Pen Pals

Award-winning author lecture series bringing literature’s legendary voices, thoughtful conversation, and genuine connection to the Twin Cities literary community.


Box Office 

(612) 543-8112 

Current Hours:
M - Th: 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
F:   9 a.m. - 12 noon

Individual Ticket Prices:
$45 - $55

Subscriptions to the 2021-22 season are sold out.

Individual Tickets

In-person & Virtual Tickets Now On Sale!

Buy Individual Tickets

Friends of HCL members receive $5 off per ticket (phone sales only).



Cover and inside preview mockup of Fall 2021 Events Guide on orange background

Check out the Friends Fall Events Guide!

Our Fall Events Guide is a great place to learn more about upcoming author events, the library's impact, and Friends of HCL supporters like you. 

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Friends of the Hennepin County Library is committed to making in-person attendance at our Pen Pals events as safe as possible during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Our current policies are as follows.

  • Masks will be required for all guests inside Hopkins Center for the Arts (HCA.)
  • To attend an in-person Pen Pals event, all guests are required to have proof of a complete COVID-19 vaccination series or a negative test result taken within 72 hours prior. Find a vaccination location near you here.
  • Acceptable documentation to provide at event entry includes: physical vaccination card, photo of the card on a mobile device, or similar proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test. Ticket holders who do not comply with these policies will not be admitted. 
  • A virtual backup option will be provided to all ticket holders for events in the 2021-22 season, should they be unvaccinated or feel safer staying home. Ticket holders to both sessions will automatically receive access to a livestream of the evening event, and a link to an on-demand recording will be sent the day following. This recording will be viewable for three days.
  • HCA ventilation systems were updated to improve filtration and circulation in November 2020. These updates bring the auditorium and venue up to air purification standards like those found in commercial aircrafts.
  • Ticketed food and wine receptions following evening lectures will be suspended until further notice. Book signings following evening and morning lectures will only continue at the discretion of the author, and updates will be communicated either via email prior to each event, or from the stage.
  • Hand sanitization stations will be available throughout the HCA lobbies.

The above policies are subject to revision based on current recommendations from health agencies. Ticket holders will be notified via email with any event protocol updates. Ticket purchases are only refundable in the unlikely case that both the in-person and virtual events are canceled.

Thank you for your partnership in keeping all Pen Pals audience members safe and healthy.

Friends of HCL strives to make our Pen Pals lectures accessible to all patrons. Below is a description of available services and amenities. Please call our box office ((612) 543-8112) with questions.


Open Captioning (OC) provides a live, real-time transcription of Pen Pals lectures. The service is open to all audience members for viewing without any special equipment necessary. An open captioning monitor screen will be located on the right-hand side of the main floor for all lectures.

Closed Captioning (CC) provides a similar transcription for virtual events on Zoom. To activate during a Zoom presentation, click the icon and select “Show Subtitles.”

Assistive Listening Devices

Assistive Listening Devices amplify and clarify sound by cutting down ambient noise, and may be used from any seat at the Hopkins Center for the Arts. Devices, headphones, and earbuds may be borrowed from the Pen Pals box office at all lectures.

Accessible Seating

Accessible and companion seating can be reserved on the main floor and balcony levels of Hopkins Center for the Arts. Please call our box office directly to purchase accessible and companion seating. 

Accessible Parking

Accessible parking is available at the rear of Hopkins Center for the Arts and on the street level of the public parking ramp.


All in-person Pen Pals programs are held at the Hopkins Center for the Arts—offering great sound and sight lines for the entire house. Just 15 minutes from downtown Minneapolis and 28 minutes from Saint Paul, Hopkins Center for the Arts offers free convenient parking as well as numerous nearby restaurants. Please click the button below to download a detailed directions and parking guide.

Hopkin Center for the Arts

1111 Mainstreet
Hopkins, MN 55343

Download Directions & Parking Guide

Worn copies of a favorite book clutched in a hand; a heart giddy with joy upon getting a favorite author’s photograph; a car ride home, lively with discussion about an author’s story and writing process--these once-in-a-lifetime moments and connections are what bring audiences back to Pen Pals year after year.

Starting in 1997, Pen Pals has brought some of the best and brightest literary minds to the Minnesota literary community, fostering thought-provoking conversation, creating genuine connection, and building community through a shared love of books.

Pen Pals has been an important fixture in the Minnesota literary community as well as a source of funding for the library. Proceeds from these talks with masters of contemporary literature benefit Hennepin County Library, helping to bring resources and opportunities to people from across the county.

What difference does a ticket make? 

Read stories of impact

Past Seasons

Since 1997, Friends of HCL has brought the best and brightest in literary talent to the Pen Pals stage. Explore the legendary writers featured in past seasons.

2020 - 2021

Colum McCann
Nikki Giovanni
Yaa Gyasi
Susan Choi
Erik Larson

2019 - 2020

Susan Orlean
Ann Patchett
Esi Edugyan
Reza Aslan
Tommy Orange

2018 - 2019

Timothy Egan
Amor Towles
Min Jin Lee
Lauren Groff
Celeste Ng

2017 - 2018

Alan Alda
Jennifer Egan
Dan Rather
Colson Whitehead
Jesmyn Ward

2016 - 2017

Anna Quindlen
Billy Collins
Lee Child
Elizabeth Strout
James McBride

2015 - 2016

Judy Blume
Marlon James
Jon Meacham
Terry Tempest Williams
Anthony Doerr

2014 - 2015

Joyce Carol Oates 
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Kevin Kling
Jodi Picoult
Chip Kidd

2013 - 2014

George Saunders
A.S. Byatt
Luis Alberto Urrea 
Art Spiegelman 
Tracy K. Smith


2012 - 2013

Salman Rushdie
Alice Kaplan
Roz Chast 
Dennis Lehane 
Armistead Maupin

2011 - 2012

Jhumpa Lahiri
Michael Ondaatje
Wallace Shawn
Brian Greene
Arthur Phillips

2010 - 2011

Lorna Landvik
Bill Bryson
Ann Patchett
Mark Doty
Dave Eggers

2009 - 2010

Erik Larson
Azar Nafisi
Michael Chabon
William Kent Krueger
Sarah Vowell

2008 - 2009

Michael Beschloss
Alexandra Fuller
Richard Russo
Tony Kushner
Tim O'Brien

2007 - 2008

Kaye Gibbons
Tracy Kidder
Daniel Handler
Yann Martel
Robert Alexander

2006 - 2007

Amy Tan 
David McCullough
Vince Flynn
Rick Bragg
Bruce Feiler

2005 - 2006

Richard Ford
Alexander McCall Smith
Khaled Hosseini
Anchee Min 


2004 - 2005

Anna Deavere Smith
Frances Mayes
Stephen L. Carter
Donald Hall
Isabel Allende

2003 - 2004

David Halberstam
Alice Sebold
Edward Albee
Naomi Shihab Nye
Jane Hamilton

2002 - 2003

William Styron
Wendy Wasserstein
Anne Lamott
Billy Collins
Calvin Trillin

2001 - 2002

Anne Fadiman
John Updike
Susan Sontag
Roberty Pinsky
Dave Barry

2000 - 2001

Rebecca Wells
Scott Turow
Margaret Atwood
Ernest Gaines
Jane Hamilton

1999 - 2000

Molly Ivins
Wally Lamb
Tom Wolfe
Russell Banks
Ray Bradbury

1998 - 1999

Mary Higgins Clark
Louise Erdrich
Ursula Hegi
Anna Quindlen
David McCullough

1997 - 1998

Amy Tan
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Frank McCourt
Pat Conroy




Thank You to Our 2021-22 Season Sponsors  

Advertise to 7000 annual Pen Pals audience members and support the library by becoming a sponsor today!

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