2013 Jack D. Rittenhouse Award

PubWest Announces 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award
Goes to Jack Shoemaker of Counterpoint Press

PubWest, the leading trade association of small and medium-sized book publishers, has awarded its 2013 Jack D. Rittenhouse Award to Jack Shoemaker, Co-founder, Editorial Director and Vice President of Counterpoint Press. The PubWest Board of Directors selected Shoemaker in recognition of his extraordinary career and how his lifetime of work has shaped and inspired the book publishing community.

PubWest Board President Dave Trendler said, “The Jack D. Rittenhouse Award was established in 1990 as a way to thank and honor those who have made a real contribution to the Western community of the book. Today, the Rittenhouse Award is truly a lifetime achievement award for those who have made long-lasting contributions to how books are made and sold. I’m truly pleased to welcome him into the company of Rittenhouse Award recipients.”

Shoemaker accepted the Rittenhouse Award during PubWest 2013, which took place November 7-9, 2013, at La Fonda on the Plaza in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Jack Shoemaker began his literary career as a bookseller in 1963 in Santa Barbara, California, and has never wavered from his dedication to fine literature. Over the course of forty years he has owned or managed several important literary bookshops, including The Unicorn Bookshop, Serendipity Books, and Sand Dollar Booksellers & Publishers. He has also been the publisher of several small fine presses including Unicorn, Maya Editions, and Sand Dollar Books, and helped found Small Press Distribution, a distributor for the work of dozens of independent presses, which is today the largest and most successful operation of its kind.

Mr. Shoemaker served from 1974–1978 on the Literature Panel of the National Endowment of the Arts, serving his last eighteen months as that panel’s chairman. He has also served on the California Arts Council, the Western States Arts Foundation panel, the North Carolina Arts Council literature panel, and several other boards and awards panels devoted to literature, the visual arts, and dance. Together with Jack Hicks and Gary Snyder, he founded The Art of the Wild, a summer program in Squaw Valley, California, devoted to the practice and study of writing related to environmental concerns and natural history.

In 1979, when Mr. Shoemaker co-founded North Point Press with William Turnbull, he did so with the commitment of a group of authors with whom he had worked and who believed in him and the promise of North Point before the new press had published a single book. This group included Wendell Berry, Gary Snyder, Robert Aitken, MFK Fisher, Evan Connell, James Salter, and Guy Davenport. From these auspicious beginnings, North Point went on to publish books of the highest literary quality and was soon considered the most distinguished independent publisher established since the Second World War. Jack Shoemaker served as the company’s editor-in-chief for the entire life of the company, twelve years during which nearly four hundred titles were published and many awards won, including several MacArthur Fellowships, the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the American Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. In 1981 he was awarded the Carey-Thomas Award for Creative Publishing given by Publishers Weekly.

When North Point closed in 1991, Mr. Shoemaker’s authors remained fiercely loyal to him. Most of them followed him to Pantheon, where he served as West Coast Editor of the Knopf Publishing Group. When Mr. Shoemaker left Pantheon to join Frank H. Pearl in founding Counterpoint Press in 1994 in Washington, D.C., this core group of authors followed him again. By now Mr. Shoemaker has worked with these authors for decades, editing them with care and supporting their talent, and in so doing, preserving the continuity of their work. This kind of commitment to authors is all too rare today, but Jack Shoemaker’s editorial work is exemplary of what caring editorial direction can achieve over time. His work is no less than visionary and will be remembered for bringing some of the most enduring literature of the twentieth century into print.

In 2004 Mr. Shoemaker left Counterpoint and the Perseus Books Group, and with his longtime associate Trish Hoard established a new company, Shoemaker & Hoard, Publishers, to continue his work. Associated soon with the Avalon Publishing Group, Shoemaker & Hoard published more than 100 titles in its few years of existence.

In 2007, together with Charlie Winton, Mr. Shoemaker formed a partnership in order to purchase Counterpoint Press from the Perseus Books Group. They also purchased Soft Skull Press, and formed an operating agreement with Sierra Club Books. The new endeavor, consisting now of three separate imprints, operates from offices in Berkeley, California. Melding the backlists of Counterpoint with Shoemaker & Hoard provided an opportunity to bring together the backlist titles of several founding authors, including Wendell Berry, Gary Snyder, MFK Fisher, Evan Connell, Guy Davenport, Robert Aitken, Gina Berriault, Anne Lamott, Jane Vandenburgh, James Salter, a few of whom are active partners in the new endeavor.

About PubWest: PubWest is a non-profit trade association for North American book publishers, from small independent presses to publishing companies with worldwide operations, and related professionals, such as printers, designers, binderies, and publishing freelancers.

The PubWest Board of Directors selects a Rittenhouse Award recipient each November, and the award presentation takes place during the annual PubWest Conference.

See a list of past recipients of the Rittenhouse Award.