Gall featured as “spotlight” author for Illuminations

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This interview was originally posted on July 23, 2014 on the Facebook page Illuminations – Southeast Community College

As an SCC English instructor, Kara was a cheerleader for students who lacked confidence in their writing. Holding firm to the belief that writing teachers write, she is also an active pounder of the keyboard and has published work in a variety of publications – including two (soon to be three) volumes of Illuminations. Kara shares with us her view on writing as a generous and supportive act, her pride in publishing alongside students, and her continued “messy” writing process amid recent physical struggles.

Illuminations: Hi, Kara! In addition to publishing your poetry and fiction in Illuminations, you’ve published writing in a variety of other publications, including four books. As a well-published writer, what continues to attract you to publication in Illuminations?

Kara: Community is important to me. It’s important to me to write, work, and serve in the community where I live, as well as in a broader community. I always felt that if I was going to teach writing at Southeast Community College, I should be contributing to Illuminations. The first time one of my pieces appeared alongside one of my former student’s writing, I was thrilled. To me, that’s the full circle of what we do as teachers. Of all the student feedback, evaluation comments, awards, or accolades I have gotten as a teacher, nothing has been more satisfying than seeing my students’ names in Illuminations. I want to shout to the world, “Look what they did!” Students and teachers become peers in a literary magazine like this.

I: Nicely said! You emphasize community–do you think a sense of community is important for most writers, or is writing sometimes a solitary pursuit?

K: Community is VITAL for a writer. Writing involves a lot of solitary tasks, but community is an important part of a healthy writing ecology. The process of writing feels like a birthing process to me. It feels like labor, with less of the physical pain, of course. When a woman is in labor, she is the only one who can do the work (C-sections aside). She is the only one viscerally experiencing that process. That doesn’t mean she goes it alone. She has a network of people around her – family, friends, medical providers, midwives, doulas, etc. Can a woman give birth alone? Sure. Would she prefer to have a network of people supporting her? Probably. When I am writing, I am the only one who can take my particular ideas, my perspectives, my personal experiences and birth them. Along the way, I get support from the community. My community includes a generative writing group, colleagues who read and provide feedback, social writing connections where I can commiserate with other writers about the challenges of the process and connect to events and opportunities. Every single piece of work I have published happened because someone in my community told me about the call for submissions. I had to do the work of manifesting that piece of writing myself, but without community, some of those pieces may never have been born!

I: Oh, yes – your analogy rings true. You write both poetry and prose; do you prefer one over the other? Fiction over nonfiction?

K: Some people identify solely as poets or essayists or fiction writers. Not me. I’ve done all three. The different genres call to me for different reasons and purposes. That being said, I currently prefer poetry. This is a practical preference. I had a stroke in November 2012, and it changed the way my brain is able to process text as well as my ability to focus. I still have a difficult time reading and writing longer pieces of text, which makes writing fiction and nonfiction less enjoyable for me now. I have hope that my brain will recover, but in the meantime, I focus on poetry because it allows me to work in description and imagery, rhythm and form rather than sustaining a main point or plot line. I can read a poem or two and fully enjoy it rather than struggle. Someday, I hope to write a nonfiction book about my stroke, which was caused by a congenital heart defect. If my writing could help someone else, that would make me very happy!

I: I suspect your writing has done that already, Kara. How would you describe your writing process?

K: Messy. Painful. Frustrating. Irritating to family members. My students often express a belief that having to struggle to get words down on the page means that they are bad writers. I think that’s a myth. For me, struggling to get words down on the page is ALWAYS part of the process. Some people say they start with an idea and then work to get the idea clarified on the page. I don’t always know what my idea is. I am usually following a gut impulse, a drive to express “something” – but I don’t always know what that something is until I start writing. I tend to “puke on the page” and clean up later. Probably close to 75% of what I originally write gets cut. The most frustrating part comes when I know I’m close, but I just haven’t gotten it yet. Feedback is so important at this stage. I ask a colleague or writing group partner to read what I have written and tell me what they “see.” They often uncover a theme or message I hadn’t identified but turns out to be the heart of the piece. I’ve learned that I have to trust the process, give myself time, and keep working through the frustration.

I: What do you enjoy reading the most, and how does your reading life affect your writing life?

K: I’m not reading much these days because of my stroke. This is really frustrating, but it has also given me the opportunity to read in a different way – by listening. I now have an Audible account and use OverDrive to access books through the Lincoln Libraries. It’s a completely different experience listening to words on a page rather than seeing them. When I do read with eyes and not my ears, I read mostly poetry. I was recently published in an anthology of Nebraska Women Poets, “The Untidy Season.” This made me want to explore my fellow Nebraska contributors, including Marge Saiser, Lucy Adkins, Becky Breed, Sana Amoura-Patterson, Grace Bauer, Marilyn Coffey, Cat Dixon, Deirdre Evans, Twyla Hansen, Kelly Madigan, Amy Plettner, and Mary Stillwell, just to name a few. Nebraska is rich with contemporary poets, yet we so very seldom connect to the literary resources in our own backyard.

I: True. Do you enjoy participating in any other creative activities?

K: Absolutely! I love photography, knot work, gardening, and making music. I’m really interested in multi-media, too. I turned one of the poems I wrote for Illuminations, “Garlic,” into a poem-video with images and music to accompany the words.

I: Ah – that’s a great poem. Where do you see yourself as a writer in ten years?

K: Oh, boy. Not an easy question for me to answer right now. I’ve had to let go of a lot of goal-setting since the stroke and instead focus on what I am able to do today. I take note of my abilities and progress and seek to create daily routines and rituals that help me heal and grow. In ten years, I see myself writing every day. If I can do that, everything else will fall into place.

I: Are there certain subjects or themes you’re repeatedly drawn to write about?

K: Nature, land, animals. I was a farm kid, and those images of the natural world speak powerfully to me.

I: Finally, the silly question of the day – how much does your imagination weigh?

K: Hmmmmm…my imagination is not bound to time or space. Do time and space have weight? I need a physicist. But then again, weight is related to gravity, and my imagination relies on my experiences of and interpretation of the sensory world. And everything I come in contact with is part of the sensory world, or else I would not be able to experience it. So, I would have to weigh everything I have ever been in contact with, all the people, places, animals, plants and buildings. I could say my imagination equals the weight of the earth, but then, I have experienced the sun, moon, and stars, too, so maybe I have to include them. Of course, I would want to subtract the people, places, and things I have not yet experienced…. I suppose my imagination weighs everything and nothing all at once.

Garlic
By Kara Gall

We have met in battle before,
On marble, on butcher block,
on eco-friendly Poly-flax cutting boards.

Your plump firm bulbs, roots still intact,
promise a pungent parliament of savory siege,
a fracas of flavor sheathed in bellicose husk.

I am not fooled by your heart-shaped armor.
I see only spoils: the sizzle in the pan,
the tang upon bread. I know the stakes.

Your allies have fallen
–onions, leeks, shallots, chives–
each of them a lost white flag beneath my knife.

Empty paper skins flutter to the floor.
Beneath my feet, the clove corpses whisper:
War is always a hunger.

New English class designed to retain students

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Originally posted at: http://sccchallenge.com/new-english-class-designed-to-retain-students/

New English class designed to retain students

Jennifer Roche, Student Writer
May 31, 2012

Abraham Lincoln said, “Determine the thing that can and will be done and we shall find a way.”

This quarter, Southeast Community College offered a new English course designed to provide students with the skills they need to be successful at the collegiate academic level.

The goal of the English 0999, College English Studies course, is to help students improve their reading and writing skills for other college courses.

The 7.5 credit course, offered for the first time this quarter, is designed to prepare students for the reading and writing that will be expected at the college level.

In addition, the course will develop students’ critical thinking skills and teach them how to use Internet technology for research purposes.

The course meets Monday through Friday for lecture from 9:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m., with additional time in the computer lab from 11:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.

Instructor Kara Gall said, “One of the most important thing this class offers students is the opportunity to develop critical thinking and writing skills that they need as they advance in their academic careers.”

“When we met initially to discuss the class proposal we wanted to accomplish several things,” Gall recalled.  “We wanted to find a way to connect students to campus. We also wanted to provide students an opportunity to finish their courses with the skill set necessary to advance.”

In addition, she said, “Our goal in this class is to minimize a student’s exit points. We want them to have the tools they need in order to do well in their courses so that they don’t fail or drop out.”

While the course may be intimidating to some, Gall said, “There is also a lot of support from myself and the students in the class.”

Like anything that is new, there have been occasional bugs to be worked out.

“We talk a lot of things out,” Gall said, “and [students] have been really flexible when things don’t work out.”

The biggest benefit Gall says is how much the students have worked together to support one another.

“The students have worked really well together and are always willing to help each other out,” she said.  “It is so exciting to me when they are able to share ideas with one another.”

The course is part of a program that is grant-funded for three years.

Gall Finalist in “Lincoln’s Got Talent”

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Kara Gall was one of 13 finalists in “Lincoln’s Got Talent,” a local spin on a national idea.

On September 14 and 16, nearly 50 performers from around the city auditioned for the Friday, September 18 final competition  used to raise money for the Lincoln Community Playhouse.

Anthony Messineo, Playhouse President-elect says, “With America’s Got Talent, Dancing with the Stars, some other different ideas, we thought it would be a great way, being in the art community, to have people come out and showcase their talents to us.”

From musicians and comedians to singers and dancers, the competition showcased all forms of talent.

Gall sang her original song, “Demeter Waiting.” While she didn’t place among the top three, Gall walked away with a positive feeling from the experience. “Unfortunately, I came with only one shill, my daughter, who assures me that “lots of the grown-ups” voted for me. This was a really fantastic opportunity to meet some amazing local artists, make some musical contacts, and get really great (and useful!) feedback from the judges.”

Featured Artist at High Plains Art Council Event

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[clipped from Hi-Line Enterprise, April 23, 2008]

“Shooting for the Arts” is the theme given the premier event of The High Plains Arts Committee to be held this Saturday April 26 in Eustis, NE. Various individuals with local ties will provide entertainment, homemade deserts will be served, and free-will donations accepted. Held at the United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall from 7:30pm to 9:30pm, a casual evening is planned, during which people may come and go as needed. Proceeds from the Local Talent Café and Silent Auction will benefit the activities of this non-profit organization, which formed in conjunction with a Town Hall meeting last September.

Kara Gall, of Lincoln, NE, will bring her talent home for this event. Kara is a singer/songwriter and poet. Gall says, “So much of my writing and music reflects the life and times of the people and land where I grew up, so I’m thrilled to be able to share that with the community.” Sherry Timm and Bruce Koch, both residents of Eustis, will bring their crowd-pleasing style of entertainment to the gathering too. In addition, members of the Eustis-Farnam school body will highlight the evening’s entertainment with musical selections and interpretive readings.

The committee is accepting donations of items for their Silent Auction from a variety of sources. Members of the Kearney Area Artists Guild have donated artworks. Signed volumes of poetry by Nebraska poets highlight the unique items donated. In addition local business owners have come forward with offers as well. You may donate an item for the event by contacting Catherine Snow at 308-486-5495.

According to chairperson for the group, Catherine Snow, the organization has a two-fold mission; to provide cultural offerings and develop youth activities for the Eustis area. “We choose to name ourselves the High Plains Arts Committee, because we hope to serve the surrounding communities and area with our events and activities, we believe we must pool our resources and celebrate our connections in rural Nebraska in order to accomplish our goals.” said Snow. The group would welcome new members and encourages residents of Farnam and Elwood, as well as representatives of the youth population, to consider becoming involved too.

Original Song about Drought on the Plains wins 1st Place

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[clipped from Hi-Line Enterprise, July 2005]

Cozad, NE – Kara Gall, returned native of Eustis, won the 3rd Annual Bands Brews and Barbeques Talent Contest with her original song, Demeter Waiting. Gall, a writer and freelance graphic designer, is employed full time by the Middle Republican NRD in Curtis, NE. 2nd place in the contest went to Dustin Gleason, also a Eustis resident.

Gall’s song, a folk song about dry times on the Plains, is also featured on the Buffalo Commons Storytelling Festival website, in the “Turning the Century” storybook, a collection of short stories, poems and songs written about the life and times of people from southwest Nebraska. www.buffalocommons.org.

Contest judges included Stafford Thomson of The River, Jules Cooper of Mix 97 and Margaret Atwood, producer of the independent film, Independence, filmed last year in Cozad.

Gall’s original song selected for Buffalo Commons Festival Website

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McCook, NE – Kara Gall’s original song “Demeter Waiting,” a song that weaves in imagery from the Demeter/Persephone myth to express the endless waiting in times of drought, was selected to be published in May 2004 as part of a Buffalo Commons Storytelling Festival. The website collection, called Turning the Century” can be found at http://www.buffalocommons.org and is a collection of short stories, poems, songs and essays written about the life and times of people from southwest Nebraska, northwest Kansas and northeast Colorado by those living there, having lived there or about those who did.

Gall explores the great and terrible famine brought to earth by Demeter’s anger at Hades for stealing her daughter Persephone. She says, “Throughout the past six years of drought in Southwestern Nebraska, many of us have felt as though we were suffering at the hands of the gods … that a much larger force is at work…the anger of a god scorned.” As in much of her writing, Gall strives to capture the particular fate of women, in this case, farmer’s wives. “I was looking back to the time when I was a young girl. I can remember my own mother standing at the windowsill certain summers, looking defeated. The women stayed at home, tending the children, waiting, always waiting, and praying for the rain.”

You can view Demeter Waiting online at: http://www.buffalocommons.org/docs/smenu3/demeter-waiting.html