks) broadened the topics covered both in what was offered on site and what could be taken out to schools and other groups across the state.

For a mixed blood Native woman, these presentations expanded finding a perfect niche market. Using my own life experiences (i.e. being told in 3rd grade “You can’t be Indian, there are no Indians left” when I went home to a whole household of them) combined with what I taught in the classroom, was an excellent way to bridge gaps between cultures. Putting it bluntly, utilizing the combination of my European coloring and Native upbringing made me the “safe” Native person to answer potentially uncomfortable questions from non-Natives and allow for opening dialogue using factual information, informal manner, and often humor. And it works; for adults and school children alike, and hopefully leaves a lasting impression and appreciation for our shared history.

So, my great-grandmother would not be surprised at all to see me in a variety of settings wearing either a business suit or regalia – wearing two dresses.

About Nancy:
Nancy Gillis is the former Director of the Neihardt Historic Site, retiring in 2014; teachingNancy 2008 at Wayne State College, NECC, N.I.C.C. and Little Priest Colleges in Native American, U.S. and World History, Sociology, and Cultural Anthropology.

Gillis served the Nebraska Historic Preservation Office and NE Folk Life Network; NE Arts Council Multi-Cultural Grant panel; reviewer for Nebraska History Magazine; trained museum docents; coordinated writers’ workshops for Native youth; consulted for a 3-year Teaching American History grant; and as counselor for the 2014 Sovereign Youth Leadership camp. She is the 2014 Addison Sheldon Honoree for “service to the history of Nebraska” and for Humanities Nebraska she presents a variety of programs on both Native Americans and Neihardt.

To read more about Nancy’s speaking topics http://humanitiesnebraska.org/speakers/speakers-index

The LUX Is My Livelihood

LUX Pottery Wheel

Jo Ann’s Story
My Livelihood is making art accessible to lots of different people.

The question most frequently asked is what medium I work in. Because I think I’m funny, I tell people I’m the chief bureaucrat of LUX Center for the Arts.   I’ve worked for a variety of non-profit organizations prior the LUX.  The commonality for me is trying to make the world around me just a little bit better. Somewhere along the road, that led me to art.

Making art is a perfect conduit for expression. It is a way to communicate that transcends language, age, or ability.  Just recently, I had the pleasure of spending a weekend with my husband’s 101-year-old uncle.  We planned a day that would easily tire someone half his age!  On our list was a tour through the LUX and the Sheldon.

LUX Saturdays mean many children coming in for art class. Art (that’s his name!) and the rest of the family toured the center, but when we came to the studios, Art just stood there—barely needing his cane—and smiling–watching the children working on paintings around the table.  As we left the room, Art said that he has hope for our future.

The man has seen a lot in his years, but watching youngsters making art gives him hope. His words stuck with me–an “aha” moment.

In a world where there is hunger, disease, war, and poverty, it is sometimes difficult to IMG_4891justify why funding for the arts is important. While we provide those vital things that make the present better, we also have to plant the seeds that make tomorrow worthwhile.

Opportunities to create are few for today’s children. School principals, especially those with high needs populations, make tough decisions about how to spend their resources.  While art classes are mandated, they are underfunded.

This is why my livelihood is the LUX. I get to work with trained artists every day.  They use their talents to teach—to make tomorrow worthwhile.  We take on the responsibility of teaching art classes for children in our community—especially for kids who live in low-income households. We work to level the playing field so all children have the chance to become tomorrow’s innovators and creative problem-solvers. That gives me hope.

About Jo AnnDSC_5165
Jo Ann Emerson has called Nebraska home for the past 12 years. She is passionate about building community through shared arts experiences.  When not working she can be found in her kitchen either cooking or reading about cooking.  She considers cooking her art.

Jo Ann loves warm and beachy vacations with her husband and friends. She loves hanging out with her daughters and five grandchildren. Lloyd, the Golden Retriever, is her biggest fan.


To learn more about The LUX http://luxcenter.org/

100th Blog Posting for the Nebraska Cultural Endowment


This is the 100th Blog posting for the Nebraska Cultural Endowment since beginning the blog, “What’s Your Livelihood?” in November 2012.

What does “livelihood” mean to Nebraskans?

We created this blog to help answer that question. This is a place for our community to come together, embrace culture, and share how the arts and humanities have played an essential role in inspiring our livelihoods.

“What’s Your Livelihood?” has received nearly 14,000 views from 99 different countries. Here is a look back at some of the past livelihood blogs and people that make our state so rich in the arts and humanities.

Band Is My Livelihood

IMG_1003Tony’s Story: I didn’t come from a musical family. My mother was an English teacher and my father was a mortgage banker. There were pianos at both of my grandparents’ houses though, and I suppose my earliest musical curiosities were explored on those instruments. It became clear early on however that my inclinations were percussive.  Posted on January 27, 2014 .

Tribal Culture Is My Livelihood

Taylor KeenTaylor’s Story : Our identity is everything to us as human beings. I was born into two tribes, the Omaha, and the Cherokee. I was adopted at birth into the earthen Bison clan (Black Shoulder or Inke’cabe). My name is Ba’gee-zha, which means Bison Mane, literally, but refers to the transformation of an alpha male whose head and neck enlarge dramatically as he must physically fight for the vitality of the tribe. Our goal as Omaha Indians is to live up to the metaphor of our names so that our tribe will thrive.  Posted on June 11, 2013 .


Seven Doctors Project Is My Livelihood


Steve’s Story: Seven Doctors Project, which I formed in spring 2008 at the Nebraska Medical Center, was an experiment—of the non-scientific variety. I wanted to see what would happen if mid-career physicians who were encountering job dissatisfaction or burnout joined a writing workshop led by area writers. I also wanted to see what would happen if the physicians were placed, maybe for the first time in quite a while, in the apprentice position.  Posted on August 12, 2013 .

Shakespeare Is My Livelihood


Mike’s Story: In my time as the managing director of the Nebraska Shakespeare Festival, I was fortunate to witness countless examples of how the arts transcend the creative experience to touch and affect the rest of our lives—and, how public funding for the arts makes that possible. Posted on January 21, 2013 .

Textiles Are My Livelihood

Orange Dots DetailMary’s Story: I grew up in the 1950s in Niles, Michigan. I went to the neighborhood catholic grade school and it was there that I was first initiated into the rituals of color, symbols and cloth. My mentor, a catholic nun named Mother Padua, suggested I give up my recess time and spend it, instead, in church, dusting statues, cleaning holy water fountains, and laying out the liturgical vestments for daily mass. I routinely tore through my daily church chores so I could linger in front of the massive wooden armoire full of liturgical garments, arranged by color and ancient code, long, flowing, magnificent robes, covered with symbols and embroidery, gilded as if angels had made them. What was cloth this magical doing in my little church in my little town? Posted on June 3, 2014.

What’s your livelihood?  Share your story with us. 

At the Nebraska Cultural Endowment, our mission is to cultivate a legacy of stability, advocacy and leadership for the arts and humanities in Nebraska. Learn more.





Writing Is My Second Livelihood


Lydia Kang at Comic Con

My path to publication isn’t typical. I’ve always had a passion for literature, arts and the sciences, but didn’t know where it would take me. In college, I remember volunteering at St. Luke’s Emergency Room and helping a patient with AIDS hobble to the bathroom. It was a single moment, but it solidified a decision to pursue a career in medicine.

After practicing internal medicine for several years, I still found myself hungry for a creative outlet. I began writing essays about the singular experiences that physicians are honored to have with patients. Along the way came a move to Omaha, and after the birth of a third child came an opportunity to join a doctor’s writing workshop (The Seven Doctor’s Project). I’d been curious about poetry and fiction, and within a year of joining the workshop, I began writing novels. I self-taught much of what I learned by voraciously reading writing websites, blogs, and forums on writing.

I don’t find myself confined into having to write only science fiction, or literary, or romance.

So. Why do I write young adult literature? YA encompasses so many “firsts” for the characters. First love; first foray into adult decision-making (whether the character is ready or not), first heartbreak–all the while crossing that unstable bridge away from childhood. Every story delves into these emotional landmarks with a different camera lens, and I don’t find myself confined into having to write only science fiction, or literary, or romance. I love the possibilities of them all, and I never grow tired of beautifully wrought YA books.

I never expected to have a dual career, plus a thriving family. It’s all a gift, and one that I don’t take for granted. It’s also a lot of hard work, which is a message that I deliver to young writers often. It took a while to get here. It’s always been an uphill hike and with publishing, the trail never really gets flat. But the journey has been unforgettable—and comes with some amazing views.

About LydiaLydiaKang
Lydia Kang is an author of young adult fiction, poetry, and narrative non-fiction. She graduated from Columbia University and New York University School of Medicine and currently practices internal medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Her work has been published in JAMA, The Annals of Internal Medicine, Canadian Medical Association Journal, Journal of General Internal Medicine, and Great Weather for Media. CONTROL is her first young adult novel (Penguin). “A sweet, edgy romance rounds out this smart, futuristic medical thriller,” says Publisher’s Weekly. The sequel, CATALYST, releases in March 2015.