Noemi Press, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, was founded by Carmen Giménez and Evan Lavender-Smith in 2002 to promote both emerging voices and established writers from underrepresented communities, particularly women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ authors. Like Graywolf Press, where Giménez is now publisher, Noemi initially published chapbooks, but expanded into publishing full-length books; the Blacksburg, Va.–based press has approximately 100 titles currently in print. While Noemi has received critical acclaim over the years for its list of fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry, its staff is used to working under the radar, rarely attracting attention from within the industry.
Until last week, that is, when Giménez was named Graywolf Press’s new executive director and publisher, replacing Fiona McCrae, who has retired from the press after 28 years at the helm. Giménez, an English professor at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Va., is in the process of moving to Minneapolis, where she will officially assume her new position on August 8.
As Giménez prepares to take on her new role, roles are changing at Noemi as well. Suzi F. Garcia, previously Noemi’s executive editor, and Anthony Cody, who was its associate poetry editor, became Noemi Press co-publishers as of July 1. In an interview with PW, Cody acknowledged that “there were some difficulties in making that announcement,” as Graywolf was not ready to make public until July 7 that Giménez had been hired.
“We had to time it with Graywolf,” he said. “Someone like Carmen stepping away raises a lot of questions.”
While there was only a brief interval between Giménez’s resignation and their promotion, Garcia and Cody noted that, in Garcia’s words, there had been “contingency plans in place” for a while, and that those plans “really came together over the past month.”
“We were aware that she was applying to Graywolf,” Garcia said. “We were very supportive of that, to the extent that maybe we read some of her application letters, maybe we did some practice interviews. We put contingency plans in place because we thought, ‘this is going to be you, we think this is your time.’” Cody added: “We knew that Carmen was on this trajectory. She may not have realized it, but all of us internally at Noemi who knew she was applying realized this was the ‘Final Four.’ It didn’t come as a surprise for us.”
Garcia and Cody both admit that it is “intimidating” for them, as Garcia put it, for Noemi’s half-dozen employees, contract workers, and interns “to regroup after this juggernaut that is Carmen.” But Giménez’s management style was “very democratic,” Cody said. “We all had our hands in elements of running the press, so that allowed us to build on those strengths.”
That democratic nature, among other attributes, will be an advantage for the press moving into a new era. Cody noted that, due to the press’s small size—it publishes six-eight books per year—staff “cross-pollinate” and support one another. Nobody at Noemi works in isolation, even while working remotely.
Noemi Press has maintained an affiliation with Virginia Tech’s English Department since Giménez and Lavender-Smith joined the faculty there in 2017. Although the two new co-publishers, as well as their staff—two prose editors, a poetry editor, and the managing editor—all work remotely from elsewhere in the U.S., Noemi’s relationship with Virginia Tech remains the same. Book storage and distribution, as well as other mailings and Noemi’s digital presence are maintained by Virginia Tech students, who are either work-study or interns. These students are supervised by an instructor at Virginia Tech in coordination with Garcia, Cody, and managing editor Sarah Gzemski.
“There’s not a lot of day-to-day work for us as editors and publishers,” Cody said, “Most of our editorial work can be done remotely. We'll see how this evolves."
Reflecting upon Noemi's relationship with Graywolf, Garcia noted that the two presses have “always had a great relationship. We’ve shared information, we’ve talked books. Noemi authors have become Graywolf authors: Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint published fiction with us and then won a Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize for her last book.”
With Giménez now at Graywolf, Garcie added, “I anticipate that our relationship will only become stronger. We want to sit with Carmen at the tables, we want to share booths. We do different things but in ways that complement one another. It’s an honor for us to be mentioned in the same breath as Graywolf and we appreciate that they’ve seen us and reached out to us, recognized the work that Carmen’s done, that each of us editors has done—that they’ve reached out about individual books that they’ve enjoyed. We weren’t surprised when they poached our publisher.”
“Noemi grew unexpectedly in a lot of ways,” added Garcia, who joined the staff eight years ago and has worked there in various capacities. “This is our chance to focus that growth, and to focus on what we want to see and do in the near future. This is the time for us to think about what we call ‘Noemi: The Next Generation.’”