Betty Jean Steinshouer has been off the Chautauqua circuit and on health sabbatical since the spring of 2018, making exceptions only for very special occasions, such as the August 24-25 storytelling festival at the George Washington Carver Historic Site in Diamond, Missouri, and the Sinclair Lewis Society's Writing Festival on October 6 in Sauk Center, Minnesota - both as Willa Cather. Her last appearance of Marjory Stoneman Douglas was at the Coral Springs Art Museum, a presentation designed especially for the middle school students who attend the feeder schools for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, just a month before the one-year anniversary of the tragic shooting in Parkland. "A labor of tenderness" was Betty Jean's description of her preparation for this event. The museum website announced it as "a celebration of community activism and Florida History."
Her health permitting, she will make limited appearances in Florida during January-March 2020, at the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic Site in Cross Creek, at the Matheson Musuem in Gainesville, and at the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine.
The first of the Chautauqua Companion books, Long Road from Red Cloud: Life Lessons from Willa Cather, will be released in time for Cather's birthday on December 7, 2019, followed by The Florida Journeys, tracing the travels in the Sunshine State of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Constance Fenimore Woolson, Sarah Orne Jewett, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Zora Neale Hurston, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Rose Wilder Lane, Elizabeth Bishop, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and Rachel Carson, in the winter of 2020.
Betty Jean notes that she has been deeply moved by the early reviews of Long Road. "This is not the book I expected to write about Willa Cather," she wrote in an early preface, but she made a discovery about Cather, after many years of research, and it changed the book from some nice philosophical statements about life to a rather earth-shaking revelation about Cather's gender identity. "At this point in my life," Steinshouer said, "I was not looking to release a tsunami in Cather Studies, but I've tried to rise to the occasion. Sometimes posterity demands much of us."
Here are some comments made about Long Road from Red Cloud:
"This book is excellent. I couldn't put it down. In describing how Willa Cather's gender identity helped shape her writing, the book covers ground that for various reasons has been largely ignored." --Bob Dorr retired reporter Omaha World-Herald
“A Long Road from Red Cloud is a fascinating new study of a treasured American author. Steinshouer’s extensive and detailed research tenderly delves deeply into the selfhood of Willa Cather to reveal a previously unknown dimension of this brilliant, complex and wise soul.” -- Robin C. Tuthill, co-author, Female Pioneers of Fort Myers