History

Graywolf Press is a leading independent publisher committed to the discovery and energetic publication of contemporary American and international literature. We champion outstanding writers at all stages of their careers to ensure that diverse voices can be heard in a crowded marketplace.

 

We believe books that nourish the individual spirit and enrich the broader culture must be supported by attentive editing, superior design, and creative promotion.

 

Graywolf Press was founded by Scott Walker in Port Townsend, Washington, in 1974. Graywolf’s first publications were limited-edition chapbooks of poetry, which were printed on a letterpress and hand sewn by Walker and his colleagues.

 

Over the years Graywolf has expanded its list to include novels, short stories, memoirs, essays, as well as poetry. The Press has discovered and/or promoted such writers as:

Elizabeth Alexander, Deborah Baker, Mary Jo Bang, Kevin Barry, Charles Baxter, Sven Birkerts, Eula Biss, Robert Boswell, John D’Agata, Percival Everett, Nuruddin Farah, Nick Flynn, Tess Gallagher, Dana Gioia, Albert Goldbarth, Linda Gregg, Eamon Grennan, Matthea Harvey, Tony Hoagland, Leslie Jamison, Jane Kenyon, William Kittredge, Ander Monson, Maggie Nelson, Per Petterson, Carl Phillips, Claudia Rankine, Salvatore Scibona, Vijay Seshadri, Tracy K. Smith, William Stafford, Natasha Trethewey, David Treuer, and Brenda Ueland.

 

Today, Graywolf is considered one of the nation’s leading nonprofit literary publishers.

 

Graywolf Press was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 1984, and in 1985, thanks in part to generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts and from local philanthropic organizations, Graywolf moved to Saint Paul, Minnesota.

 

In 1987, Graywolf reissued the classic If You Want to Write by Minnesota writer Brenda Ueland, which has become the Press’s best-selling title, with more than 300,000 copies in print. In 1988, the Press published the groundbreaking anthology Multi-Cultural Literacy as the fifth volume in the Graywolf Annual series.

 

In 1992, the Press was recognized as a leader in the field by grants from major national funders, including the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund.

 

In March 1994, Scott Walker resigned and the Press was run by board president Page Cowles until October 1994, when Fiona McCrae was named as the new director.

 

By 1995, it was clear that Graywolf had emerged even stronger as a result of the transition period. Graywolf’s continued leadership in the field was affirmed by a major grant from the Mellon Foundation to support its new phase of development.

 

In 1996, Graywolf published Otherwise: New & Selected Poems by Jane Kenyon, which has sold more than 55,000 copies to date. With support from USWest, Graywolf launched the first incarnation of its web site.

 

In 1997, Graywolf began an innovative collaborative partnership with the College of Saint Benedict in Saint Joseph, Minnesota, which has grown to include an author residency program and the S. Mariella Gable publication series.

 

Graywolf marked its twenty-fifth anniversary in 1999 with a series of national events and the publication of The Graywolf Silver Anthology. Graywolf entered the Bush Foundation’s Regional Arts Development Program, which went on to support the Press’s general operations for ten years.

 

In 2002, Graywolf began a distribution relationship with Farrar, Straus & Giroux, a historic alliance that both confirmed Graywolf’s position as a significant American press and increased Graywolf’s services to its readers and writers. Graywolf re-entered the important field of literary translation, thanks to funding from the Lannan Foundation.

 

Graywolf celebrated its thirtieth year of distinguished literary publishing in 2004, with major events across the country. Graywolf’s anniversary year was crowned by winning the Sally Ordway Irvine Award for vision in January 2005.

 

In 2006, Graywolf completed its ambitious Advance Fund campaign, through which we raised $1 million, primarily from individuals, to support editorial and marketing initiatives through 2009. This achievement was unprecedented in the field at the time. One program supported in part by the Advance Fund is the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize, which was launched in 2006.

 

Norwegian writer Per Petterson’s novel Out Stealing Horses won the 2007 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the world’s largest prize for a single work of fiction published in English. It was named one of the best books of the year by the New York Times Book Review and Time, and went on to become a national best seller.

 

Graywolf poet Elizabeth Alexander was chosen by Barack Obama to read an original poem at his presidential inauguration in 2009. Later that year, Graywolf moved its offices from Saint Paul to the Traffic Zone Center for Visual Art in Minneapolis. The archives of the Press were purchased by the University of Minnesota’s Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts division, and are housed at the Elmer L. Andersen Library.

 

In 2011, Graywolf poet Tomas Tranströmer was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, and Graywolf acquired June Fourth Elegies, a collection of the poetry of the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

 

In 2012, Tracy K. Smith was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry for Life on Mars. Graywolf received the Minnesota Nonprofit Excellence Award from MAP for Nonprofits and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.

 

In 2013, Incarnadine by Mary Szybist won the National Book Award for poetry, Useless Landscape by D. A. Powell won the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry, and City of Bohane by Kevin Barry won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

 

In 2014, Vijay Seshadri was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry for 3 Sections. Citizen by Claudia Rankine and Second Childhood by Fanny Howe were finalists for the National Book Award in poetry. Graywolf celebrated its fortieth anniversary and completed its second major fundraising campaign, the $2 million Next Page Campaign.

 

In 2015, Claudia Rankine won the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry for Citizen, after a historic double nomination in both the criticism and poetry categories. Graywolf won the AWP Small Press Publisher Award and was profiled in New York Magazine's online culture section Vulture.

 

In 2016The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson won the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism and Four-Legged Girl by Diane Seuss was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.