Iowa's Rich Literary Culture

Sep 23, 2014

Iowa is a destination for many aspiring writers from around the world, but the state has also been the origin of many gifted authors.

They had stories to tell, the will to write them, and they got out there. They are wonderful. - Loren Horton

Iowa Week continues on Talk of Iowa with a conversation on Iowa's literary culture. Historian Loren Horton shares stories of favorite Iowa authors, including Bess Streeter Aldrich, Herbert Quick, and Hamlin Garland.

"[Bess Streeter Aldrich's] three novels about Iowa are just wonderful portrayals of life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century," Horton says.

One major reason for Iowa's rich literature landscape is the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. Host Charity Nebbe talks about the origin of the program and why it achieved international acclaim with Loren Glass, English professor at the University of Iowa, and Marvin Bell, retired University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop professor and the first Poet Laureate of the state of Iowa.

And, the Iowa Center for the Book's Robin Martin shares why she thinks Iowa's writing and reading culture has endured over the years. Martin says that the early settlers of Iowa had one thing on their mind - creating universities and learning centers.

"We have in Iowa forty independent colleges, we have three great public universities, community colleges," she says. "And those have in turn become sites that can support creative writing and the literary arts, and pass that tradition on."

Editor’s note: All this week, Sept. 22-27, on Iowa Public Radio’s talk shows River to River and Talk of Iowa, we’re exploring some unexpected things about the state as a part of Iowa Week, a series meant to highlight and uncover the things that make Iowa, well, Iowa. What do you think is unexpected? Tweet at the hashtag #IowaWeek or send your notes to our talk show team at