Delia Owens, author of "Where the Crawdads Sing," to speak at Friends of the Dallas Public Library dinner

“The Exall Award was designed to honor outstanding leaders like Kay, and we are thrilled to honor all she’s done.”


Kay Cattarulla, who founded the acclaimed Arts & Letters Live literary series at the Dallas Museum of Art, will be honored with the May Dickson Exall Award at the Friends of the Dallas Public Library annual dinner on Thursday, November 14, 2019.


The award, recognizing outstanding contributions to libraries and literacy in North Texas, is named for the fabled civic leader who led the effort to open Dallas’s first public library in 1899.


Cattarulla moved to Dallas in 1990 from New York, where she conceived and initiated Selected Shorts, a series of short fiction readings by well-known personalities that is still one of the most popular programs on public radio. She brought the same creativity and ambition to her new home.


“The New York experience was so totally gratifying that I believed it would work here as well,” Cattarulla said. “And from the beginning people came and filled the place. It just gave me a great feeling about Dallas.”


Arts & Letters Live, which Cattarulla produced for the first twelve seasons, brings important writers to read and discuss their work. One of its offshoots, Texas Bound, features celebrities with Texas connections reading Texas-themed short fiction.


“These wonderful programs are just part of Kay’s amazing contribution to the literary life of Dallas,” said Mary Wilonsky, Friends of the Dallas Public Library executive director. “The Exall Award was designed to honor outstanding leaders like Kay, and we are thrilled to honor all she’s done.”


The annual banquet benefits Friends of the Dallas Public Library, the nonprofit organization that provides financial support and advocates for the city’s twenty-nine libraries and their educational programs. Rolex is the evening’s presenting sponsor, with more sponsorships still available and individual tickets starting at $175.


The featured speaker at the dinner will be Delia Owens, whose book Where the Crawdads Sing has topped bestseller lists for more than six months. It is her first novel after a career as a wildlife scientist in Africa. Owens wrote three bestselling nonfiction books about her work, including Cry of the Kalahari. She now lives in Idaho.


 May Dickson Exall, a native Texan, campaigned for the establishment of the Dallas Public Library and was its first president. She hosted art exhibitions in the library, which led to the founding of the Dallas Museum of Art. Exall died in 1936.         


In addition to Arts & Letters Live, Cattarulla wrote the play, Scott and Zelda, about the author F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, co-wrote the documentary, Sweet Tornado: Margo Jones and the American Theater, and edited Texas Bound, a collection of short stories. The Texas Institute of Letters honors her by annually presenting the Kay Cattarulla Award for the best short fiction written by a Texan or with a Texas theme.


The banquet will be held at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library in downtown Dallas and is co-chaired by Susan Fisk and Nicole Paquette.


For more information or to purchase tickets, call the Friends at (214) 670-1458 or log on to