Shannon Ravenel

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Shannon Ravenel
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Harriett Shannon Ravenel

1938 (age 85–86)
Charleston, SC, United States
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materHollins College
OccupationLiterary Editor
Known forCo-founder of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Elias Prioleau Ravenel (father)
  • Harriott Horry Ravenel (mother)

Shannon Ravenel (born Harriett Shannon Ravenel in 1938) is an American literary editor and co-founder of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. From 1977 until 1990, she was series editor for the annual anthology The Best American Short Stories; from 1986 until 2006, she was also editor for New Stories from the South.

Early Life

Born in Charlotte, NC and raised in Charleston, South Carolina as the daughter of Elias Prioleau Ravenel (1895-1973), and Harriett (nee Steedman) Ravenel (1906-1985).[1] In 1956,she entered Hollins College in Virginia as an English major.[2] There, she met Louis D. Rubin, Jr., who became chair of the English Department in her second year there and with whom she would later co-found Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. [3]


Ravenel graduated from Hollins in 1960 and moved to New York, where she found a job as a copywriter for Holt, Rinhart & Winston and a year later relocated to Boston, Massachusetts, where she joined Houghton Mifflin, initially as a secretary to the editorial staff, before eventually becoming an editor of trade books.[4] During her time at Houghton Mifflin, one of the editors whom Ravenel assisted was Martha Foley, who had edited the Best American Short Stories annual anthology since 1941. When Foley died in 1977, the publishing house offered the series to Ted Solotaroff, but while he agreed to edit the 1978 volume, he declined the permanent position, suggesting instead that the publisher use a different editor for each subsequent year.[5]. Houghton Mifflin agreed and asked Ravenel, who by then had moved to St. Louis, to act as series editor, a position she held through the 1990 edition, working with annual editors that included Ann Beattie, John Gardner, Stanley Elkin, John Updike, and Margaret Atwood, among others.[6] In her role, Ravenel read an estimated 1,500 short stories a year in magazines and literary journals, selecting 120 stories to send to the annual editor, who then chose 20 to appear in the volume.[7] In 1990, Ravenel edited a volume on her own, The Best American Short Stories of the Eighties, which collected 20 stories that had appeared in the annual anthology during that decade.[8]

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

In 1982, Louis Rubin wrote a letter to Ravenel proposing a new venture. "I am convinced (a) that publishing literary fiction is dying in NYC and (b) it can be done even so . . . I am therefore toying with the idea of doing it myself."[9] He closed the letter by asking her if she would like to be involved in the enterprise and by fall 1983, the press issued its first titles, including a collection of short stories by Leon Driskell, Passing Through, and a memoir by Vermont C. Royster, My Own, My Country's Time.[10] In 1986, Algonquin began publishing a new annual anthology of short fiction, New Stories from the South, with Ravenel as editor.[11]

In 2001, the press launched an imprint bearing her name, Shannon Ravenel Books.[12] With Algonquin, Ravenel edited books by Larry Brown, Jill McCorkle, Lee Smith, Clyde Edgerton, and Julia Alvarez, among others.[13] [14][15]


  2. "Shannon Ravenel", Hollins University Distinguished Graduates, Accessed May 26, 2020
  3. Ravenel, Shannon, "I Want You to Think About Something: Louis D. Rubin Jr. and the Establishment of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill," Sewanee Review, 2002.
  4. [https://link-galecom. "Shannon Ravenel,"] Gale Literature: Contemporary Authors, Gale, 2003. Gale In Context: Biography, Accessed April 19, 2020.
  5. "Publisher's Note," The Best American Short Stories 1978, Houhgton Mifflin, 1978.
  6. "Publisher's Note," The Best American..., and subsequent volumes of The Best American Short Stories.
  7. Guttenplan, D.D., "The Boom in Short Stories," The New York Times, June 10, 1984.
  8. Ravenel, Shannon, editor, The Best American Short Stories of the 1980s, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990
  9. Ravenel, Shannon, "I Want You to Think About Something: Louis D. Rubin Jr. and the Establishment of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill," Sewanee Review, 2002.
  10. Munger, Guy, "Fall Outlook in NC Books," The (Raleigh NC) News and Observer, June 26, 1983, 6D/
  11. O'Briant, Dan, "Algonquin to Publish Collection of South's Best Short Stories," Atlanta Journal Constitution, February 9, 1986, 11J
  12. Summer, Bob, "Algonquin Adds Imprint," Publisher's Weekly, September 4, 2000.
  13. "Short Takes," Publisher's Weekly, November 26, 2001, 11
  14. Barnes, Harper, "Clyde Edgerton is the Same, Talking or Writing," St. Louis Post Dispatch, May 3, 1987, 3E

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