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. During 2016-2018, a group of volunteers planned a year of activities to celebrate those authors, and give local authors a chance to present.


March 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, 2021)

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.


Looking back, CFAF, 2016-2018

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.


Our Planning Committee (Umbrellas), 2016-2018

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!

https://www.facebook.com/CedarFallsAuthorsFestival/

The Festival on the UNI website

http://scholarworks.uni.edu/cfauthors/

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

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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

CELEBRATING

CEDAR FALLS'

LITERARY LEGACY

FROM PIONEER DAYS

TO TODAY

Robert James Waller

August 1, 1939 -- March 10, 2017

Do we actually have SEVEN famous authors?

Ronald Verlin Cassill

1919-2002

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."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_Verlin_Cassill

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

1915-2004

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.

http://www.balconypublishing.com/author_shedd.htm

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