Graywolf Press was founded in Port Townsend, Washington, in 1974 by Scott Walker. 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, Mary Jo Bang, Charles Baxter, Sven Birkerts, Robert Boswell, John D’Agata, Percival Everett, Nuruddin Farah, Tess Gallagher, Albert Goldbarth, Linda Gregg, Eamon Grennan, Tony Hoagland, Jane Kenyon, William Kittredge, Don Paterson, Per Petterson, Carl Phillips, Salvatore Scibona, Vijay Seshadri, William Stafford, 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 over 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.
Graywolf published its largest number of titles in a single year to date (23) during 1993. In March of 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 over 55,000 copies to date. With support from USWest, Graywolf launched the first incarnation of its web site.
1997 saw the beginning of Graywolf’s innovative collaborative partnership with the College of Saint Benedict, 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.
In 2002, the Press began a distribution relationship with the prestigious publishing company 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 and the launch of our redesigned web site, thanks to support from the Bush Foundation’s Organizational Effectiveness Program. Graywolf’s anniversary year was crowned by winning the Sally Ordway Irvine Award for vision (from Saint Paul’s Ordway Center) 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 is unprecedented in the field. 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 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.
In 2008, Elegy by Mary Jo Bang won the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry, and Modern Life by Matthea Harvey was named a finalist. Salvatore Scibona’s novel, The End, was named a finalist for the National Book Award.
Graywolf poet Elizabeth Alexander was chosen by Barack Obama to read an original poem at his historic presidential inauguration in 2009. The Press began a new collaboration with the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, through which it published the winners of the Bakeless Prizes.
In 2009, Graywolf moved its offices from Saint Paul to the Traffic Zone Center for Visual Art in Minneapolis. The Press’s archives were purchased by the Elmer L. Andersen Library at the University of Minnesota.