Pen Pals Celebrates 20 Years of Extraordinary Author Lectures

May 4, 2016

Friends of the Hennepin County Library is pleased to announce the 20th anniversary season of Pen Pals, the award winning and longest running literary series in the Twin Cities.

The 20th Anniversary Pen Pals season offers a range of literary personalities including two Pulitzer Prize winners, a two-term U.S. Poet Laureate, author of a bestselling thriller series, and a special musical season finale with a National Book Award winner.

  • Anna Quindlen - Bestselling author, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist,  and social critic
    • Sept. 22, 2016, 7:30 PM  /  Sept. 23, 2016, 11 AM
  • Billy Collins – Two-term U.S. Poet Laureate and “the most popular poet in America”
    • Oct. 13, 2016, 7:30 PM   /  Oct. 14, 2016, 11 AM
  • Lee Child – Author of the bestselling Jack Reacher thriller series
    • Feb. 16, 2017, 7:30 PM  /  Feb. 17, 2017, 11 AM
  • Elizabeth Strout – Pulitzer-winning author of Olive Kitteridge & My Name is Lucy Barton
    • Mar. 30, 2017, 7:30 PM  /  Mar. 31, 2016, 11 AM
  • James McBride and The Good Lord Bird Band – Author of classic American memoir The Color of Water and 2013 National Book Award winner The Good Lord Bird joined on stage with his jazz/gospel band
    •  May 11, 2017, 7:30 PM  /  May 12, 2017, 11 AM

Subscriptions (starting at $160) can be ordered starting May 9.  You can order a subscription by phone at 612-543-8112 (M - F, 9 AM - 4:30 PM) or download an order form at Subscribers save 20% on their ticket purchase!

Individual tickets are $40/$50 and go on sale August 9.

Proceeds benefit Friends of HCL. Friends of the Hennepin County Library (Friends of HCL) members receive an additional discount of $10 per subscription or $5 per ticket.

Thanks to our numerous individual and corporate season sponsors including Standard Heating and Air Conditioning, RBC Wealth Management, BNSF Railway, and anonymous support in honor of Special Olympics of MN.

ABOUT PEN PALS: All Pen Pals programs are held at the Hopkins Center for the Arts — located at 1111 Mainstreet in Hopkins. Tickets are $40 -$50 (prices include all taxes and handling fees) and can be purchased online at or by calling 612-543-8112.


Friends of the Hennepin County Library enriches the resources and enhances the potential of the Hennepin County Library. Friends of HCL raises support for essential HCL programs and services such as Homework Help, Teen Tech Squad, and Senior Outreach as well as for the key HCL initiatives of engaging readers of all ages, expanding early learning environments, and supporting kindergarten-readiness programs.


Anna Quindlen

September 22, 2016 - 7:30 pm

September 23, 2016 - 11 am 

Bestselling author, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and social critic Anna Quindlen has drawn in millions of readers with her astute perspectives on issues ranging from family, work, and education to health care, philanthropy, and social justice. Named one of the top “100 Outstanding Journalists in the United States of the Last 100 Years,” Quindlen has written for The New York Post and The New York Times. Her nationally syndicated column “Public and Private” won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1992. Quindlen’s latest novel, Miller’s Valley, was called “overwhelmingly moving” by The New York Times, and follows a young woman who unearths deep secrets about her family and unexpected truths about herself.


Billy Collins

October 13, 2016 - 7:30 pm

October 14, 2016 - 11 am 

Dubbed “the most popular poet in America” by Bruce Weber in The New York Times, Billy Collins is famous for conversational, witty poems that welcome readers with humor, but often slip into quirky, tender, and profound observations on daily life. Collins’ poetry has appeared in classic anthologies and top literary magazines including the American Poetry Review, Harper’s, Paris Review, and The New Yorker. Collins served as U.S. Poet Laureate from 2001 to 2003, and as the New York State Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006. He released Aimless Love, his first volume of new and selected poems in twelve years, in 2014. His newest collection of poems, The Rain in Portugal, will be published in October 2016.

  • Each ticket includes a copy of Mr. Collins’ latest book!


Lee Child

February 16, 2017 - 7:30 pm

February 17, 2017 - 11 am 

A native of England, author Lee Child is best known for his internationally bestselling Jack Reacher series. Before becoming an author, Child attended law school, worked part-time in the theater, and worked as a director for Granada Television in Manchester during Britain’s “golden age” of television. After nearly two decades working in television, Child was abruptly fired due to “corporate restructuring”. Always a voracious reader, he saw an opportunity where others might have seen a crisis, and bought six dollars’ worth of paper and pencils and sat down to write a book, Killing Floor – the first in the Jack Reacher series. Since then, the series has been adapted into a commercially successful movie franchise, starring Tom Cruise. The latest feature film, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, will hit theaters in October 2016. His newest book, Night School will be released in November 2016.

  • Each ticket includes a copy of Mr. Child’s latest book!


Elizabeth Strout

March 30, 2017 - 7:30 pm

March 31, 2017 - 11 am 

From an early age, Elizabeth Strout was drawn to reading and writing, and spent hours of her childhood at her local library, lingering among the stacks of fiction. Today, she is the author of several award-winning novels, including Abide with Me, a national bestseller, Amy and Isabelle, a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, and Olive Kitteridge, winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize. In 2014, Olive Kitteridge was made into a popular HBO miniseries, starring Frances McDormand, and won six Emmy Awards. Her latest book, My Name is Lucy Barton quickly became a New York Times Besteller, and tells the story of how a simple hospital visit can become a portal to the most tender relationship of all – the one between mother and daughter.


James McBride and The Good Lord Bird Band

May 11, 2017 - 7:30 pm

May 12, 2017 - 11 am 

James McBride is a renaissance man and a born storyteller. A graduate of Oberlin College and the Columbia School of Journalism, McBride has written for , , and . His landmark memoir The Color of Water sold more than two million copies, spent two years on The New York Times Bestseller List, and is now considered an American classic, read in colleges and high schools nationwide. McBride’s The Good Lord Bird follows American revolutionary John Brown, and was winner of the 2013 National Book Award for Fiction. His latest book, Kill ‘Em and Leave: Searching for the Real James Brown, is an authorized biography of legendary musician James Brown.

In a touching musical season finale exploring the nature of identity, race and heritage, McBride (on saxophone and vocals) will be joined on stage by The Good Lord Bird Band members: Show Tyme Brooks (drums), Trevor Exter (bass), Adam Faulk (piano), and Keith Robinson (guitar).