2017 Viola Award Nominee for Excellence in Leadership

James Jay (right) and Jesse Sensibar are the creative minds behind Flagstaff’s premier literary event, The Northern Arizona Book Festival. Through thousands of volunteer man and woman hours this all volunteer organization event has been bringing authors, poets, playwrights and publishers together in Flagstaff for 21 years. This event draws attention to local literary talent in Flagstaff while also drawing in literary talent from all over the Southwest. The event also features the Young Reader Fest, which gives the local and regional children’s and young adult authors a chance to read and share their literary work.

The duo also founded and manage the Viola Award-winning Narrow Chimney Reading Series. The weekly event features readings from prominent published authors, both locals and regional, as well as students from NAU. They average well over forty attendees on a weekly basis. The readings are free and open to the public, and the writers, the venue, and organizers all donate their time and energy. The results are a dynamic and vibrant reading series, and its energy ripples through the community of Flagstaff. The series is hosted at Jay’s Uptown Pubhouse in downtown Flagstaff.

James Jay has worked as a bartender, a wildland firefighter, book seller, surveyor, and furniture mover. He received a MFA from the University of Montana and a MA in Literature from Northern Arizona University. He currently lives in Flagstaff, Arizona where he has taught poetry at the jail, the public schools and the University. He is a writer for FlagLive, writing the Bartender Wisdom bi-monthly column. He is also the Executive Director of the Northern Arizona Book Festival. His bar, the Uptown Pubhouse is a popular Flagstaff watering hole and pool hall. However, it has also become an important venue for literature and creative writing over the past few years.

Jesse Sensibar (right) has been James Jay’s partner in creating and implementing the Narrow Chimney Reading Series. He was raised on the Southside of Chicago, but for the last quarter of a century has made his home in Flagstaff. Here he works as a writer, truck driver, English teacher, wild-land firefighter, and pool hall bouncer.

From the nomination letter:

“The hard work put in by James and Jesse is a labor of love. Their dedication and hard work brings our community together to experience and celebrate writing, a valuable endeavor indeed. Because of the valuable work they do for our community, please consider James Jay and Jesse Sensibar as nominees to receive a Viola Award.”

James Jay website

Jesse Sensibar reading – video

NAZ Book Festival

Narrow Chimney Facebook Page