Last week students in grades three through six had the opportunity to meet Erin Soderberg Downing, author of over fifty books. The students enjoyed her engaging presentation: learning about how she became an author, where she gets ideas for her stories, and what “ingredients” she adds to make them more interesting. 

Each student in third and fourth grade received a signed book, and each fifth and sixth grader received Controlled Burn or When Life Gives You Lemons, all paid for by the Oneota Valley Literary Foundation. The foundation also generously provided funding for the author’s visit.

Kate Rattenborg Scott, owner of Dragonfly books, started the Oneota Valley Literary Foundation as a way to fund authors’ visits. She remarked, “It warmed my heart to see students’ excitement in receiving their own copy of one of Erin Soderberg Downing books.  One goal in starting the Oneota Valley Literary Foundation was to be able to bring authors into the northeast Iowa schools, and it was thrilling to have it happen and to see it so well received.”

Erin Soderberg Downing shared, “Visiting schools to talk about writing is one of the highlights of my job as a children’s book author…but I can honestly say that the time I spent with students and teachers in Decorah, Cresco, Postville, and Ossian was one of the highlights of my author visit career. Thanks to the generosity of the Oneota Valley Literary Foundation, I knew every kid would get to take home one of my books to read after hearing some behind-the-scenes stories about how I put that book together – and that extra level of connection with literacy is something truly special. What a wonderful way to strengthen the kids’ excitement for books and reading!”

A group of middle school students visited Dragonfly Books to deliver thank you notes to the foundation via Kate Rattenborg Scott. Harper Novak said, “It was really fun to visit the bookstore; it feels really magical inside.”  Hanna Lensch added, “I’d want to go to Dragonfly Books anytime, any day. It’s so fun to be in there.”

After the author’s visit, one 4th grade teacher shared with Michaela Seeman, teacher librarian at Carrie Lee Elementary, “Thank you so much for introducing her books and her delightful author ‘personality’ to us!  The kids are really enjoying the books. The characters and use of figurative language are refreshing additions to our literature collections.”

“I was awkwardly laughing out loud at some of the things she said,” remarked a 3rd grade teacher. “She was an absolute hoot! Her message(s) about being a writer resonated with many students, I’m sure. For being her eighth group in two days, you would’ve guessed we were her first. How awesome that each student received a signed copy of a book they chose.”

Another 3rd grade teacher commented, “Thank you to everyone who was involved in making the arrangements for Erin to come here, as well as for making it possible for every student (and classroom teacher) to receive a book! Erin’s presentation/visit today was absolutely wonderful! She was engaging, inspiring, authentic, and funny! I briefly got a chance at dismissal to discuss with my students how they felt about her visit, and it was all very positive. In all my years of teaching and author visits, Erin Soderberg Downing has been my favorite! What a great opportunity for our students/staff to have!”

Shannon Horton, DMS teacher librarian shared, “Author visits are really meaningful to our students, but they can be hard to make happen in rural locations with limited budgets. To have help with the logistics and funding from the Oneota Valley Literary Foundation is such a game changer for our community.”

More information about Erin Soderberg Downing can be found at

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DMS students visit Dragonfly Books to deliver thank you notes for the books they were gifted.
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DMS students introduce Erin Soderberg Downing
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Erin Soderberg Downing shares how she creates stories.
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Erin Soderberg Downing fields questions from Decorah students.