Get Ready for Phase II of the Willa Cather Short Story Project

Photo of The Willa Cather Memorial Prairie (taken by me/Chris Wolak)

Starting January 2021

Get ready, Cather enthusiasts! After wrapping up Phase I in September 2020, Phase II of the Willa Cather Short Story Project will kick off in January 2021.

The fortytwo (42!) stories in this phase span from 1892, when Cather was a student at the University of Nebraska, to 1919, the year after she published her fourth novel, My Antonia.

Ending June 2024 (slow & steady)

It’ll take 3.5 years to complete this phase, but the mission is simple: to eventually read all of Cather’s short stories. In the past, I’ve set out with grand reading plans that started out with a bang and fizzled after a couple months. It might take a long time to get through them all, reading just one story a month, but it is eminently doable. I’d love to have your reading company for one story, a few here and there, or all of them. Whatever works for you.

How this reading challenge works

As was our flow for Phase I, I’ll share a reminder post on the second first Wednesday of the month and then a reaction post on the fourth Wednesday. Readers are encouraged to share their own reaction to the story on that post and engage with the responses of other readers, if so moved. Readers have also sent me emails or chatted on social media about a story. Again, whatever works for you!

Responses vary

Some stories may warrant a response of only, “Okay, I read it,” while others may spark curiosity about Cather’s life or times, or bring up memories from our own lives about relationships or similar situations. A story may also provoke conversations about social issues we continue to struggle with (or deny) in America today, such as racism/white supremacy, gender inequality, the pressure to conform to communal standards of heteronormativity, class inequities, and more. Let’s dig in and not shy away from uncomfortable conversations.

Full texts available on the Willa Cather Archive

The full text of all the stories in this phase are available on the Willa Cather Archive.

Not only is the full text available, you can also see a scan of the story from the magazine or journal in which it originally appeared. To do this, click the “page breaks & image links on/off” button at the top right of any story’s webpage to see the image. Click on the image thumbnail to expand it. Once expanded, there are directional buttons at the bottom of multi-page stories to help you navigate. These digital images aren’t necessary comfortable to read, but it’s cool to see a story as first readers experienced it.

See you in January

I’ll send out a reminder for our first story, “Lou, The Prophet,” on Wednesday, January 13 6, 2021. To see our full reading list for Phase II, click here.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Happy reading!


  1. Thanks Chris! Looking forward to Phase II. I’m also planning to read at least one or two Cather novels in 2021. So far I’ve read half of her novels. I think The Song of the Lark will be up next.

    • You are most welcome, Robin! THANK YOU for reading and contributing to this project.

      You are in for a treat with The Song of the Lark. Whenever you get to it, you might want to check out the two part tour of Cather’s childhood home that the National Willa Cather Center posted on their YouTube channel. The first part of that novel is rather autobiographical and scenes in Thea’s house are based on Cather’s. Here’s the link to part one:

    • Well, now. Saying a story made you cry has sucked me in! Haha. The work they continue to do over at the archive is amazing. Grateful it’s free and open to the public.

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