Authored on
November 8, 2021
Media Holder
Photo of Graywolf Director/Publisher Fiona McCrae

After twenty-seven years as director and publisher at Graywolf Press, Fiona McCrae has announced her retirement effective June 2022.

McCrae joined Graywolf Press in 1994, only the second publisher to lead the press after its founding by Scott Walker in 1974. Previously she was an editor at Faber & Faber in London and then Boston.

During her tenure at Graywolf, McCrae and the team of editors that she put together have blazed a distinctive trail in the publishing and literary landscape. Dedicated to unsung genres and underrepresented voices in contemporary literature, and described by the Washington Post as a press that punches “far above its weight with such astonishing consistency,” Graywolf has published writers who have been recognized with a wide range of awards and nominations, including the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize, the Booker Prize, the Booker International Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the International Dublin Literary Award. Writers such as Elizabeth Alexander, Eula Biss, Jamel Brinkley, Anna Burns, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Natalie Diaz, Percival Everett, Jakob Guanzon, Leslie Jamison, Layli Long Soldier, Carmen Maria Machado, Maggie Nelson, Dorthe Nors, Max Porter, Claudia Rankine, Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, Vijay Seshadri, Danez Smith, Tracy K. Smith, Mary Szybist, and Kevin Young continue to change the literary landscape in exhilarating and dynamic ways.

Over the years, McCrae expanded the reach of the press by working with the Graywolf staff to forge partnerships with other organizations, such as the College of St. Benedict, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conferences, the Library of Congress, the Academy of American Poets, the Poetry Foundation, Cave Canem, A Public Space, and Farrar, Straus and Giroux, which has distributed Graywolf’s titles since 2002.

McCrae oversaw the creation of Graywolf’s National Council, the Citizen Literary Fellowship, and the popular Art of series of short books on the craft of writing, as well as the launch of significant prizes such as the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize and the African Fiction Prize.

Under McCrae’s leadership, annual individual giving at Graywolf rose considerably and she successfully led three groundbreaking fundraising campaigns for the press, including the $3 million New Chapter Campaign, which was completed last month and is designed to be invested in editorial and audience initiatives, as well as infrastructure. Graywolf has consistently received major grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Minnesota State Arts Board, and the Lannan, Target, and McKnight Foundations.

McCrae is currently Vice Chair of the National Book Foundation board, serves on the boards of the Anderson Center and the literary journal Fence, and is an advisor for Orion Magazine. She was awarded the CLMP Golden Colophon for leadership in 2014, and received the Poets & Writers Editor’s Award with Graywolf Press Executive Editor Jeff Shotts in 2017. 

Reflecting on her years at Graywolf, McCrae says, “It’s an emotional moment to think about stepping away from this beloved press that has allowed me to flourish over so many years. It’s been a marvelous adventure and I am so grateful to all the incredible individuals I have had the pleasure of working with, from the exceptional staff and board to all our cherished and talented writers. Their words have changed and enriched me in countless ways. I have loved it all: discovering new writers, seeing new covers come together, traveling to meet national and international colleagues, the successes—large and small, the readings, the conferences and book fairs. Such riches—I have been so lucky. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters the press is in robust shape, ready for a fresh vision to guide it to its new chapter.”

To ensure a seamless transition, a committee led by Cathy Polasky, the chair of the Graywolf Board of Directors, will convene to search for a successor. She says, “We celebrate Fiona’s twenty-seven years of dedication to the organization and recognize the enormous future potential of Graywolf. Fiona herself has often told us that change is opportunity, so we look forward to ensuring that new leadership builds on the strength that she has helped to create while forging new paths for Graywolf.”

Graywolf Press is an award-winning independent publisher committed to the discovery and energetic publication of twenty-first century American and international literature. Founded in 1974, the press is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota (www.graywolfpress.org).