Welcome to the Cedar Falls Authors Festival Website

Did you know that Cedar Falls has produced five nationally-known and best-selling writers—more nationally-known authors than any other town in Iowa? Four of them taught at the University of Northern Iowa and several were students there as well. Three were born here.

Wikipedia Entry -- Cedar Falls: City of Writers.

I am working on the Wikipedia entry for Cedar Falls: City of Writers. You can view the first draft here. Thank you to Barbara Lounsberry for her assistance and critique. I also attached the draft with sources on that page.

Coming February of 2021, The Sower and the Seer: Perspectives on the Intellectual History of the American Midwest. This is a collection of 22 essays about the Intellectual History of the Midwest. (Wisconsin Historical Society Press, forthcoming)

My chapter focuses on the city of Cedar Falls, Iowa.

"Mind & Soil: An Iowa Town that Grows Writers."

"Mind & Soil: An Iowa Town that Grows Writers." Cedar Falls, Iowa predates the Civil war by a decade: this frontier town became a railroad town, provided a home for Civil War orphans, established a college to train teachers, supported a newspaper, created a library, and built a number of churches. Along the way, it became an important hub for readers and writers: five best-selling authors have ties to Cedar Falls, including Bess Streeter Aldrich, Ruth Suckow, James Hearst, Robert James Waller, and Nancy Price. The secret of this town’s success? A persistent focus by a succession of civic leaders on the fertile blend of literature and the land. Many towns had literary societies, but early Cedar Falls had Peter Melendy, founder of the Cedar Falls Horticultural and Literary Society in 1859. His motto, “the mind and the soil,” bore fruit in the creation of a city with beautiful parks, gardens, and trees complemented by a vibrant literary culture with a modern public library. This chapter explores the city’s early history, examines several community organizations that fostered reading and discussing ideas, and explains how the community has honored its five best-selling authors.

June 2018 -- The Final Program of the CFAF is in the books!

The Ruth Suckow Memorial Association (RSMA) returned to the Cedar Falls Public Library for our Annual Meeting. Then, at 1 pm we welcomed the public to a brief address by Kenneth Lyftogt. Ken did the first program of 2018 back in January, and it is fitting that he presented the final program in our Cedar Falls Authors Festival series.

Saturday, June 9, 1 p.m., Cedar Falls Public Library (Second Floor Meeting Room), “Going to the Woods: Ruth Suckow and the Early 20th Century Midwest,” Kenneth Lyftogt

Wrapping up the Cedar Falls Authors Festival: A few Reflections

Cherie's Thoughts on the Cedar Falls Authors Festival

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 Brammer, and Scott Cawelti. Together, we created the Cedar Falls Authors Festival.

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, the Gary Kelley posters, and media partners to promote our events, as well as our website and Facebook.

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.

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

As we wind down, we feel a sense of real 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.

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.


The success of the Cedar Falls Authors Festival has surpassed our fondest hopes. We have broad community and university support, our financial partners, media partners and many interested guests to thank for those successes.

We’ve reintroduced our five nationally-recognized authors, provided forums for new or less well-known authors to share their expertise on many interesting topics and helped create renewed interest in local and Iowa history.

We’re sure the festival events would have particularly pleased librarian Joan Diamond, who devoted her life to books. (Funding for events came from The Saul and Joan Diamond Community Enhancement Grant)

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

· A dozen festival presentations were made to clubs and service groups

· A dozen permanent projects have created a lasting legacy

A Permanent Legacy

Gary Kelley’s original artwork for the festival’s poster was given to Cedar Falls Public Library 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.

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.

“Red Geraniums” features new James Hearst poems discovered and published by Jim O’Loughlin.

A commemorative reissue of North American Review magazine from 1974 features James Hearst.

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.

A Cedar Falls authors directory will be created and preserved on the CFAF website, as well as the Cedar Falls Public Library 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, will remain active and continue to be vital source of information on our local authors.

The Umbrella Committee

Mary Taylor, Cherie Dargan, Mary Brammer, Rosemary Beach, Kim Manning, & Scott Cawelti at City Hall, after submitting our Proclamation to City Council and the Mayor. Missing: Jan Anderson and Barbara Lounsberry.

Cherie Dargan, Rosemary Beach and Barbara Lounsberry after a program at the Cedar Falls Library.

Pictures from The Blogging Panel and Scott Cawelti's Program

Panel for Blogging Workshop

Our blogging panel: Jocelyn Green, Robyn Mulder, Cherie Dargan, and Mary Potter Kenyon.

It was a mini reunion for the Cedar Falls Christian Writers Workshop, since that is where I met all of these wonderful writers.

Scott had a packed house for his program. He gave an update about the book he wrote about the Mark family murder, which was just featured in a television program about true crimes.

The gentleman with the suspenders, Mike Dargan, has been live streaming some of our Festival programs, using Facebook Live, with great results.

Find us on Facebook!


The Festival on the UNI website


The UNI Library has created a set of pages about the Authors Festival; you can view them here.

If you haven't checked it out lately, take a look. You will see that they list books by each author, as well as give some biographical information. In addition, they list artifacts found in the UNI Special Collections.

Bess Streeter Museum

The Bess Streeter Aldrich Museum in Elmwood, Nebraska is now linking to our site; if you are looking for more information about Aldrich, check them out.

Click on the names below to visit each author's page or use the navigation menu on the left.

Our Five Authors

ruth suckow

Bess Streeter Aldrich

February 17, 1881 -– August 3, 1954

Ruth Suckow

August 6, 1892 -- January 23, 1960

Nancy Price

March 16, 1925

James Hearst

August 8, 1900 -- July 27, 1983






Robert James Waller

August 1, 1939 -- March 10, 2017

Do we actually have SEVEN famous authors?

Ronald Verlin Cassill


R. V. Cassill, or Ronald Verlin Cassill, (May 17, 1919 – March 25, 2002) was a prolific writer, reviewer, editor, painter, and lithographer. He is most notable for his novels and short stories, and won awards and grants." ("Ronald Verlin Cassill," Wikipedia) He was also a teacher.

What was his Cedar Falls connection?

"Cassill was born on May 17, 1919 in Cedar Falls, Iowa to Howard Cassill, a school superintendent, and Mary Glosser, a teacher; he had two brothers, Donald Cassill and H. Carroll Cassill, and a sister, LaJean. After graduating from Blakesburg High School, he earned a B.A. in art at The University of Iowa in 1939, where he was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. From 1942 to 1946, Cassill served the United States Army in the Medical Administration Core as a first lieutenant, stationed in the South Pacific."


http://www.rvcassill.com/ -- His author website

http://www.rvcassill.com/RVCBIO.htm -- biography

http://www.rvcassill.com/rvcbooks.htm -- List of his books

Rev. Charlie Shedd


Rev. Charlie Shedd (1915-2004) wrote 40 books that were humorous, inspirational, and motivational. His books focused on churches, relationships, dating, dieting, marriage, parenting, communication, and sexuality.

What was his Cedar Falls connection?

Charlie was an Iowa boy who graduated from Cedar Falls High School, married a Cedar Falls girl, Martha, and served as a youth pastor at North minster Presbyterian church in Waterloo early in his career.

We honored Charlie Shedd at our August Readathon: check for the Power point about him as an attachment at the bottom of the home page.


Brief Bio by his publisher

Gary Kelley's Art work Commemorates the Cedar Falls Authors Festival

Local artist Gary Kelley designed a piece of art featuring quotes from our five authors. The poster was used to promote the Festival, and signed copies were available for sale at our events.

gary kelley poster

Festival Purpose:

1. To inspire young and old through the knowledge that Cedar Falls has produced writers from pioneer times to now.

2. To convey that writing is a valuable and rewarding form of expression that members of the Cedar Falls community regularly engage in—like breathing.

3. To enhance civic pride and our sense of community identity by recognizing that Cedar Falls can boast of five nationally known, best-selling writers—more than any other town in Iowa.

4. To celebrate all of our Cedar Falls authors, past and present, by creating a Directory of Cedar Falls Authors.

Are you a Cedar Falls author?

We define a “Cedar Falls Author” as a person either born in Cedar Falls or who has spent a substantial amount of time living and writing in the city.

We are gathering information to create a Directory of Cedar Falls Authors, which will be posted on the Cedar Falls Library website, as well as here.

Please complete our authors' survey to become part of the Directory of Cedar Falls Authors--or to share the name of a Cedar Falls author (living or dead).

Last updated March 5, 2021

Cherie Dargan, Webmaster

Contact us at cfauthorsfestival@gmail.com

See also our Contact Page