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Our Story


WTAW Press is an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit publisher Contrary to the myth that exceptional writing will always find an audience, the corporate publishing system does not select manuscripts solely on their merit. The industry’s values are not focused on publishing great literature, and it has never been set up to tell all stories or amplify all voices. For this reason, most deserving manuscripts remain unpublished. 


WTAW Press is an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit publisher devoted to discovering and publishing enduring literary works. We publish and champion a carefully curated list of titles across a range of genres, subject matter, and perspectives. We welcome submissions from writers of all backgrounds and especially encourage submissions by women, BIPOC, members of the LGBTQ+ community, persons with disabilities, and other traditionally underrepresented groups. 


Above all, we publish and champion books that possess a deftness of craft and artistry, books that lean into risk, and books that give platform to a diverse representation of the human experience—vital and masterful books that are likely to be overlooked in mainstream corporate publishing. 

WTAW invests in the artistic development of writers; fosters a thriving literary community; and inspires a passion for literature by supporting authors throughout their careers. We provide online workshops and manuscript consultations for writers who might not be able to access these opportunities through traditional channels. We publish literary fiction, nonfiction, and hybrid prose books, maintaining accessible submission avenues to writers regardless of whether they are agented. Why There Are Words, our national neighborhood of author readings, promotes and carves out dedicated space for writers to share their work.

We open for submissions annually, and select books to publish from open reading periods. Learn more about our publishing programs here.




We are a small organization made of a small working board, volunteers, and interns directed by Peg Alford Pursell. Read more on the “About Us” page.


WTAW Press practices stewardship in the literary community through hosting readings and literary events, participating in book fairs and literary conferences, providing educational outreach, and sharing knowledge about small press publishing. We cultivate relationships with writers, artists, and the community, and we are dedicated to promoting the literary arts in ways that build lasting community, prioritize artists and honor their work, and enrich our readers.


Our books have received Independent Publishers Book of the Year awards, Foreword Book of the Year, Northern California Book Award shortlist (the only small publisher nominated), and the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing longlist, among others. We take pride in marketing our authors through extensive and custom promotion and publicity campaigns, and our authors regularly appear at events at bookstores, book fairs, conferences, academic settings, symposia, and more. We take the long view, aiming to support our authors throughout their writing careers, and viewing authors as active and crucial members of the literary community. Read a few words from authors about their experiences with WTAW.


Our books have been reviewed and covered in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Shelf Awareness, Ms. Magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, Booklist, and the Moscow Times, among other national and international media outlets. Perhaps more importantly, and at the heart of our work, they've found an ardent readership.  




In 2010  Peg Alford Pursell, our director and editor-in-chief, founded the literary reading series Why There Are Words (WTAW) in the San Francisco Bay Area shortly after she moved to Sausalito from across the country. For 10 years, every month WTAW drew audiences from the Bay Area and beyond, often standing room only crowds, to hear authors read their work. In 2016 WTAW began expanding to other cities: New York City, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Portland, Austin, New Orleans, and Asheville NC.


As Peg continued to encounter provocative, compelling new writing for which authors often were unable to find publishers, she found it hard to accept such writing was denied the wider audience it deserved. She founded WTAW Press, announcing its launch live at the December 2015 WTAW reading event in Sausalito. WTAW formed its small hardworking Board of Directors, gained status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and opened for manuscript submissions the following summer. Our inaugural titles were published in September of 2017 to great notice and acclaim, including Independent Publishers Book of the Year awards. 

Peg Alford Pursell received her MFA from the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers. She is an award-winning author and has over 20 years of experience as an editor. She also has extensive experience teaching writing and has fostered community through writing workshops wherever she’s gone. Her background includes serving on the Boards of literary organizations, and she often speaks on topics about publishing, writing, community, and feminism.




WTAW Press is a dynamic organization on the lookout for ways to partner, and grow in meaningful ways. You can learn more about how to become involved here.  Feel free to contact us with your ideas and questions.


One simple way to help, always, is to donate to our cause. All contributions are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law and can be made online here. If you prefer to send a check our mailing address is WTAW Press, PO Box 2825, Santa Rosa, CA 95405. We're grateful for your help.

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