Authors festival celebrates successful Cedar Falls writers

Cedar Falls has been a home for talented writers for hundreds of years. To reunite five best-selling authors and encourage many others to follow their deep interest in writing, the Cedar Falls’ “Umbrella Group” (organizers) created the Cedar Falls Authors Festival.

The festival will take place over the course of a year, May 2017 to May 2018. Five nationally known best-selling authors will be celebrated throughout Cedar Falls during this period — Bess Streeter Aldrich, Ruth Suckow, James Hearst, Nancy Price and Robert Walker — as well as many other Cedar Falls’ authors.

To bring the festival to the public, the steering committee has collaborated with many groups and individuals including UNI, the public schools and the city’s cultural group. Altogether, 20 organizations are collaborating to help bring the festival to the public, some of the major partners being the Cedar Falls Public Library and The Hearst Center.

All of the authors being celebrated were born in Iowa and have spent a good amount of time living and writing in Cedar Falls. Community members will be able to meet these authors and read and hear their works and learn about them through the programs taking place each month. They will be able to see how these authors have taken their Iowa roots with them and be able to connect with the authors personally. Audience members will also be able to see how the authors’ works have developed into films, plays, music, art and more, as well as some of the works they have inspired.

The idea of the Cedar Falls Authors Festival first came to Rosemary Beach (one of the organizers) when she was having lunch with some friends. She started talking to her friend Barbara Lounsberry, also one of the organizers, about the nationally known Iowa author, Suckow. This started them thinking about all of the great Iowan authors.

“We started to look at all of the authors, and we saw that we have a lot of good authors here,” Beach said.

As they began identifying them, they found the five authors that are known throughout the United States. “After a couple cups of coffee in a couple weeks, we came up with the idea for this festival, and as I began asking people if they were interested in it, there was nobody who told me no,” Beach said.

The purpose of the festival is “to inspire young and old through the knowledge that Cedar Falls has produced writers from pioneer times to now. To convey that writing is a valuable and rewarding form of expression that members of the Cedar Falls community regularly engage in. 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. To celebrate all of our Cedar Falls’ authors, past and present, by creating a Directory of Cedar Falls Authors,” said Cherie Dargan, one of the organizers.

Dargan hopes the festival will attract a wide range of interest. “The festival is open to all ages and interested parties, young and old and there are programs that everyone can learn from,” she said.

“We want young people to know that writing is going on all around them. Writing is not something far away or rare — but done regularly in CF — like breathing,” Lounsberry said.

It was created to attract people with all different interests. For those who like drama and playwriting, they can hear Rebecca Christian and Lenore Howard at the Hearst Center on Saturday, June 10. Christian wrote the play “Just Suppose” about Suckow, and Howard acted it out. They will talk about how they researched and prepared to write the play.

Those interested in art and sculpture can see a sculpture honoring Iowa authors Suckow and Ferner Nuhn in the Hearst Sculpture garden on June 10 at 3 p.m.  A UNI student did the artwork.

Ferner started the first community art center in Cedar Falls in the 1940s; he and his wife were friends with James and Charles Hearst.

For those into art, they might enjoy the exhibits at the Hearst. Also, Ferner was an artist and there are some portraits of his on the Suckow website.–Figures-of-the-30s

Those who are into poetry can check out Hearst, and those who are into books made into movies, they can check out Nancy Price and the showing of “Sleeping with the Enemy” in Seerley Park (rated R).  Of course Waller’s book “Bridges of Madison County” was made into a movie too, and later there will be a showing of a movie based on one of the works of Aldrich.

Activities for the festival have already begun. Although the May programs have ended, festivities will begin again in June, beginning with an examination of Suckow’s work. Suckow (1892-1960) wrote nine short novels and 43 short stories, most of them set in Iowa.  To learn more about Suckow and other authors visit

The Cedar Falls Public Library also showcases some of the authors’ works and their biographies, with an exhibit on the second level. It is open any time for interested community members to see. The Hearst Center for the Arts is another place to see some of the authors’ works ahead of the programs.

If someone is an author, there is a spot on the homepage to take a survey to nominate that author to become part of the Iowa Authors’ Directory. This festival will not only bring recognition to past famous authors, it also hopes to inspire potential future authors.

There will be many other events throughout the year celebrating the different authors and their contributions.

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