McGriff has been praised for his unflinching appraisal of American ruin in his work. In the New York Times, Jeff Gordinier noted that McGriff is “plunging into the depths of some underground waterway in the American psyche—what’s happening to the environment, what’s happening to jobs, what’s happening to families—and rising to the surface to show us the debris.”
McGriff was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, and his honors and awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Lannan Foundation and a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from Poetry. He is the recipient of a Balcones Prize and an Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize. He has taught creative writing at Stanford University, the Michener Center for Writers, and Lewis & Clark College. From 2009 to 2014, he published and edited Tavern Books.