Emilie Buchwald: 2002 Distinguished Artist

The McKnight Foundation

Published in: GIA Reader, Vol 14, No 3 (Fall 2003)


2002, 52 pages. McKnight Foundation, 600 TCF Tower, 121 South Eighth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402, 612-333-4220, www.mcknight.org.

The world of book publishing has its legendary editors. These individuals even get mentioned from time to time on Garrison Keillor's “Writer's Almanac” on NPR, which is fitting because they deserve attention for bringing literature to light.

Through her stewardship of the independent press Milkweed Editions over the past eighteen-plus years, Emilie Buchwald has attained that special status of editor extraordinaire. The Milkweed booklist, now more than 175 books long, is widely known for the remarkable range of its writings, which encompass cultural diversity, environmental stewardship, poetry, and “insightful literature” for adults and children.

In recognition of her accomplishments, Buchwald received the 2002 Distin¬guished Artist Award from the McKnight Foundation. To mark the award, now in its fifth year, the foundation published this handsome tribute.

Scott Slovic, professor of literature and the environment at the University of Nebraska, contributes a portrait of Buchwald. In addition to providing biographical details (Buchwald was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1935, and immigrated to the United States with her family following Krystallnacht and the onset of World War II), Slovic pays homage to her prowess as editor. “She is,” he writes, “undoubtedly one of our country's leading practitioners of the delicate, diplomatic art of literary editing.” A number of Milkweed authors also offer testimonials, including Terry Tempest Williams, who states that, thanks to Buchwald, “we read the world differently.”

This booklet also offers insights into the world of independent publishing. “Minding Our Ps and Qs: How Milkweed makes a book” by Laurie Buss, the house's managing editor, offers a step-by-step description of the publishing process, from acquisition to publication. Excerpts from The Milkweed Chronicle, edited by Buchwald and R.W. Scholes from 1980 to 1987, and poems by Pattiann Rogers and William Stafford round out the rich offerings.

One smidgen of criticism: I'm not sure why they chose a blurred photo of Buchwald for the cover. It's not a terrible picture – she sits in front of a computer in the out-of-focus foreground with a wonderfully arranged bulletin board readable behind her – but there are several fine portraits of her within that could have done her better justice.

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