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.