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Back to School

posted Sep 22, 2018, 7:28 PM by Cherie Dargan

I’ve been retired from teaching at Hawkeye Community College for two years, but this is my first semester when I don’t have my younger grandson, Mason, to babysit during the week, and my volunteer work with the Cedar Falls Authors Festival has ended. I am still keeping busy with the League of Women Voters, but realized the other day that this fall is very different. Without Mason here, the house is a little quieter. It is the first semester that I am not mentoring a student from UNI’s Education department: I had four wonderful students over the past two years, and it is fun to watch several of them on Facebook as they enter the classroom. 
Mason is a big boy now, and enjoying Kindergarten. He likes to write his name and a few words, draw, and help his big brother create new board games. I can’t wait until he comes in the door and says, “I can read, Grandma!”  Big brother Corbin is in the second grade and a wonderful reader; he is a bright little boy and getting taller and taller.
We had a lot of fun with them this summer, and look forward to a few days this fall and winter when school will be out and we’re needed again. They love watching cartoons and movies, especially those about Phineas and Ferb, Paw Patrol, Curious George, and others. However, they are just as happy watching cartoons on PBS kids on our Kindle Fires. We try to get them out in the yard to blow bubbles, throw around a ball, or admire our neighbor’s big garden. We go to the park, the library, and the store.
Now that I am a grandmother, I occasionally help out with getting the boys to school. As with everything else, having a routine, being organized, and setting out clothes the night before makes all of the difference!

Some things stay the same
I’ve always liked shopping for school supplies. I have way too many pencils and pens, so now I am shopping for the grandsons.  
A few weeks into September, I love all of the back to school shopping clearance sales—construction paper, pencils, and three ring notebooks for a dollar? Yes, thank you.
I love the sense of a fresh start. I’ve been decluttering in the garage, closets, and my office. The return to school always brought with it a sense of getting organized, of a new semester, a new routine, and a new paper planner. 

Some things are very different
I love not having to rush out the door to an 8:00 am class!
I don’t miss all of the meetings that I used to attend, all of the grading, and the prep. However, I do miss my colleagues, the classroom, and interacting with students.

I’m as likely to focus more on my Google calendar than a paper one: I can check it from my phone, iPad, PC, laptop or Kindle Fire.
It took more than a year to disconnect my brain from the academic calendar of midterms, finals, spring break, and graduation. The first semester I would look at the calendar and think, “My Composition 2 class would be working on the first essay….My Literature class would be finishing up Fiction…my Technology in the Classroom students would be searching for their curriculum standards and working on lesson plans.”
So, what now?
I’ve always loved reading, and retirement has made it possible to read more. While I enjoy our new condo, there is limited space for more books, so I have shifted to reading eBooks on my Kindle and IPad. I also have more time to write and reflect, work on projects, and volunteer.  I love updating my websites and blog, posting to Facebook about new events, and catching up on my friends and family online.
However, anyone walking into my home office immediately recognizes that I have quite a few projects to work on, and each one is represented by several boxes, tubs, or totes. So, just as some of my teacher friends have returned to the classroom, it’s time for me to get back to work!
What does “back to school” mean for you?

Updated September 22nd, 2018
Also posted on my Blogging Basic bloghttps://bloggingbasicswithcherie.blogspot.com/2018/09/back-to-school.html?view=magazine

12 Takeaways from Gen Con 2018

posted Aug 20, 2018, 8:13 PM by Cherie Dargan   [ updated Aug 21, 2018, 8:18 AM ]

 My children ready for cosplay: Mikki and Jon Mikki and Sean

1.    What is Gen Con? It’s described as “Four days of gaming” and takes places in Indianapolis, Indiana each August. It recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.

2.    What kind of games? Board games, mostly—I saw one room with old fashioned arcade games. There are games for kids and adults, and at least one game company (Rio) had a big room where you could sit and play games to see what you liked. Of course, this grandma played a lot of games geared for children, such as Monster Factory, where you draw tiles and try to create a monster. Many of the children’s games teach math, build memory, and encourage children to problem solve while having fun.

 Mikki with my grandsons     Playing games in the family fun center

3.   Who goes to Gen Con? We saw young adults, teens, grandmas, young families with babies in strollers, middle aged people, retired people, and people of all races.

4.    How big of a deal is it? They sold over 60,000 four-day passes! Gen Con takes over downtown Indianapolis, packing the convention center and Lucas Stadium with people, food trucks, cars dropping off attendees, and lots of people in costume.

5.    What kind of people go to Gen Con? It is the nicest crowd you can imagine and a strange sort of High School reunion if all of the theater kids became friends with all of the “Big Bang” cast, the chess club, the PTA, and teachers and staff. They are all excited to be there, and kind to each other.

6.   Gen Con works hard to be friendly to people with mobility issues, and we saw a lot of people with walkers, wheelchairs, rollators, crutches, and surgery boots. I saw a double wide stroller with a screen on top for twins. We also saw a number of people on electric scooters they rented to help them navigate the hallways. Even though it is crowded, I found people opening doors and making way for me with my rollator, which made me feel welcome.

7.  How do you manage 60,000 people and over 18,000 events? It is run by volunteers – hundreds and hundreds of friendly people in special Tshirts. They use social media, their Gen Con Website to communicate, and of course, there’s an app! Food trucks line up outside the convention center with pizza, noodles, salads, hot dogs, etc. Inside, there were several places to buy food and drink.

My son (dressed as Doctor Who) with Chewbacca

8.   Can you buy anything at Gen Con? There are lots of vendors selling costumes, t-shirts, books, artwork, mystery boxes, jewelry, comics, Dr. Who stuff, books, and man kilts/skirts. I brought back some tiny “Tardis” earrings and a little zippered bag filled with Dr. Who loot.

9.   What else do they do for fun? COSPLAY. People dress in costumes from their favorite movie, game, or book – we saw people dressed up as a character from Lord of the Rings, Avengers, Star Wars, Star Trek, Japanese anime, The Transformers, Spider Man, and two people wore giant T Rex suits. There is a parade on Saturday afternoon and a costume contest.

10.   The overall sense that I get each year is one of collaboration and cooperation, not competition between cosplayers. Each year, we have seen a couple of volunteers walk around with materials to help cosplayers make repairs to costumes, replacing buttons or sewing up loose seams. I’ve also seen cosplayers help each other adjust costumes and head gear. There is a special area in one of the main halls where several dozen cosplayers gather at a time for photo ops and talking with the public.

11.   One of the things that impresses me about Gen Con is its focus on giving back, choosing several charities each year. They raised more than $50,000 for The Jack Vasel Memorial Fund and Second Helpings, Inc., the official 2018 charities, pointing out that they have raised more than $300,000 overall for charity. 

12. I was overjoyed to see TWO groups doing Voter Registration -- the Indianapolis League of Women Voters and another group. We had to stop and chat!

Last Updated August 12, 2018

Are you Registered to Vote?

posted Aug 20, 2018, 7:55 PM by Cherie Dargan   [ updated Aug 21, 2018, 8:22 AM ]

Midterm Elections -- on November 6, 2018 -- are getting closer. As the President of the local League of Women Voters, I am getting numerous requests for Voter Registration events. As we go out into the community, we get lots of questions about voting eligibility and voter registration. 
Are you eligible to vote in Iowa? According to Iowa’s Secretary of State, you need to be a U. S. citizen, a resident of Iowa, and 18 years old by Election day. Oh – and you need to be registered to vote!

Do you need to update your Voter Registration? Most of us know that we need to update the Voter Registration if we move or get married, but did you know that you also need to update it if you decide to switch political parties?

How can you check to see if your Voter Registration is accurate? You don’t have to guess. Just go to the link on the Secretary of State’s website and search at the following link.

Are you registered to Vote? Fill in the form and click to see.

What if you need to update your Voter Registration? You have three options:

  1. Go to a Voter Registration Drive—your local League of Women voters is having a number throughout the next couple of months. As time gets closer, I will post the dates. However, we are doing one on Monday, July 23 at an office for EPI on University Avenue in Waterloo, 4 to 7 pm.
  2. Download a paper copy to fill out and turn it in to the County Auditor at the Courthouse.
  3. Complete the Voter Registration form online – you must have an Iowa Driver’s License or ID number to use this method.

Online Form and a place to download a paper form.

Pay attention when you are filling out the form! Rock the Vote says that people make these three common errors:

1.      forgetting to sign the form at the bottom, with today’s date

2.      entering today’s date and the registrant’s birthday in the wrong place

3.      failing to provide a full driver’s license or the last four digits of a Social Security number.

The League of Women Voters identifies other common problems when people forget to do the following things:

  • Check the box affirming they are over 18 (unless pre-registering).
  • Check the box affirming they are a US citizen.
  • Provide any required identification number, usually their driver’s license number or some or all digits of their social security number.
  • Sign and date the form.

Remember, your vote counts! Amazingly, some elections have been decided by a handful of votes, as Adam D’Arpino describes in his article, “10 Elections Decided by One Vote (Or Less).”

In the 1994 Wyoming’s House of Representatives race, Republican Randall Luthi and Independent Larry Call each finished with 1,941 votes. Following a recount that produced the same results, Governor Mike Sullivan settled the election in a most unconventional (although state-appropriate) fashion: drawing a ping pong ball out of his cowboy hat to determine a winner. Luthi’s name was drawn, and history may well have proven him the right man for the job: He served the Jackson Hole-area district until 2007, ultimately becoming Speaker of the House

So, there are only 107 days until the Mid-Term Elections—are you registered to vote?


“10 Elections Decided by One Vote or Less.”

Questions? Check with your County Auditor’s Office. In Black Hawk County, go to
Links to changes in Voting Laws

Link to online voter registration and a link to download a copy to print out and complete.

You can also call your elections office at the Black Hawk County Courthouse directly.
Black Hawk County Election Office Phone: 319-833-3007

Voter Registration -- Requirements

To vote in Iowa, you must be registered to vote.
To qualify to register to vote, you must be:

·        A U.S. citizen,
·        An Iowa resident, and
·        At least 17 1/2 years old (must be 18 years old by election day to vote.)

You cannot:

·        Be a convicted felon (unless your voting rights have been restored),
·        Be judged mentally incompetent to vote by a court, or
·        Claim the right to vote in any other place.

Voting with Disabilities
Persons with vision impairment can call 888-SOS-VOTE (888-767-8683) or email support@sos.iowa.gov to receive accessible information and services.
Voting at the polls can present a unique set of challenges to people with disabilities. It is the intent of federal law to ensure that voters with disabilities are fully able to exercise their voting rights at the polls.
If you or a family member need special assistance to vote, you have the right to an accessible voting location, accessible voting equipment and to receive assistance in casting your ballot.

Last updated July 22, 2018

Ten Reasons to Vote

posted Aug 20, 2018, 7:49 PM by Cherie Dargan   [ updated Aug 20, 2018, 7:50 PM ]

Did you know that Pew reports that fewer than 50 percent of eligible voters cast a vote in the midterm elections, and fewer than 60 percent vote in Presidential elections? We need to step it up! Most developed countries around the world do better! In a survey, the United States came in at 26th place out of 32 countries for percentages of voters who participated in elections.

So, do you need a reason to vote--other than the fact that you are a citizen and it is your right and responsibility? 
Here are ten reasons to vote.

1.     Vote to support public education in your community and state.

2.     Vote to make sure your voice is heard. Don’t assume, “I don’t need to vote—other people will make sure that we support our schools, take care of veterans, the elderly, and the mentally ill, etc.

3.     Vote to make our country a better one.  President Lyndon Johnson once said, “The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.”

4.     Vote to advocate for change, because communities with higher percentages of voters get more attention from elected officials.

5.     Vote for those people who cannot vote. Children and teens under 18 can’t vote but depend on us to look out for them and their futures.

6.     Vote to make your voice heard on an issue or candidate, because every vote counts!

7.     Vote to send a message. More people voting sends a stronger message that we want new policies or people in office.

8.     Vote because of what’s at stake in the next election: a specific issue, a specific race, a specific candidate, or an important ballot measure.

9.     Vote to make sure that we continue to have free and fair elections, civil rights, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and protection of private property. Don’t take freedom for granted.

10.  Vote like your future depends on it! Remember, elections are sometimes decided by fewer than 100 votes.

However, you can’t vote if you aren’t registered!

Am I registered to vote? Not sure? Search with this easy to use form.

Have you moved in the last two years or gotten married? Have you updated your Voter Registration with your new address and/or name change?

Find the form at the Black Hawk County Election office website,

Find the form at the State of Iowa Elections link,


"Reasons to Register and Vote."

"U. S. trails most developed countries in voter turnout," by Drew DeSilver. May 21, 2018.

Last updated July 15, 2018

Apps for Seniors, PART ONE

posted Aug 20, 2018, 7:45 PM by Cherie Dargan   [ updated Aug 20, 2018, 7:45 PM ]

Fitness and Entertainment Apps for the Jorgenson Plaza

As active seniors, we’re embracing technology including smart phones and tablets, and exploring apps for every facet of our lives, including fitness. Let’s look at some apps you might want to download before heading down to the Jorgenson Plaza to work out. You have lots of options: listen to music, watch a movie or television show, listen to a podcast or enjoy an audible book. There’s an app for all of these options!

First, if you don’t have a set of wireless headphones, you’ll want to get a set. Mike got us the Hopday Bluetooth headphones on Amazon for $19.99. These are oversized in-ear Bluetooth earbuds; I can’t wear ordinary ear buds but like these, which include a little curved piece that fits over the ear. I also have a pair of folding headphones made by iJoy for $15.99 (also available on Amazon).

Remember, if you have a smartphone (iPhone or Samsung Galaxy), you have a built in pedometer, as long as you carry it in a pocket or clip to your belt. Download Map my Walk and it uses the GPS in your phone to record details of walks and can post them to your social media account. You can also try Map my Run or Map my Ride for runners and cyclists.

If you have a Fitbit, you are probably already using the Fitbit app to monitor activity levels and motivate yourself to get a few more steps in your day. However, did you know that you can also monitor heart rate and how much sleep you got last night? When it’s cool enough, Mike walks down to the Jorgenson Plaza to get a few more steps in his day, or walks back to get the last steps to reach 10,000.

So, what to do while working out to keep yourself entertained and motivated? Search for these apps in your apps store.

NetFlix (Free) -- The Netflix app is free, but you need a monthly $7.99 Netflix subscription to use its library of movies and TV shows. Mike downloads shows before he goes to work out, so that he does not have to rely on Wi-Fi.

National Public Radio, or NPR (Free) -- If you love NPR, you can use your phone or tablet to listen to your favorite shows. There is another app for NPR Music.

Yesterday Radio On The Air (iPhone and iPad) (Free) – Listen to Old Time Radio from the 1920s-1950s.

Pandora (iPad and iPhone)(Free)  – Type in the name of a song, band, or artist to find the music you love.

If I’m pedaling on the NuStep machine for 40 minutes, I sometimes put my device up on the bars and read. Whatever your device, you have a built-in reader (such as iBook or Kindle). If you like a bargain, here are some of my favorite sources for free or low cost e-books. Register at each website and you will receive daily emails with lists. Some of these books will come with a low cost audible book.

Book Bub. https://www.bookbub.com/welcome  Sign up here and select your categories.
Fussy Librarian – a daily newsletter with free books. https://www.thefussylibrarian.com/ Sign up here.

Early Bird Books -- https://earlybirdbooks.com/. Sign up here.

Book bub -- https://www.bookbub.com/welcome. Sign up here.

Audio books on Audible (from Amazon) and Audiobooks – my favorite thing to do while working out is to listen to books. There are also free options from your public library, but that’s another column.

Whatever your preference for keeping fit and entertained, there’s an app for you!

Last updated July 5, 2018

Protect data when using public Wi-Fi: Use a VPN!

posted Aug 20, 2018, 7:40 PM by Cherie Dargan

GUEST POST Blogger -- Mike Dargan
My favorite Geek read my article about VPNs and looked skeptical.
So, I said -- OK, write your own article. So, he did.

Isn’t it great to sit down with a double mocha latte at the local snob coffee shop, whipping out the iPad, agreeing to the cafe’s acceptable use policy and attaching to the free Wi-Fi?  Leaning back in that cushy booth, logging into the bank app and paying the month’s bill in your private little corner of the world?  What could go wrong?  Hold on there!  If you’re not connecting to that free Wi-Fi with a VPN, your correspondence could be easily intercepted by the bad guys!  Login credentials, bank account and credit card numbers might all there for the taking. 

The hapless Internet surfer might think, “How is this possible?”  I’m in Joe’s Coffee Cup Shop, I see the SSID (i.e., Service Set Identifier--used to publicize a Wi-Fi access point) is “Joes_Coffee,” I’ve known Joe for years and am confident of his honesty and technical competence.  Surely, everything is fine.

He also sees that he’s connecting with HTTPS and knows that all of the traffic is therefore encrypted and routed through the secure port 443.  Perfectly secure, right?  However, what if the user gets in a hurry and connects to “Joes-Coffee” or “JoesCoffee”?  (See the subtle difference? ) Things could go very wrong in a hurry!  

 It’s cheap and easy to set up  a rogue Wi-Fi router (AKA Honey Pot”) controlled by a bad guy who can read your traffic.  If so, all of your traffic will be observed by the criminals and put to their use.  Login credentials, credit card and bank information, social media and email credentials will all fall into the hacker’s hands.  However, the criminal’s task becomes much more difficult if you use a personal VPN when connecting to the Wi-Fi on a public access point.  The hacker can see the traffic, but he or she isn’t able to decrypt it, therefore rendering it useless.  

What is a VPN?  What are the pros and cons?  Should you use one?  VPN is an abbreviation of Virtual Private Network.  A VPN is typically a client/server system where both ends share a key that is used to encrypt/decrypt traffic.  You download VPN software on your devices.  The server, more precisely, a “proxy server,” then forwards the traffic, on behalf of your clients, to the intended target, e.g., bank, credit card company, social media site, email, etc.  An added benefit of the proxy server is that the originating IP address is not available to the target site, thereby providing anonymity.  Keep in mind, though, that the VPN server managers are not enthused about protecting the privacy of clients bent on violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998;   it’s possible that they will block typical P2P ports used by Bittorrent.  In other words, using a VPN to anonymously download copyrighted movies isn’t as easy as it might appear.

However, the VPN is not without issues.  The encryption/decryption of the data and the secure forwarding of traffic takes time.  Not much time, if you’re using a good service, however, latency will be greater when using a VPN.  Another problem is that some sites will not work with VPNs.  Netflix, for example, can detect a VPN and will insist on not using it.  A good work around is to download Netflix media from a trusted access point without the VPN for offline viewing later.  Another issue is the possibility of malware defeating your VPN.  In other words, if a rogue application gets between you and your VPN client, the encryption can be defeated.  There are decent ways to mitigate the malware issue, but that’s a topic for another column.

Furthermore, VPNs cost money to run; you’re going to have to pay for that client.  And, the client you want to buy for your family’s devices may not work on every Internet gadget in the house.  If you want the convenience of a VPN client that runs on iPhone, iPad, Android, MacOS, Windows, and Kindle Fire, etc., be sure to test or ask before you buy.  And, before you buy, get a recommendation from a trusted site that reviews VPNs; my favorites are CNET and PC-Magazine.  When my current VPN client subscription comes up for renewal, I’m going to take a hard look at the Cisco AnyConnect Client.  When I see “Cisco” I feel confident.  When I see that it’s “free” I want to give it a trial.
Despite the hazards of connecting to the Internet without a VPN it appears that most users choose to do without and take their chances.  Let’s hope that they’re lucky.  Thomas Gray tells us that “if ignorance is bliss, tis folly to be wise.”  Ignorance of unsafe Internet surfing is blissful until one’s privacy is violated.  Using a VPN to protect the privacy of important data is the very wise decision.

--Mike Dargan
Last Updated June 17, 2018

Secure your Family with a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

posted Aug 20, 2018, 7:27 PM by Cherie Dargan

With so many headlines about hackers stealing your information, such as credit card numbers, passwords, or contacts’ information, many people are reluctant to browse the web on public WIFI, so they’re buying their own VPN. What is it, who needs one, and how can it protect you and your family online? What do you need to know about VPNs before you buy one?

Our VPN protects our desktop computers, laptops, and tablets.

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, sounds like something you would find at your workplace; however, smart people who value their privacy and want to safeguard their online activity are buying VPNs for use at home—and on the go. More of us are relying on our mobile devices to purchase products, make reservations, pay bills, and check bank accounts and credit card accounts. Doing these activities using public Wi-Fi is extremely dangerous and invites others to hack into your accounts. You need to protect yourself with a VPN.

What is it? A VPN is software; it does not create an actual hard-wired network. If you do a search, you will find hardware for routers or firewalls that builds in a VPN, but this will only safeguard your data in your home. You can install it on your Home PC, your phone (both Android and Apple) and mobile devices, such as a Kindle Fire tablet, iPhone, and iPad. Download the app, and once installed, you will see a little VPN icon on your device’s home page; you can also see that it is on by checking settings. An article on PCmag’s website compared a VPN to a tunnel connecting your computer (or mobile device) to the VPN server: all of your internet traffic goes through the tunnel.

Who needs to use one, and why? Anyone connecting to public Wi-Fi that is not encrypted is vulnerable to hackers who are trying to get your information. However, it is even more alarming that Congress passed a law in the spring of 2017 to make it legal for your Internet Service Provider to sell your browsing history to advertisers, without your consent. A VPN protects your data and prevents others from intercepting traffic, where they could get credit card information, passwords, or even see your laptop’s desktop. 

A VPN helps you to safely browse and use the internet to make purchases, especially when on pages with https (the s stands for secure shell) When shopping online, you should always be careful, but when you see the https, you can expect greater security. Adding a VPN to your browsing experience gives you greater confidence that your data is secure. A VPN is useful EVERYWHERE! However, it is especially needed in public when so many of us rely on public WIFI. At home, it depends on how secure your internet access point is, and that is another topic for discussion.

How do you get one, and what will they cost? Go to PC Magazine.org or CNET for product reviews. You can order them online: Amazon lists a number of VPNs, including a few that offer a free product such as Express VPN or Windscribe. Some offer a trial period when you can try them out. My husband tried one VPN but found it would not work on our Kindle Fires, so he returned it and got a second product, Windscribe, that worked on all of our devices. We are spending $100 a year for the family and it covers all of our devices. 

According to PC Magazine, some of the top-rated VPNs include NordVPN, Private Internet Access VPN, and Tunnelbear. CNET also lists NordVPN and adds VyprVPN, StrongVPN, and IPVanish, among others, to its list. While there are a number of products that offer a free version, or a trial version, be sure to read the details. Whatever you choose, it’s clear that if you want to use your devices to browse and purchase online, you need to protect your family with a VPN.

Last updated June 1, 2018

Wrapping Up the CFAF

posted Aug 20, 2018, 9:51 AM by Cherie Dargan   [ updated Aug 20, 2018, 7:21 PM ]

Shortly after I retired from Hawkeye Community College, Barbara Lounsberry invited me to join a committee exploring ways to honor five best-selling authors with Cedar Falls ties: Bess Streeter Aldrich, Ruth Suckow, James Hearst, Nancy Price, and Robert James Waller. Other committee members included: Rosemary Beach, Jan Andersen, Kim Manning, Mary Taylor, Mary Bremmer, and Scott Cawelti. Together, we created the Cedar Falls Authors Festival (CFAF).

Our Logo  Our group, minus Barbara and Jan

We began planning in the fall of 2016. We applied for a grant from the Cedar Falls Community Foundation (The Saul and Joan Diamond Community Enhancement Grant) and received $5,000 for our budget. We enlisted the help of a number of organizations around the community: The Cedar Falls Public Library, the Cedar Falls Tourism & Visitors Bureau, The Hearst Center for the Arts, The Rod Library, The Cedar Falls Historical Society, The Western Home Communities, and many others. Since we had a small budget, we used our brochures, Gary Kelley posters, media partners to promote our events, as well as our website and Facebook. 

The Cedar Falls Public Library supplied these bagsMany of our programs took place at the CFPL 

Early on, I discovered a wonderful website created by the students of Dr. Tom Connors at UNI in 2012: https://sites.google.com/site/historicalcedarfalls/. The literature page mentioned all five of our authors and was a wonderful resource. I created our website, www.cfauthorsfestival.org: the only expense was buying the domain name.

Programs began in May 2017 and go through June 9, when we wrap with the Ruth Suckow Memorial Association’s Annual Meeting, and a presentation by Ken Lyftogt, open to the public. We spent a month focusing on each of the five authors, had an August birthday party readathon, invited local authors to participate in a book fair, and launched the second part of our festival in January —celebrating local authors, many of them writing about history or history-based fiction. 

Holiday Book Sale with some local authorsBlogging Panel 
Taking a short story & making it a live radio show, with Jim O'Loughlin 

We had a finale at the Hearst Center in May to thank participants, partnering organizations, our steering committee and the larger collaborative committee. Here are a few highlights from the program.

By the numbers:

·       More than 60 events were held from May 2017 to May 2018

·       More than 3,200 guests attended

·       Nearly 40 speakers presented

·       Seven festival presentations were made to clubs and service groups

A dozen permanent projects have created a lasting legacy: 

· Gary Kelley’s original artwork for the festival’s poster will be donated to one of our partners for permanent display.

· “Amongst" by UNI student-sculptor Hanna Seggerman honoring Ruth Suckow and Ferner Nuhn is on temporary display in the Hearst Sculpture Garden.

·  A commemorative plaque in Seerley Park honors Nancy Price and other writers who lived and wrote there.

The rock in Seerley Park, with Nancy's plaque.

·  Screening “Sleeping with the Enemy” in Seerley Park prompted the upgrade of its electrical capacity, allowing for new events to be hosted there.

·       Additional illustrations by Nancy Price have been added to the Hearst Center’s permanent collection.

Jim with a poster for his booklet of 23 discovered Hearst poems.

  • A commemorative reissue of North American Review magazine from 1974 features James Hearst.
  • Red Geraniums” features new James Hearst poems discovered and published by Jim O’Loughlin.
  • An updated Bess Streeter Aldrich driving tour featuring sites important to her life and work was produced.    The plaque honoring Bess Streeter Aldrich in her namesake park in North Cedar has been refurbished and reset. In addition, a plaque has been replaced on a private home where Aldrich once lived. 
  • A Cedar Falls authors directory has been created and will be posted on the CFAF website.
  • Cedar Falls Cable Television Channel 15 has an archive of interviews and footage of festival events.
  • The Cedar Falls Authors Festival website, www.cfauthorsfestival.org, continues to provide information on our authors.
  • In addition, Nancy Price, one of the original five authors, received an honorary degree from UNI.

As we wind down, we feel a sense of accomplishment.  We showcased our five best-selling, nationally known authors and created a greater awareness of Cedar Falls’ historic, literary legacy. We gave an opportunity for local writers to give presentations, serve on panels, participate in a book fair, and attend a free workshop on blogging. We packed the house at many events.

 Our Authors:

Nancy Price
Bess Streeter Aldrich
Robert James Waller
James Hearst
Ruth Suckow

What are my takeaways from this project?

Cedar Falls is an extraordinary community that cares about literature and literacy, values its public library and museums, and shows up for events.

Our partners were wonderful: we could not have succeeded without their participation. The Cedar Falls Public Library, Hearst Center for the Arts, and the Rod Library hosted most of our programs, and staff members were helpful.  

Most of the committee members were retired; however, two were hard-working women with a day job. A big thanks to Mary Taylor of Western Home Communities and Kim Manning of the Cedar Falls Tourism and Visitors Bureau.

Creating Facebook events proved useful: when my husband began using his iPhone to do Facebook Live at events, it was a wonderful experiment. Presenters with relatives in other towns got feedback: “I watched your event!” 

Thanks, Cedar Falls! I cannot imagine a better way to start retirement than getting involved with the Cedar Falls Authors Festival: and thank you to our co-chairs, Rosemary Beach and Barbara Lounsberry.

Last updated August 20, 2018

7 Excuses for not blogging: I’m too busy writing!!

posted Jun 18, 2018, 8:04 PM by Cherie Dargan   [ updated Jun 18, 2018, 8:17 PM ]

The last two months have been pretty intense for a retired teacher. I realized that I had not been posting to Geeky grandma as much as I normally post.  So, what have I been doing?

Our display at the Cedar Falls Public Library for May. RSMA President Barbara Lounsberry introducing Ken. Mike Dargan setting up his equipment to do Facebook Live

            1.     We collected things and created signage to put up and take down displays at the Cedar Falls Library (May: Cedar Falls Authors Festival wrap up with                                Rosemary Beach and June: Ruth Suckow Annual Meeting, with Barbara Lounsberry). 

2.      I worked on writing my second draft of a book chapter for a book about the Midwestern mind. It’s starting to come together! I still need to fuss with some of the footnotes, work on transitions, and do some polishing.

3.      I have been working on The Gift,  my first novel (100 pages and 8 chapters that are more or less developed, with notes and some work on the remaining chapters).

4.      I put together two massive notebooks that archive what we did in the Cedar Falls Authors Festival over the past year and a half. Thanks to Rosemary Beach, who has tirelessly collected every mention of the festival in the newspaper and elsewhere.

5.    We held our 2018 Annual Suckow meeting at the Cedar Falls Public Library on Saturday, June 9th. Our final program for the Cedar Falls Authors Festival took place at 1:00 that afternoon, with a wonderful presentation by Ken Lyftogt about Ruth Suckow and Going to the Woods (her views on nature).

6.    We wrapped up the year with the final Legislative Forum at the Waterloo Public Library. 

7.      I finished up work on my presentation about “Going Google” for the Cedar Falls Christian Writers Workshop. Then, I attended the workshop last week, which was wonderful!

Wow! It's been a busy time, but a productive one.

Want to watch Ken's talk on YouTube? 


Last updated June 18, 2018

Ten Takeaways from Our Blogging Workshop

posted Jun 18, 2018, 7:38 PM by Cherie Dargan

Our blogging Panel: Jocelyn, Robyn, Cherie and Mary.

1.       Many of the participants were familiar faces, having attended previous events for the Cedar Falls Authors Festival: I saw several on Sunday, at Scott Cawelti's     presentation.
2.    The four panelists all had great reasons for blogging, ranging from promoting books, building a platform, and connecting with readers.
3.    Our audience expressed a range of reasons for wanting to start a blog, and we had folks who already had a blog to those who had never blogged before.
4.   Having laptops makes ALL of the difference in doing a hands-on demonstration! Thanks, Cedar Falls Public Library, for making it all happen.
5.   Regardless of the platform (such as free WordPress or blogger), it’s important to use pictures, catchy titles, and even videos to attract readers and get them to read your posts. Jocelyn talked about having guest bloggers or collaborating with other authors on book giveaways and other promotions. Mary shared her experience of co-authoring a book with her friend Mary, and doing one blog to promote that book. Robyn used two different platforms for blogs, and enjoyed sharing experiences and prompting readers to reflect, without being too preachy.
6.    Sharing blog posts on Google+, Facebook, Twitter or other social sharing platforms is a great way to get the word out about your blog. 
7.    Several of our participants asked what we thought about repurposing content to repost it: I showed them my LinkedIn page, which now has a place to post articles. The LinkedIn readers generally seem to be a different audience. I also post the same content on Geeky Grandma and my Blogger blog.

8.      They liked the look of my Dynamic Theme on Blogger that lets the reader pick how the Blog will look: some views are more visual, almost like Pinterest, while others feature sidebar navigation and are more text based. 
9.      I mentioned that I had posted my Blogging Workshop presentation on Slide share, which is a website connected to LinkedIn; no one had heard of it, so we took a quick look, and people were pleasantly surprised to see some of the numbers of views for presentations posted several years ago. If you haven't seen the website, take a look.

Look for Blogging 101

10.   It was like a mini reunion of the Cedar Falls Christian Writers Workshop: I met all of these women there over the past 8 years.
Thank you all for participating! It was a lot of fun. As soon as few more people send me their blog's URL, I will send it out to the group.
Thank you to the Cedar Falls Public Library for all of their support (Thanks, Erin, Ambri and Neal). And, thanks to the Umbrella/Planning Committee of the Cedar Falls Authors Festival for their support.

Last updated April 13, 2018

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