James Lenfestey Named 2020 Kay Sexton Award Recipient

SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA, February 27, 2020The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library announced today that James Lenfestey is the winner of the 2020 Kay Sexton Award for his significant contributions to and leadership in Minnesota’s literary community. Sponsored by St. Catherine University, the award is presented annually to an individual or organization in recognition of longstanding dedication and outstanding work in fostering books, reading, and literary activity in Minnesota and is part of the 2020 Minnesota Book Awards, presented this year by sponsor Education Minnesota.

Lenfestey is the author or editor of a dozen books, including Seeking the Cave: A Pilgrimage to Cold Mountain, a Minnesota Book Award finalist, and multiple collections of essays and poems, including A Marriage Book, a finalist for two midwest book awards.His edited anthologies include Robert Bly in This World. Lenfestey is a former college English instructor, marketing communications consultant, and editorial writer for the Star Tribune, where he won several Page One awards for excellence. He chaired the board of Minnesota Center for Book Arts, served on the capital campaign committee for Open Book, and on the boards of the Loft Literary Center, The Circle native newspaper, the Anderson Center, and the Friends of the University Libraries, among others. For 15 years he chaired the Literary Witnesses poetry series at Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis and taught poets and poetry on Mackinac Island, Michigan. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife Susan. They have four children and eight grandchildren.

Panelist Daniel Slager, Publisher & CEO of Milkweed Editions, praised Jim’s many achievements. “He has supported and championed the work of all our great independent literary presses. He has served on the boards of such organizations as the Loft Literary Center, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and the Anderson Center. He was among the visionaries who conceived of Open Book, and then organized effectively to establish the nation’s largest standalone literary and book-arts center, an unparalleled public asset in our region. He chaired the campaign that led to the University of Minnesota’s acquisition of the literary archive of Robert Bly. He was among the founders and has been a longtime supporter of The Circle, a monthly newspaper serving the Native American community.  And he chaired the Literary Witnesses program for many years, bringing the nation’s leading poets to our community for unforgettable public events.”

Other panelists celebrated his unparalleled energy and advocacy that create a throughline in his work and life. Margaret Telfer, board member of Graywolf Press National Council, explains “it is his unbridled enthusiasm, his deep work in organizations large and small, and his leadership that make our Minnesota literary ecosystem exceptional…He is not only kind to writers and readers; he is generous to their causes. He is deeply involved as a writer, a promoter, a donor, and an attendee.”

Lenfestey will be honored at the 32nd annual Minnesota Book Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, April 28 at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts. Awards will also be presented to winners in nine categories, and to recipients of the Book Artist Award and Hognander Minnesota History Award. The Preface Reception begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by the Awards Ceremony at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $45 and can be purchased at www.ordway.org/mnba or by calling 651.224.4222. The official hashtag for social media is #mnbookawards.

About the Minnesota Book Awards:
The Minnesota Book Awards is a year-long program of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library that connects readers and writers throughout the state with the stories of our neighbors. The process begins in the fall with book submissions and continues through winter with two rounds of judging. Winners are announced at the Minnesota Book Awards Ceremony each spring. Woven throughout the season are events that promote the authors and connect the world of Minnesota books – writers, artists, illustrators, publishers, editors, and more – to readers throughout the state. In recognition of this and its other statewide programs and services, the Library of Congress has recognized The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library as the state’s designated Center for the Book. For more information visit thefriends.org/mnba.  

About The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library:
Celebrating 75 years, The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library acts as a catalyst for libraries to strengthen and inspire their communities. An independent, nonprofit organization established in 1945, The Friends invests in the Saint Paul Public Library through fundraising, advocacy, and programming; as a result, our Library is a nationally-recognized leader in serving its community. The Friends also serves libraries across the country and internationally through its consulting services, Library Strategies, and promotes literacy, reading, and libraries statewide as the Library of Congress’s designated Minnesota Center for the Book. For more information, contact The Friends at 651-222-3242 or visit thefriends.org.