Past Rittenhouse Award Recipients

PubWest Announces 2019 Award to Honor Luis Alberto Urrea

Luis Alberto Urrea (photo by Joe Mazza)

PubWest, the leading trade association of small- and medium-sized book publishers, has awarded its 2019 Jack D. Rittenhouse Award to Luis Alberto Urrea.

The Rittenhouse Award was established in 1990 as a way to thank and honor those who have made an important contribution to the Western community of the book. The award is given annually in memory of Jack D. Rittenhouse, the West’s legendary bookman.

“The Jack D. Rittenhouse Award recipients have all made extraordinary contributions to how books are made and sold,” said Bill Fessler, PubWest board president and publisher at American Traveler Press. “For more than twenty-five years, Luis Urrea has spoken about the contemporary West. He has brought us closer to the families and the lives of people who live here. He is a legend, a modern-day Mark Twain. It is a true honor to add Luis Alberto Urrea to the roster of Rittenhouse award winners.”

Luis Alberto Urrea will accept the Rittenhouse Award during the PubWest 2019 conference, scheduled for February 7–9 at the La Fonda on the Plaza, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Hailed by NPR as a “literary badass” and a “master storyteller with a rock and roll heart,” Luis Alberto Urrea is a prolific and acclaimed writer who uses his dual-culture life experiences to explore greater themes of love, loss, and triumph.

A 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for his 2004 nonfiction work, The Devil’s Highway, and member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame, Urrea is the critically acclaimed and best-selling author of seventeen books, winning numerous awards for his poetry, fiction, and essays. Born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and American mother, Urrea is most recognized as a border writer, though he says, “I am more interested in bridges, not borders.”

Last year, Urrea won an American Academy of Arts and Letters Fiction award, and his collection of short stories, The Water Museum, was a finalist for the 2016 PEN-Faulkner Award. His novels include The Hummingbird’s Daughter (2005) and Into the Beautiful North (2009) and in all, more than 100 cities and colleges have chosen one of his books for a community read. Into the Beautiful North is also a Big Read selection by the National Endowment of the Arts. His newest book, The House of Broken Angels, is an unforgettable portrait of the De La Cruz family as they celebrate the lives of two of their most beloved members over the course of one raucous and bittersweet weekend. He has also been published by Western regional houses including Johnson Books, West End Press/University of New Mexico, and Cinco Puntos Press. His three books published with University of Arizona Press, In Search of Snow, Wandering Time: Western Notebooks, and Nobody’s Son: Notes from An American Life, all remain in print.

Urrea attended the University of California at San Diego, earning an undergraduate degree in writing, and did his graduate studies at the University of Colorado–Boulder.

After serving as a relief worker in Tijuana and a film extra and columnist-editor-cartoonist for several publications, Urrea moved to Boston where he taught expository writing and fiction workshops at Harvard. He also taught at the University of Louisiana–Lafayette.

Urrea lives with his family in Naperville, IL, where he is a distinguished professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois–Chicago.

PubWest Announces 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award to Honor John Mutter and Jenn Risko

The Rittenhouse Award was established in 1990 as a way to thank and honor those who have made an important contribution to the Western community of the book. The award is given annually in memory of Jack D. Rittenhouse, the West’s legendary bookman.

“The Jack D. Rittenhouse Award recipients have all made extraordinary contributions to how books are made and sold,” said Bill Fessler, PubWest board president and publisher at American Traveler Press. “The roster of honorees includes publishers, retailers, educators, and writers who have made a real contribution to the Western community of the book. This year, it is a true pleasure to induct Jenn Risko and John Mutter for their work at Shelf Awareness.”

John Mutter and Jenn Risko will accept the Rittenhouse Award during the PubWest 2018 conference, scheduled for February 15–17 at The Westin Pasadena in Pasadena, California.

John Mutter was the longtime executive editor for bookselling at Publishers Weekly. In the mid-1990s, he launched one of the first trade e-newsletters: the former PW Daily for Booksellers. It became very popular, and when it was ended and John left PW, booksellers immediately rallied, asking him to start his own newsletter.

Jenn Risko landed her dream job with Pacific Pipeline twenty-five years ago, where she was given an old Ford Taurus, an enormous territory, and bags of western publishers’ titles. She has held sales and marketing positions at Rand McNally, Falcon/Insiders’ Guides Publishing and the National Academies Press. She met John Mutter at a Falcon Publishing sales conference, and got into trouble for “hogging” him. Upon hearing of John’s exit from PW, she called him to ask what his plans were.

Shelf Awareness was born shortly thereafter in June of 2005, out of a need for a community newspaper for independent booksellers, librarians, and the publishing trade at large. Shelf Awareness Pro, as it’s now known, quickly became the daily must-read of 40,000 industry subscribers. The publication is well known for championing independent bookstores at a time when their future was in doubt.

In 2011, as book review sections were dwindling, indie bookstores were being referred to as “showrooms” for Amazon, and Borders had collapsed, Shelf Awareness launched a consumer-facing e-newsletter, Shelf Awareness for Readers. It highlights the best books being published each week and is branded on behalf of more than 100 independent bookstores to more than 415,000 indie bookstore customers. It is estimated to have helped indies sell hundreds of thousands of books.

Following the success of Shelf Pro and Readers, in 2016 the American Booksellers Association enlisted Shelf Awareness to build a new platform and create the e-newsletter for their Indie Next List program. The Indie Next List e-newsletter is delivered on behalf of more than 100 bookstores to 465,000 avid readers.

In 2017, Shelf Awareness will have delivered more than 70 million e-newsletters, and has more than 650,000 combined Twitter followers, Facebook likes, and Instagram followers. It has successfully deployed tens of thousands of advertisements for publishers, and remains the industry favorite to influence booksellers, librarians, and the largest audience of independent bookstore customers.


PubWest Announces 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award
to Honor Chuck and Dee Robinson

robinsons_villagebooksPubWest has awarded its 2017 Jack D. Rittenhouse Award to Chuck and Dee Robinson, owners of Village Books in Fairhaven (Bellingham) and Lynden, Washington.

The 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. The award is given annually in memory of Jack D. Rittenhouse, the West’s legendary bookman.

“The PubWest board of directors looks forward each year to choosing the recipient of the Jack D. Rittenhouse Award,” said board president Katie Burke. “Since 1990, we’ve honored many different facets of the publishing industry by recognizing publishers, retailers, educators, and writers. This year it is a distinct pleasure to celebrate the contributions Dee and Chuck Robinson have given to the industry as consummate booksellers for more than thirty years.”

The Robinsons accepted the Rittenhouse Award during PubWest 2017, which took place from February 9–11, 2017, at The Benson Hotel in Portland, Oregon.

2017 Rittenhouse Award recipients Chuck and Dee Robinson with Kalen Landow and Kent Watson

Chuck and Dee Robinson opened Village Books in Fairhaven (Bellingham), Washington, in 1980. As active, engaged owners customers could often find one or both of them working the sales floor. Dee was active in all aspects of the business, and after Paper Dreams original manager retired, took primary responsibility for building the gift side of the company.  She retired from actively working in the store in 2014, but has remained active in strategic issues, including planning the opening of the second store in Lynden in 2015.

Both Chuck and Dee served on PNBA board and taught at ABA booksellers schools. Dee served on ABA’s Booksellers Advisory Committee and Chuck on the ABA board including a stint as President from 1992 to 1994.

Of the store’s 300 events a year, many of those serving as fundraisers for the Whatcom (County) Literacy Council, North Cascades Institute, local PTSA’s, and many other organizations. As part of their mission to build community, the store even records many of their author events for local radio stations KMRE and KAVZ. Village Books has been instrumental in helping to break Western authors onto the national scene including Jonathan Evison, Stephanie Kallos, and Sherman Alexie.

The Robinsons serve as producers and hosts for the Chuckanut Radio Hour, a variety show-format that has been on the radio since 2007 and they have been instrumental in the success of Whatcom Reads and various literacy programs and efforts throughout their community. They run a summer day camp for kids (Camp Village Books) and Chuckanut Writers Conference with Whatcom Community College. Village Books was named the Washington State Outstanding Philanthropic Business in 2008.



PubWest Announces 2016 Lifetime Achievement Awards
Go to Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Elaine Katzenberger

The 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. The award is given annually in memory of Jack D. Rittenhouse, the West’s consummate bookman.

“The Jack D. Rittenhouse Award pays tribute to those who have made extraordinary contributions to book publishing, specifically in the West,” said PubWest Board President Katie Burke. “Established in 1990, its roster of honorees includes publishers, retailers, educators, and writers. We are honored ourselves to present the award to Mr. Ferlinghetti and Ms. Katzenberger, both quintessential devotees to the culture of the book.”

Elaine Katzenberger accepted the Rittenhouse Awards during PubWest 2016, which took place February 4-6, 2016, at La Fonda on the Plaza in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

A prominent voice of the wide-open poetry movement that began in the 1950s, Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote poetry, translation, fiction, theater, art criticism, film narration, and essays. His A Coney Island of the Mind continues to be one of the most popular poetry books in the United States, with over 1 million copies in print.

Ferlinghetti was born on March 24, 1919, son of Carlo Ferlinghetti, an immigrant from Brescia, Italy, and Clemence Mendes-Monsanto. Following his undergraduate years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he served in the U.S. Navy in World War II. In 1945, just after the atomic bomb obliterated Nagasaki, he witnessed firsthand the horrific ruins of the city. This experience was the origin of his lifelong antiwar stance.
Ferlinghetti received a Master’s degree in English Literature from Columbia University in 1947 and a Doctorate de l’Université de Paris (Sorbonne) in 1950. He took up residence in San Francisco, and in 1953, with Peter D. Martin, founded City Lights Bookstore, the first all-paperback bookshop in the country. His goal was to create a “literary meeting place” for writers, readers, artists, and intellectuals.

In 1955, Ferlinghetti launched City Lights Publishers with the aim of creating “an international, dissident ferment.” The Pocket Poets series began with his own Pictures of the Gone World; translations by Kenneth Rexroth and poetry by Kenneth Patchen, Marie Ponsot, and Allen Ginsberg soon followed. Copies of Ginsberg’s Howl & Other Poems were seized by authorities in 1956 and Ferlinghetti was arrested and charged with selling obscene material. He defended Howl in court, a case that drew national attention to the San Francisco Renaissance and Beat Generation writers, many of whom he later published.

In the 1960s, Ferlinghetti plunged into a life of frequent travel—giving poetry readings and taking part in festivals , happenings, and literary/political conferences around the world. A resolute progressive, he spoke out on such crucial political issues as the Cuban revolution, the nuclear arms race, farm worker organizing, the Vietnam War, the Sandanista and Zapatista struggles, and the wars in the Middle East.
Ferlinghetti’s paintings have been shown at a number of exhibitions and galleries in the United States and abroad.

Ferlinghetti was named San Francisco’s first Poet Laureate in August 1998, and has been the recipient of numerous awards. A prolific author, he has a dozen books currently in print, most recently in 2015, Writing Across the Landscape: Travel Journals (1950-2013). He is currently at work on a novel.

Elaine Katzenberger is the Executive Director and Publisher of City Lights Books, and Program Director for the City Lights Foundation. Hired as a bookseller in 1987, Katzenberger spent the first six years of her long career at City Lights working as what is now referred to as a “frontline bookseller,” creating new sections in the store and participating in the buying, managing the accounts payable and doing myriad other tasks that have long since been forgotten. In 1993 she began her editorial apprenticeship at City Lights, and by 1995 had moved full time into editorial and had published her first anthology, a cross-border collection of writings about Mexico’s Zapatista uprising. Since then she has edited many books of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, a number of which have received prizes and awards. Katzenberger succeeded Nancy J. Peters as the Publisher and Director of the company in 2007, and she continues to acquire and edit titles, most recently City Lights’ first-ever children’s book, which landed on the Times bestseller list for nine consecutive weeks, and the latest book of poetry by Juan Felipe Herrera, our new U.S. Poet Laureate. For the past 20 years, she has also served as President of the Boards of Directors for both La Pocha Nostra, a performing arts organization, and Contraband, a dance theatre company.


PubWest Announces 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award
Goes to Dennis Stovall

Dennis Stovall has more than 39 years’ experience as a writer, designer, and publisher. Dennis and his wife Linny founded Media Weavers and then Blue Heron Publishing in the 1980s. In 2001, he founded the graduate program in publishing at Portland State University, and with his students founded Ooligan Press, a student run press that has published more than 30 books and is the unique laboratory for the graduate program. The PubWest Board of Directors selected Stovall 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.”

Stovall accepted the Rittenhouse Award during PubWest 2015, which took place February 5-7, 2015, at the Westin Pasadena in Pasadena, California.

A 4th generation Oregon native, Dennis Stovall was born in Portland in 1946 and raised in The Dalles, Oregon, on the Columbia River in Eastern Oregon. He graduated from Wahtonka H.S. in 1964, where he’d already begun to write. He served as editor of the high school newspaper, as well as being student body president, and co-valedictorian.

In 1968, he graduated “with Distinction” from the Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon. His degree was in political science. In that tumultuous period, he turned to labor and community organizing. He worked widely in construction, steel working, and teamsters, before turning to full-time writing in 1976. His list of jobs is too long to include, but “sand hog,” crane operator, paper pulp maker, quality control supervisor, and truck driver are among them. Stovall notes that none of his jobs was wasted when he moved to writing and publishing.

It was through contract writing that he began learning the ropes of our industry—at least on the production side—as clients asked him to see projects through publication. He was smitten and fell in love with the entire process of publishing, from writer to reader and from its earliest history to its current and future forms. Always fascinated by new technologies, he was an early adopter of computerized writing, design, and production, buying his first system in 1976 for a mere $16,500.

In 1985, having returned to Portland after nine years in Pittsburgh, Stovall compiled a regional market list to help establish himself in the Northwest. Recognizing the rich literary life of the Northwest, his research quickly evolved into the 1st edition of Writer’s Northwest Handbook, and he formed Media Weavers with his wife Linny and cousin Doug Freeman to publish this directory to all things writing- and publishing-related in the Northwest. Awards accrued and the Handbook became biennial, while also being named an Official Resource of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Publication of the directory, with its large sections of craft articles for participants in the broad community of the printed word, lead to the addition of a quarterly tabloid newspaper, Writer’s NW, that achieved a readership of nearly 70,000 before the project and the Media Weavers imprint were sold in 1994. The project was an incredible platform for literary activism, for helping create a more self-conscious literary and publishing community in the NW. The Stovalls turned their attention to that challenge with great passion, creating major collaborations with the arts agencies of the Pacific Northwest states, with Dennis providing craft and technical workshops throughout the region on freelance writing and independent publishing.

After Stovall’s cousin left the business, Media Weavers was joined by general imprint Blue Heron Publishing, which became the company name soon after. The press focused on books for writers, publishers, and teachers of writing, English, and journalism. To this area were soon added books for young readers, with nine titles by Walt Morey of Gentle Ben fame leading the list. As it became possible to take greater risks, adult literary titles evolved around the Left Bank Books imprint. Among the authors published are many familiar names: Chuck Palahniuk, Ursula Le Guin, David Duncan, Marvin Bell, Robin Cody, Dorothy Allison, Sherman Alexie, Mikal Gilmore, Matt Groening, Lorian Hemingway, Pico Iyer, Ken Kesey, Barry Lopez, Norman Mclean, and dozens more.

Because Blue Heron lacked capital for growth and the Stovall’s had few resources, they took on contracts from other publishers, both national and local. Until big publishing figured out how to work digitally, Dennis provided interior design and some editorial work to houses as diverse as Van Nostrand Reinhold and Penguin. These jobs allowed Blue Heron to grow and to stay in front technologically in book production and marketing. Within Blue Heron, Dennis handled nonfiction editing, public interfacing, contracts and general management, and design and production.

Stovall’s writing was in the service of Blue Heron until the press was sold in 1998. That service was represented by dozens of newspaper and handbook articles, but most prominently by Classroom Publishing: A Practical Guide to Enhancing Student Literacy. This award-winning book—Stovall was honored for both writing and design—put forward new ideas on how the publishing process can be used to advantage in almost any classroom, either as an adjunct to an existing curriculum or as the foundation for an entire curriculum in any subject, with any budget, and with any level of technology. This work was co-authored with textbook writer/teacher Laurie King. It was recommended and sold for use “elementary through high school” by the National Council of Teachers of English.

Classroom Publishing was the result of Dennis’ growing interest in literacy and education. No comprehensive, consolidated resource existed to help teachers understand publishing and how it might be best used by them or their students. After Classroom Publishing’s release, Stovall moved his advocacy from a regional forum to a national one, working through the National Council of Teachers of English, in particular.

Because the Stovall’s were so active within the region, they were jointly recognized by organizations in the field for their contributions. Dennis has received major awards from Portland’s Literary Arts, Willamette Writers, Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Society for Technical Communication, Northwest Assn of Book Publishers, Bumbershoot Literary Arts Festival, and the Library of Congress. He has served as a director of several important literary and publishing organizations, including Literary Arts, Oregon Writers Colony, Pacific Northwest Writers Association, and Northwest Assn of Book Publishers.

In 1998, Blue Heron Publishing was sold, though Stovall remained briefly as publisher. He continued to do book design as he moved back into his own writing, which was again sidetracked when Portland State University hired him to teach a test class on publishing in the newly formed Center for Excellence in Writing, a master’s degree program. Some years before, Dennis and Linny had been asked to advise on the creation of this new graduate program; they had suggested that the addition of a publishing curriculum would make the program unique and attractive. PSU could not manage such an addition at that point and the idea was shelved.

Stovall’s publishing classes were overbooked from the beginning, and the university took note. When the buyers of Blue Heron decided in 2000 to close the press, he decided to step in and try to convince PSU to buy company and turn it into a student-run teaching press. Months of discussion and negotiation ended with the university saying they could not afford the cost or the risk of something so untested. However, they told Dennis that they would hire him to create a new graduate publishing program organized around a student-run publishing house that had to survive on its own within two years. Much to Stovall’s surprise he was hired as an assistant professor, given an office, and told to make haste and make books beginning in fall 2001.

Of course, he had no students and he learned that establishing a degree granting curriculum would, by itself, normally take a couple of years. Somehow, he managed to negotiate his way through the maze of academic committees quickly. The degree was real by the end of the first year, but there was already a show faith on the parts of dozens of students who filled the classes as quickly as Stovall could flesh them out around the division of labor. The graduate enrollments during the first several years were: 18, 32, 42, 60, and 80. Students in the program were full participants in the creation of both Ooligan Press and the degree. Better yet, as they left they found employment with their new skills and education.

2011 marked the 10th anniversary of the publishing program, at which point Stovall was named Teacher of the Year by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and soon announced his exit. Retirement of some sort seemed to him like a great idea, but he did not want to abandon the work he considered most important—empowering a new generation of publishing professionals who might be specialists in some aspect of craft but who thrive as generalists, able to do it all or find the right people to do the parts.

His opportunity to continue serving came in the form of the Fulbright Specialist Program. In 2012, he did an assignment at Amsterdam University, where he lectured on American publishing and consulted on the development of a publishing program modeled on PSU’s. In spring 2014, he did the same sort of work at Loughborough University in the UK Midlands.

Back in Portland, he has worked since his retirement with a high school writing and publishing center. For two summers, he brought high school students to the university for concentrated workshops on publishing basics. Graduate students assisted in this teaching.

Now, he is again hoping to return to his writing. There are stories to tell as fiction, and he looks forward to writing more about the power of publishing in our lives and in education, and about the incredible opportunities for invention and reinvention that new media give us.


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.


PubWest Announces 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award 
Goes to Jack Jensen of Chronicle Books

PubWest, the leading trade association of small- and medium- sized book publishers, has awarded its 2011 Jack D. Rittenhouse Award to Jack Jensen, President of Chronicle Books. The PubWest Board of Directors selected Jensen in recognition of his extraordinary career and his lifetime of work with Chronicle Books which has shaped and inspired the book publishing community.

PubWest Board president Derek Lawrence 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. Jack’s work with Chronicle has inspired my own career and so I’m truly pleased to welcome him into the company of Rittenhouse Award recipients.”

Jensen accepted the Rittenhouse Award during PubWest 2011, which took place November 3-5 at Green Valley Ranch Resort in Henderson, Nevada.

During his 35-year career, Jack Jensen transformed Chronicle Books from a tiny, regional house into a global brand known for its high-quality design and eclectic subject matter. Jensen joined Chronicle Books in 1977 when it was still directly associated with the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper and worked alongside five other employees to produce and market twelve new titles per year.

As Chronicle Books started to look for an identity beyond the newspaper, Jensen began to take an interest in books that other publishers ignored. Unburdened by the customs of the East Coast publishing establish ment, Chronicle Books began buying foreign rights to art-related books and repackaging them for the American market. In 1981, Chronicle Books published The Sushi Book, a small, colorful, and cheap paperback that immediately resonated with consumers and revealed the selling power of accessible art publishing.

Following the success of The Sushi Book, Chronicle Books continued to pursue not only unconventional titles, but unconventional sales channels as well. Jensen recognized a reverence for books that went beyond the content, and subsequently pitched Chronicle’s list as books that doubled as keepsakes. With their pop-culture topics and friendly formats, Chronicle books have lent themselves well to the gift market, setting the trend for publishers to explore new areas of revenue beyond the traditional markets.

Today Jensen oversees 185 employees at a company that produces 300 books a year. Jensen is also president of the McEvoy Group, a holding company for Chronicle Books, New York-based Princeton Architectural Press, the Seattle-based Becker & Mayer!, Spin Media, and California Home & Design and 7×7 Magazines.

Chronicle Books has become a mainstay of the West Coast book industry and Jensen continues to push the publishing house in new and exciting directions. “If we don’t continue to challenge ourselves,” he says, “it is no fun. And if we continue to do the same thing, we’ll find ourselves in a crowded field of people doing it too. Any degree of success will be mimicked. It is imperative that we continue to evolve.”

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 year, and the award presentation takes place during the annual PubWest Conference.

See a list of past recipients of the Rittenhouse Award.