Topeka, a city of 123,000, is the capital of Kansas. Early settlers were passionate in the "Bleeding Kansas" era, prelude to the Civil War.
Topeka also has many state and federal officies and is home to the Santa Fe Railway, which has now merged into the Burlington Northern Railway System. Union Pacific track also run through this northeast Kansas city.
Thomas Fox Averill is Writer in Residence at Washburn University and is involved with their Center for Kansas Studies. Poet Amy Fleury taught poetry writing for ten years at Washburn University, and Eric McHenry was hired when she went to McNeese State University to direct their MFA Program. One of Washburn's creative writing students, Leah Sewell, is not a published writer living in the capital city. Israel Wasserstein grew up in Topeka, graduated from Washburn University, went to the University of New Mexico (at the same time as poet Gary Jackson), and is now a lecturer at the University. Bret DeFries, Ben Lerner, Lara Avery, Ed Skoog, Matthew Porubsk, Gary Jackson, Cyrus Console, Nick Twemlow, Anne Boyer, Darren Canady and John Reimringer all graduated from Topeka high schools.
Kansas Authors Club, a continually-active statewide organization, was founded here in 1902. Early members included newspaper men Edgar Watson Howe, Frank Pitts MacLennan, Thomas Brower Peacock, and William Allen White. Other members included Topekans Margaret Hill McCarter, Eugene Fitch Ware, Senator Arthur Capper, Reverend Charles M. Sheldon, Dr. Karl A. Menninger and Kansas humorist Max Yoho. Writer and storyteller Debra Stufflebean makes her home in the state capital, as well. Duane Herrmann lives in nearby Berryton.
Home of the Menninger Clinic, Topeka has a small body of psychiatric literature by such writers as Flo Menninger, Karl Menninger, Carol Ascher, William Gibson (see drama overview) and Harriet Lerner.
Although he did not live in Kansas as an adult, and only rarely wrote about the state, Rex Stout grew up in Topeka and was the prolific creator of the Nero Wolfe dectective novels. Some of his work can be found in the Topeka Room of the Topeka and Shawnee County Library.
Playwright Marcia Cebulska arrived in Topeka in the late 1990s and has adopted Kansas and Topeka themes in plays and screenplays about Brown v. Board, Fred Phelps, William Inge, and Through Martha's Eyes.
African-American poet Gwendolyn Brooks was born in Topeka, and the prolific African-American poet Kevin Young lived here from childhood through his graduation from Topeka West High School.
For an appreciative article about Topeka, read "My Town," by Karl Menninger, a eulogy for his father and a description of Topeka first delivered as a radio address on NBC, December 5, 1953.