Mary François Rockcastle announced as the 2015 Kay Sexton Honoree

Mary Francois Rcokcastle

The Minnesota Book Awards is pleased to announce Mary François Rockcastle, Director of The Creative Writing Programs at Hamline University, as the recipient of the 2015 Kay Sexton Award. Sponsored by Common Good Books, the Sexton Award is presented annually to an individual or organization in recognition of long-standing dedication and outstanding work in fostering books, reading, and literary activity in Minnesota. It is named for the late Kay Sexton, an influential bookseller and B. Dalton vice president before her retirement.

A visionary force in the development of Hamline University’s nationally-acclaimed creative writing programs, Mary François Rockcastle exemplifies the spirit of the Kay Sexton Award for her remarkable accomplishments and contributions to the state’s literary community. Friend and colleague Patricia Weaver Francisco called her “an innovator who creates opportunities for writers to grow” and said, “I watch Mary brainstorm, connect and create every day on behalf of writers, literature, and the literary community she loves; initiating, collaborating and volunteering with almost super-human energy and enthusiasm.”

Rockcastle joined the adjunct faculty in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program at Hamline University after completing an M.A. with a double emphasis in English and creative writing from the University of Minnesota. She and her colleagues worked together to develop and launch the MFA in Creative Writing program in 1994—the first of its kind in Minnesota—and Rockcastle has gone on to expand and continuously improve the university’s creative writing offerings which now include the low-residency MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults and the BFA in Creative Writing (established by Rockcastle in 2007 and 2010, respectively).

Praising the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, author Kate DiCamillo said: “Mary has made the Twin Cities a hub for children’s literature, a destination for students and teachers and writers of books for children. There are only a handful of academic programs in the U.S. that are dedicated to literature for children and Mary Rockcastle has—to the Twin Cities’ great benefit—created one here.”

Also to Rockcastle’s credit is the award-winning national literary journal, Water~Stone Review, now in its 17th year, for which she was awarded the W. Lindberg Award for Excellence in Literary Editing in 2009. She continues to serve as the executive director.

Rockcastle is the author of two novels published by Graywolf Press, Rainy Lake (1996) and In Caddis Wood (2011), which were finalists for Minnesota Book Awards. She is also the recipient of a Bush Foundation Fellowship and a Loft-McKnight Award of Distinction, both in fiction.

Rockcastle will be honored on Saturday, April 18, at the 27th annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala, to be held at Saint Paul’s Union Depot. Awards will also be presented in eight book categories, as well as the annual Book Artist Award. Tickets go on sale in February.

Minnesota Book Awards Announces Recipients of the 2015 Book Artist Award

Minnesota Book Awards Announces Recipients of the 2015 Book Artist Award

Conceptual artist Harriet Bart wins the 2015 Minnesota Book Artist Award for work created in collaboration with master printer Philip Gallo (Hermetic Press) and fine binder Jill Jevne. 

Harriet Bart, winner of the 2015 Minnesota Book Artist Award

November 20, SAINT PAUL, MN – The Minnesota Book Awards is pleased to announce Harriet Bart and her longtime collaborative partners, printer Philip Gallo and binder Jill Jevne, as the winners of the 2015 Minnesota Book Artist Award for a new piece entitled Ghost Maps. Sponsored by Lerner Publishing Group, this annual award is presented by Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA) and the Minnesota Book Awards and recognizes a Minnesota book artist or book artist collaborative group for excellence of a new artistic work, demonstrated proficiency and quality in the book arts through three pieces of supporting previous work, as well as an ongoing commitment and significant contributions to Minnesota’s book arts community.

The images in Ghost Maps were created by Bart during a 2010 residency at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts where the paint-splattered floor of her assigned studio became the focus of a new project. Inspired by Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, Bart began to view the encrusted floor of Studio VA5 as an archive of the creative process. Attending to color and repetition, she marked off sections of the floor with tape, scrubbed spaces between them and took aerial photographs. The result is a stunning, site-specific piece documenting the presence and absence of the forty-six artists who preceded Bart in Studio VA5.

Part of a longstanding collaborative relationship between artist, printer and binder, Ghost Maps was printed by Philip Gallo at The Hermetic Press in Minneapolis and binding was designed and executed by Jill Jevne of Jacobsen, Minnesota. Since 2000, Bart, Gallo and Jevne have collaborated to produce ten artist books, two of which have been honored with Minnesota Book Awards in the Fine Press category. An exhibit celebrating Bart’s work in collaboration with Gallo and Jevne will be on display December 12 – January 25 in the second floor literary commons of the Open Book building (1011 Washington Avenue South, Minneapolis), with a reception taking place Thursday, January 15 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Bart, Gallo and Jevne will receive special recognition and an award at the 27th annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 18, 2015, at the Saint Paul Union Depot. Awards will also be presented that evening to the winners of the eight book categories (Children’s Literature, General Nonfiction, Genre Fiction, Memoir & Creative Nonfiction, Minnesota, Novel & Short Story, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature) and the Kay Sexton Award, sponsored by Common Good Books. Gala tickets will go on sale in February.

The Minnesota Book Awards, presented by 3M Library Systems, is a statewide, year-round outreach program of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library in partnership with the Saint Paul Public Library and City of Saint Paul. Please visit or call 651/366-6497 for more information about the Minnesota Book Awards. Visit or call 612-215-2527 for more information about Minnesota Center for Book Arts.


Bailey Veesenmeyer, Minnesota Book Awards Coordinator
The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library


Western Great Lakes: Land of 10,000 Presses

From Publisher’s Weekly

By Claire Kirch 

Minnesota license plates proclaim that the state is the Land of 10,000 Lakes. It could just as well be called the land of 10,000 presses. Many consider the Twin Cities, with their concentration and variety of publishers, literary organizations, and related businesses, second only to New York City in literary activity.

“This is book country,” declares Adam Lerner, the president of Lerner Publishing Group, noting that the Minnesota Book Awards’ 26th annual ceremony last spring filled St. Paul’s Union Depot great hall with approximately 1,000 celebrants who paid $45 each to attend the sold-out event. “What other state would have such a gala for authors?”

The Minnesota Book Awards isn’t the only local literary event that draws hordes of book lovers willing to put their money down in support of literature: launched in 2004, the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library’s annual Opus & Olives fund-raiser brought in $300,000 this past year from 1,100 attendees, who each paid from $150–$350 for an evening of food, wine, and presentations by a slate of five authors, including both A-list writers and emerging voices. Common Good Books in St. Paul, which handles book sales at Opus & Olives, reported $30,000 in sales at last year’s event, which featured Wally Lamb, Dennis Lehane, Bill Bryson, John Searles, and J. Courtney Sullivan. This year’s event, on October 12, will include Jane Smiley, Louise Penney, and Hampton Sides; organizers expect 1,200 attendees.

Twin Cities publishers and local literary organizations are already collaborating to host an event welcoming attendees when the Association of Writing Programs brings its annual conference to Minneapolis April 8–11, 2015. “It’s going to be one big literary party all over Open Book,” declared Jocelyn Hale, the Loft Literary Center’s executive director. “People are working really hard to celebrate our vibrant literary community here; there’s nothing like it in the country.” Hale notes that the Loft is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2015, yet another reason for celebration.

Minnesota Legacy Fund Boosts Literary Presses

Coffee House Press publisher, Chris FischbachCoffee House Press publisher Chris Fischbach maintains that Minnesota’s publishing industry is analogous to California’s wine industry: just as related industries have further strengthened that state’s already-flourishing wine industry, a “literary infrastructure” has grown up around Minnesota publishers that nurtures them. It’s not just that companies like Bookmobile, which serves many of the presses in the region, and Consortium, which distributes more than 100 small and literary presses (including CHP), are located in Minneapolis: there’s also the Loft; highly respected M.F.A. programs at area universities; organizations bringing bestselling authors to town, such as the Hennepin County Library’s PenPals and Talk of the Stacks series; and Talking Volumes, a regional book club cosponsored by the Loft, Minnesota Public Radio, and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune since 2000.

Of course, CHP’s managing director Caroline Casey notes, there’s also Minnesota’s Legacy Fund, an amendment to the state constitution implemented in 2009 that stipulates that a portion of, sales taxes raised for 25 years must support arts and cultural organizations, programs, and projects. “The Legacy Fund makes it all viable,” she says.

“I don’t know that there is a time that the three major literary presses have been doing so well at the same time,” says Daniel Slager, who left Harcourt nine years ago to head Milkweed Editions. Sales at Milkweed, he noted, were up 25% last year; e-book sales accounted for 15% of net sales. Submissions are up as well, and the 2015 list of 15–20 fiction and nonfiction titles for adults and children, Slager says, is the “best in the press’s history,” with novels by Daniel Rhodes and Faith Sullivan, poetry from Eric Pankey and Melissa Kwasny, and nonfiction by Joni Tevis and Chris Dombrowski.

Previously, Slager says, Milkweed, celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2015, discovered authors and then lost them to larger houses, or published books those larger presses didn’t want. “Now we’re competing with the New York houses,” and he attributes this also to a more decentralized book publishing industry, particularly in literary publishing.

Ever since Graywolf released Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses in the U.S. in 2007, it has been riding waves of critical acclaim that have translated into sales. Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison, a collection of essays released this spring, is in its eighth print run, with 37,000 copies sold to date. Another collection of essays, On Immunity (September), by Eula Biss, was an Editor’s Buzz Book at BEA; the initial print run is 15,000. On June 22, three recent Graywolf releases were reviewed in the New York Times Book Review, including a front-page review for The Song of the Shank. The novel by Jeffrey Renard Allen has sold 8,000 copies to date.

While the press has always been known for its poetry, publisher Fiona McCrae explains that a strategy in recent years has been to include approximately equal numbers of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry among the 30–32 titles it publishes each year. By all measures, this three-pronged approach is paying off. “All three genres are hitting,” she says, disclosing that sales at the end of August were 27% above sales the previous year to date. Graywolf netted more than $1 million in sales in 2013, down slightly from 2012.

McCrae notes that the strategy to diversify Graywolf’s list includes a commitment to commissioning more works in translation:. “It’s more expensive, but it makes the list deeper and more varied.” Graywolf commissioned translation from the German of In Times of Fading Light by Eugen Ruge (Oct.), and from the Serbian of Tesla: A Portrait with Masks by Vladimir Pistalo (Jan.), one of five winter 2014/spring 2015 releases that are works in translation.

CHP, which publishes about 18 titles each year, has seen a 10%–15% increase in sales since 2011, when Fischbach became publisher. It has sold 5,000 copies to date of Eimear McBride’s debut novel, A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing (September), which won the prestigious Baileys Women’s Fiction Prize in the U.K. In 2015, the press is publishing its first commissioned translation from Spanish: Valeria Luiselli’s Story of My Teeth.

“We started with books that had already been translated,” Casey notes. “Now we’re exploring ways in which we can find books we can translate.” Like the other literary presses, CHP also is publishing more essay collections—two or three each year.

CHP, however, differentiates itself from other literary presses by defining itself as a literary arts organization as well as a press. “We’re adapting to the changing ways readers want to experience our books,” Fischbach says. “We’re putting writing and literature in front of people in different ways and beyond the book.”

CHP’s new Books in Action program reflects this shift. It includes a library “writers and readers in residence,” in which writers use libraries as creative spaces and the resources they find there as tools to create new work.

CHP’s Books in Action series complements the program. The Artists Library: A Field Guide by Laura Damon-Moore and Erinn Batykefer was published this spring, and My Little Free Library by Margret Aldrich, which explores how free circulating libraries can build communities, will be released in spring 2015.

Publishers Filling a Niche

It’s not just the literary presses that make Minnesota a vibrant publishing hub. Boston-based Quarto Publishing Group USA maintains an office in Minneapolis, with 75 employees responsible for its five Midwest imprints: Cool Springs Press (home improvement, cooking, canning, and gardening); Creative Publishing International (how-to books on home improvement and decorating); Motorbooks (transportation); Voyageur Press (American heritage, country lifestyle); and Zenith Press (military history, aviation, and current events). Together, company officials say, these five imprints generate more than a third of the company’s releases and a third of its net U.S. revenue.

“The 2014 front list from the Minneapolis imprints is one of our strongest to date,” says president and CEO Ken Fund, noting that, in honor of Motorbooks’ 50th anniversary next year, the imprint will release Shelby Mustang Fifty Years, Chevy Chevelle Fifty Years, and GTO 50 Years this fall. Quarto also launched its Motorbooksmobile last summer, a mobile bookstore that has become a presence at car shows and auctions across the U.S.

Llewellyn Worldwide in suburban St. Paul, which includes Llewellyn Publishing, has specialized in mind/body/spirit books and products since it was founded in 1901; it added mystery fiction under its Midnight Ink imprint in 2005 and YA fiction under its Flux imprint in 2006.

“We’re very proactive in finding out what people are looking for,” publicist Kat Sanborn says, noting that while Llewellyn has remained much the same in the past 113 years, it has expanded well beyond astrology and metaphysical titles; health and wellness—what publicist Kat Sanborn calls “conscious living”—titles are prominent on the list. Llewellyn publishes 180 titles across its three imprints each year; of those, 24 are YA Flux titles and 36 are Midnight Ink mysteries.

“What sets Llewellyn apart is the depth of instruction—the ‘how-to’—given to complete the reader’s experience,” Sanborn says. For instance, Yoga and Body Image, edited by Melanie Klein and Anna Guest-Jelley, one of this fall’s 60 releases, is “more about the mind-set of yoga” than simply the practice. “It’s yoga for real people,” Sanborn says, describing the list as “tools to be the best person we can be, and to have the best quality of life we can have.”

An hour’s drive north of Minneapolis, Hazelden Publishing is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. The press, a part of the Hazelden Foundation, has a lot to celebrate. Interim publisher Kris Vanhoof says that the combination of the 1996 Mental Health Parity Act and the more recent Affordable Care Act have resulted in higher revenues, including a 10%–15% increase this past year.

“Obamacare has been the game changer,” Vanhoof notes. “We’re starting to break through the stigma over chemical illness. It’s a whole new world, and we’re focusing on early intervention rather than acute treatment.”

The press publishes, in partnership with Harvard Medical School, the Almost Effect series of five titles, about the gray area where a problem exists but hasn’t been diagnosed yet. This fall, seven trade releases target the company’s new focus, with such titles as My Thinning Years: Starving the Gay Within by Jon Derek Croteau, which Vanhoof says, reflects a new commitment to reaching “special populations that may have a different experience” with addiction and recovery.

Also celebrating an anniversary—its fifth—Ice Cold Crime publishes Finnish crime fiction in translation. The small press has published 11 novels since 2009, including some that have topped Finland’s bestseller lists; its 12th release, The Sheriff by Reijo Maki, will be out in October with a 3,000-copy print run. “The enthusiasm for all things Finnish here has helped us a lot,” publisher Jouko Sipila says, referring to the sizeable number of Finnish immigrants who settled in Minnesota. “It’s one of the reasons for setting up shop here.”

While other presses in the region found their niches immediately, it’s taken 12 years for Tristan Publishing to find its place. The company has put out since 2002 short inspirational books that have always done well in the gift market. But, Sheila Waldman, president of relationships, says, Tristan is redefining itself: it is a Christian publisher “going forward,” she says, and is further changing its business model by releasing books in spring and fall, instead of only in the fall.

“It’s a leap of faith, but we have joy in doing this,” Waldman says, describing 2014 as “kind of a rebuilding year.” As Tristan rebrands, it is releasing only one title this fall, down from its typical six to 10 releases: My Boy, Ben: A Story of Love, Loss, and Grace by David Wheaton. Waldman compares the company’s first full-length book to Marley & Me, “but with a faith-based message.”

“We’re totally changing it up,” Waldman says. “We’re becoming more of a traditional publisher. We’re no longer shying away from publishing that [My Boy, Ben] kind of book.”

Obituary: Kay Sexton knew what Twin Cities – and America – wanted to read

From the Pioneer Press

By Mary Ann Grossmann

Kay Sexton, a former vice president of B. Dalton Bookseller whose reading recommendations were nationally influential, died Friday, October 17, at her home in Arden Hills. She was 91 and had been in declining health for several years, according to her niece, Leslie Walters.

Sexton, who never married but mentored many young booksellers and writers, was honored by The Friends of the St. Paul Public Library in 1988 when they established the Kay Sexton Award for outstanding contributions to the Minnesota literary community. The award, which has been given to publishers, authors and librarians, is presented at the annual Minnesota Book Awards  gala each spring.

“Kay was sharp. She always knew when a title was going to be great before anyone else in the country,” said Norton Stillman, one of Sexton’s oldest friends. They met in the early 1960s when she was selling books at St. Paul department stores.

Stillman, publisher of Nodin Press and former co-owner of the Bookmen book distributorship in Minneapolis, recalled Sexton contacted him late one afternoon at the Bookmen when she was managing B. Dalton’s flagship store in Southdale.

“She asked me to drop off copies of ‘Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex’ because she knew it was going to be a big seller,” Stillman recalled. “When she was managing the Southdale store, everybody called it ‘Kay’s store’ because she knew what she wanted to do and didn’t pay attention to the buyers. I think that’s why they made her a vice president and put her at headquarters.”

Kay Sexton with her booksSexton’s uncanny ability to pick winning books showed in her weekly in-house newsletter, officially known as Hooked on Books but affectionately referred to in the bookselling world as “the green sheet.” This publication, featuring Sexton’s thoughts on what books would appeal to middle America, became the bible of the publishing industry.David Unowksy, a Sexton Award-winner and former owner of the Hungry Mind/Ruminator Books, called Sexton “the person who made B. Dalton the dominant bookseller in America for 15 years. They were the first to bring authors to the Twin Cities in the days when touring authors only went to the coasts and Chicago. She was the driving force behind that. Her office in West Bloomington was the place major people in the industry went to bow down.”

Besides sending out the green sheet, Sexton was a local celebrity because of her weekly television show, “Hooked on Books.”

Marly Rusoff, a Sexton Award-winner who owned the Dinkytown bookstore where the Loft literary center began, was a young sales rep when “going to see Kay was the highlight of the season for me.”

Rusoff, a former vice president of several New York publishing houses, is a New York literary agent and publisher.

“Kay made New York publishers sit up and take notice of ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ when nobody was paying any attention,” Rusoff recalled of St. Paulite Robert Pirsig’s book. “Kay was first of all a passionate reader, the best in town with a keen sense of what people would be interested in.”

Everyone who came in contact with Sexton applauds her role as a mentor. Her family recalls that her bookcase-lined office held “the couch” where everyone from secretaries to book buyers and CEOs would come by to pour out their hearts or ask for advice. Her straightforward advice: Know your values, be true to your beliefs, and follow your passion.

Sexton’s three nephews and six nieces also benefited from their aunt’s wisdom.

“Kay was the go-to person when any of us had angst or needed a sounding board,” said Mary Sexton, oldest of the cousins and Kay Sexton’s goddaughter. “We were all kind of terrified of her because she said what she thought, and it wasn’t always exactly what we wanted to hear. She had strong opinions and you did not cross that.”

Mary Sexton, who worked at Odegard Books in St. Paul and was a publisher’s sales rep and bookseller in New York, said she never saw her aunt angry, although she could get irritated.

When Mary Sexton was a young woman, she had no idea of her aunt’s importance until she was in college and walked into a B. Dalton bookstore in New Orleans.

“There was Kay’s picture hanging on the wall,” Mary Sexton recalled. “I knew she was a big deal because she’d send me the green sheet. But I didn’t make the connection until, oh my gosh, I saw her picture.”

After Kay Sexton retired, she helped create the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and served on the board of Minneapolis-based Graywolf Press. She was legally blind in her last years, but her spirit stayed strong as she welcomed visitors to her luncheon table.

Funeral plans are pending.

Mary Ann Grossmann can be reached at 651-228-5574.

Saint Paul Public Library Wins Knight Green Line Challenge

wi-fi“Borrow the Internet” project will offer loans of Wi-Fi hotspots with free Internet service

SAINT PAUL, OCTOBER 14, 2014 – The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced today that the Saint Paul Public Library’s “Borrow the Internet” project was among sixteen winners of the Knight Green Line Challenge. The library received a $49,700 grant to increase Internet access in neighborhoods adjacent to the Green Line by lending out Wi-Fi hotspots from Rondo and Merriam Park Libraries. The library will launch “Borrow the Internet” later this year.

Twenty-two percent of Saint Paul households have no Internet service in the home. “Borrow the Internet” offers free portable Wi-Fi hotspots for the first time in Saint Paul. The hotspots will provide free Internet service that can be used 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, in any location.

A major project focus is providing Wi-Fi hotspots for Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) students who lack home Internet access and are using District-provided iPads. The library will offer iPad classes to parents of SPPS students to further support student and family learning. Other library cardholders will also be able to borrow hotspots to access the Internet outside of the library’s open hours.

“Borrow the Internet” will be based at two libraries situated close to the Green Line: Rondo Library, at 461 North Dale Street, and Merriam Park Library, at 1831 Marshall Avenue.

With Internet service and a library card, Saint Paul residents can access vital digital learning resources, including live homework help, practice tests for the SATs, e-books and magazines, reference assistance, and more. By borrowing Wi-Fi, an individual can take the time to complete an online job application or an e-government form that must be submitted in one online session.

About the Knight Green Line Challenge
An initiative of Knight Foundation, the three-year, $1.5 million challenge is a community-wide contest seeking projects to make Saint Paul neighborhoods along the new Green Line even more vibrant places to live, work, play and visit. The first year of the contest drew 579 applicants. For more information and to see all the winning projects, visit:

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The Foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. Find more at

About Saint Paul Public Library
Saint Paul Public Library connects people in Saint Paul with the imperative and the joy of learning through a lifetime. Saint Paul residents can enjoy free access to technology, books, movies, music, classes and more. They’re located in twelve neighborhood libraries, George Latimer Central Library and the Bookmobile. Visit them in your neighborhood or online at


Saint Paul Public Library Names Tony Yang as Deputy Director

SAINT PAUL, October 13, 2014 – The Saint Paul Public Library has named Tony Yang as Deputy Director. Yang, who will begin in this position on November 3, 2014, will serve as the library’s chief operating officer with responsibilities for budgeting and finance, administration and staffing, contracting, management reporting, and program evaluation. Yang will succeed Deputy Director Debbie Willms, who is retiring in November after a thirty-five-year career with the Saint Paul Public Library.

Tony Yang has been the Director of Adult and Family Mental Health Services at the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation since 2006. In previous positions, Yang supervised Ramsey County mental health services and health services to children and refugees. Yang brings deep experience with systems administration, evaluation, and staff development.

“Tony Yang brings many vital strengths to the library, and we look forward to working with him. He is a systems thinker with a passion for learning and supporting Saint Paul communities,” said Kit Hadley, Saint Paul Public Library Director. “The library is fortunate to transition from one gifted deputy director to another. Debbie Willms leaves a legacy of strong library programs, policies, and staff. She created and led many enduring initiatives that strengthened opportunities for staff growth and leadership. She has had a tremendous positive impact on learning in Saint Paul throughout her decades as a library leader.”

New Monthly F. Scott Fitzgerald Series Launches in November

Fitzgerald’s Short Stories Featured in New Program/Discussion Series

“Fitzgerald loved, hated, and was obsessed by St. Paul…
[his] short stories place Fitzgerald’s ambitions and gifts
in a cultural context too often ignored and forgotten.”

— author Charles Baxter

SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA – October 6, 2014 – FitzFirst@Four, a monthly series of presentations and discussions on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s finest short stories, launches this fall on Sunday, November 2, at 4 p.m. The monthly series, coordinated by Fitzgerald in Saint Paul, takes place at Common Good Books on Snelling Avenue in Saint Paul. It will feature presentations on the historical context, events or well-known personages that shaped each short story, followed by a group discussion of the selected story. Many of the stories chosen are set in familiar places and neighborhoods in and around Saint Paul, and attendees are encouraged to read the selected stories in advance.

The Scandal DetectivesThe series launches on Sunday, November 2 with Dave Page, Fitzgerald scholar, co-editor of The St. Paul Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and editor of The Thoughtbook of F. Scott Fitzgerald: a Secret Boyhood Diary. Page will provide context and history on Fitzgerald’s story, The Scandal Detectives, which first appeared in print in The Saturday Evening Post in 1928. In The Scandal Detectives, readers became fully acquainted with one of Fitzgerald’s most endearing and enduring young heroes – teenaged, Basil Duke Lee. On its publication, Fitzgerald wrote to his Saint Paul friend, Norris Jackson, “I have finally put your home in a story…” Indeed, this story reflects real events drawn from Fitzgerald’s adolescence when, at age 14, he and some of his Summit Avenue neighborhood companions formed a club called “The Gooserah.” Dave Page will help separate fact from fiction as the group explores the real neighborhood locations, families and children who animate this delightful story.

In December, FitzFirst@Four features Dr. Andrea Sachs, Assistant Director of College Counseling and faculty member in the History Department of Saint Paul Academy and Summit School. Dr. Sachs will provide a glimpse of the early history of the Saint Paul Academy – its distinguished faculty, its demanding curriculum, and some of the more renowned students and alumni from the period – including F. Scott Fitzgerald and his circle of Summit Avenue friends – all as background to the story, The Captured Shadow. In The Captured Shadow, the sixth of the nine “Basil” stories, Fitzgerald’s fifteen-year-old hero, Basil Duke Lee convinces his friends to put on a play he has written about a gentleman burglar known as “The Shadow.” The story is based on an actual event from August 1923, when Scott wrote a play – “a melodramatic farce, in three acts” – for his fellow classmates to perform. Under the guidance of Miss Elizabeth Magoffin, the real play ultimately debuted at Saint Paul’s Backus School for Girls. Readers may well ask, was Fitzgerald’s play ultimately about stopping a thief, or stealing hearts?

FitzFirst@Four takes place the first Sunday of every month at 4 p.m. at Common Good Books, located at the corner of Snelling and Grand Avenues, at 38 South Snelling Avenue, St. Paul. The series is co-sponsored by The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library and is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Fitzgerald in Saint Paul at, or visit Fitzgerald in Saint Paul is a new nonprofit organization dedicated to celebrating the life and literature of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the revered American author and cultural icon, in his hometown of Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Library Advocates Seek Expanded Hours, Materials in 2015

The Friends of the Library ask the City to protect Saint Paul’s world-class library by maintaining a minimum level of dedicated funding for the library’s collections budget, while ensuring access to materials with some restored hours of service.

August 18, 2014, SAINT PAUL, MN – The Advocacy Committee of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library has outlined its position platform for the 2015 Saint Paul Public Library budget. Each year, The Friends calls on City of Saint Paul elected officials to address critical needs at the Library. This year the priorities are strengthening the library’s collection and restoring some of the hours that have been lost in recent years.

In order to help the library better serve the most learners of all ages The Friends, along with constituents from every neighborhood in the city, ask the Mayor and City Council to increase funding for new books and materials by $500,000 and to expand hours (maintain Sunday hours at Merriam Park, add evening hours at 7 branches, and morning hours at 7 branches) with $500,000 in increased funding.

For too many years, the portion of the Library’s general operating budget for collections has been trimmed, cut, and supplemented with other, re-purposed and one-time funds. The advocates remain concerned about this trend and would prefer to see the budget fully support at least a minimum level for materials.

The Saint Paul Public Library has always been in the business of learning, but in the 21st century, the tools, technology, skills and content of learning are constantly changing. The Internet, e-readers, mobile apps and web-based services have had a major impact on how people find, gather, create, and share information. Internet access and digital literacy are prerequisites for engaging with commerce, education, employment, health care, and government services at all levels.

It’s well known that improving digital literacy is essential. To that end, the library is investing in resources that equip children and adults with 21st century skills. Throughout Saint Paul, the library is offering digital training programs for all ages, expanding digital services and collections, and renovating its facilities with updated technology and flexible, efficient spaces.

Saint Paul Public Library is uniquely positioned to provide the greatest accessibility to flexible, collaborative learning environments. The only significant limit to this access is the reduction in hours the library has had to adjust to in recent years. Restoring some evening and morning hours at seven libraries will get us back toward 2009 levels – not fully, but close. More importantly, access to critically needed services and learning resources will help close the achievement gap and allow people from all over the city to prepare for college and employment in the future.

The Friends has demonstrated its commitment while advocating for strong public support of the library by delivering solutions and financial support along with its requests. Since 1997, The Friends’ cumulative support for books, materials and special programs has been more than $10.7 million. That figure does not include $14+ million in private donations raised through capital campaigns.

In order to help the library better serve the most learners of all ages in neighborhoods across the city, The Friends’ Advocacy Committee presented the following requests to elected officials:

  1. $500,000 in new books and materials funding
  2. $500,000 for expanded hours – 67 additional hours per week
    (in priority order: maintain Merriam Park Sunday hours;
    evening hours at 7 branches; morning hours at 7 branches)

The Saint Paul Public Library is a place for collaborative learning and discovery, with a definition of service that goes well beyond checking out books. The Friends stand with the library and the city as together we face an exciting future, ripe with opportunity for all the people of Saint Paul.

For additional information on The Friends’ advocacy platform, please contact Peter Pearson at 651-222-3242 or by email:

2014 Crossword Tournament Scores Posted

We want to offer a special thanks to our amazing puzzle constructors and sponsors, all of whom helped make the 2014 tournament a great success.  For more information about our sponsors and constructors, please visit the Minnesota Crossword Tournament’s website.

For photos from our third annual tournament, visit us on Facebook


Amateur Finalists

Third Place: Michael Phenicie – 7:57
Second Place: Amy Paepke – 7:27
First Place: Anne Loring – 7:03

Expert Finalists

Third Place: Martin Eiger – uncompleted
Second Place: Carl Voss – 10:40
First Place: Mike Weepie – 7:24

Team Finalists

Third Place: “Must be Done in Time for Sports” – 7:30
First Place (tie): “Dewey 490″ – 6:45
First Place (tie): “Purcell” -  6:45



Amateur Contestants
Final Scores
Expert Contestants
Final Scores
Final Score
Amy Paepke3445Mike Weepie3405Paepke3470
Anne Loring3325Carl Voss3380Must Be Done In Time For Sports3370
Michael Phenicie3295Martin Eiger3355Tina and Phil3270
Samantha Klein3270Daniel Sadoff3305Purcell3220
Laura Henry3195Jacob Gelfand3280Dewey 4903200
Robert Lundegaard3175Peter Broda3230Click Treat3150
Joe Gaspard3170Jesse Grittner3205Neural Nerds3075
Martha Postlethwaite3125Marcia Brott3155Mellman and Labore2945
Andrea Ruby3025Stewart Lelievre3060DAM Puzzlers2880
Becca Greenstein2895Ginny Agresti3005Larson and Schulz2855
Lisa Odom2850David Bael2915UMN Visit Office2710
Marilyn Ruby2790Thomas Cody2890Brandon and Leigh2645
Scott Trantina2780Martha Truax2475Rubies are a Girl's Best Friend2495
Steven Pellinen2600Martha Hardesty2205S Words2435
Deane Morrison2510Walter Blue2080Stein and Griffin1870
Drew Lawn2430Kay Mickelson1500Anderson Family1820
Sheila Frankfurt2365Team Ink1680
Clare Ritter1620
Amy Crosseen740
Amy Frankfurt490

In Memory of Mary Ida Thomson

Minnesota’s literary community lost a seminal leader with the recent death of Mary Ida Thomson, one of the founders of the Minnesota Book Awards and a Trustee Emerita of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library. A Matching Gift Memorial grant is announced by The Katherine B. Andersen Fund of The Saint Paul Foundation.


“Minnesota Festival of the Book co-founder, Mary Ida Thomson, dies at 92″

by  Mary Ann Grossman, Pioneer Press (6/3/2014)

MUGPROCMary Ida Thomson was often in the news in 1988 when she co-chaired the first Minnesota Festival of the Book as chair of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library Board of Trustees. She served on the boards of St. Croix Valley Girl Scouts, Minnesota Church Foundation, the Charities Review Council and People Inc. and was involved with the Harriet Tubman Center. Many Sundays found her counting the collections at House of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul. Thomson was elected to The Friends Board in 1979. She served until 1992, the last six years as president. She has since then been honored as a Trustee Emeritus. “Mary Ida was kind, warm, generous, very smart and insightful,” said Peter Pearson, who was hired as The Friends’ first executive director (now president) when Thomson was in office.

One of Thomson’s lasting legacies will be the Minnesota Festival of the Book, a 10-day event that drew thousands of people to Rice Park and other local venues. Thomson got the idea when she and Leslie Wolfson, festival events coordinator for The Friends, traveled to Key West, Florida, to visit that city’s book fair. The idea for a local festival became reality when Scott Walker, then publisher of Graywolf Press, joined the board as a community representative. The Friends provided $29,000 in staff support and specific expenditures for the festival, a celebration of literature that included the first Minnesota Book Awards. Thomson admitted in a Pioneer Press interview before the festival that it was a leap of faith for the group to be at the forefront of this huge event requiring coordination of 96 organizations. “It was the right idea at the right time,” she said.

“Mary Ida’s friends are concerned that her contributions, particularly to the community of the book, will go unheralded,” said Mary Treacy, past director of Metronet, the umbrella organization that serves local libraries. “It’s no exaggeration to say that the strength and breadth of Minnesota’s book community rests on the vision of Mary Ida. She sought out and nurtured people and ideas.” Edie Meissner, Book Festival project director, recalls that “Mary Ida was constantly supportive. She didn’t have a lot of ego. She just worked hard.”

In 1991, Thomson and another Friends stalwart, the late Jeanne Fischer, showed what advocacy meant after the St. Paul City Council tried to cut $400,000 from the library budget. The women organized group members to show up at hearings and make speeches from the floor in defense of libraries. With one week’s notice they obtained 3,000 signatures from people who opposed the cuts. The City Council listened, and $100,000 was reinstated.

Although Thomson’s memory loss kept her from participating in activities, her friends have not forgotten the impact she had on people and organizations. Treacy said: “A n ever-growing circle of ‘Friends of Mary Ida’ share memories of an extraordinary woman whose gentle hand and wise counsel touched so many lives. To the end, she never lost her sense of dignity.”

She will be remembered at a memorial service on Friday, June 27 at 11:00 AM at First Congregational Church of Minnesota, 500 Eighth Ave. S.E., Minneapolis, Minnesota 55414. All are invited to attend a reception at the church immediately following the service. Read obituary>>

Announcing the Matching Grant

The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library is now pleased to announce that The Katherine B. Andersen Fund of The Saint Paul Foundation has offered a matching gift challenge grant for memorial gifts in memory of Mary Ida Thomson, up to $10,000. All gifts to the memorial book endowment fund will be matched, dollar-for dollar by this grant. Please keep in mind that for every $25 contributed to the Book Endowment Fund, a bookplate inscribed with Mary Ida’s name and, if desired, the name of the donor, will be placed in a newly purchased book at the Library. A gift of $500 will endow the purchase of a book each year in perpetuity. Memorial gifts are also  acknowledged in The Friends’ and the Saint Paul Public Library’s shared annual report. Click here to learn more or make a secure, online memorial gift now. Contributors of long-lasting tributes of $500 or more are automatically members of The Donor Society, which recognizes The Friends’ most generous individual supporters. Smaller gifts count toward the cumulative $500 annual giving level required for Donor Society membership.