Terri-ann White’s Upswell Publishing plans to unveil 17 diverse new titles in 2022

“I only publish books that I like,” says Terri-ann White, a local literary luminary, before adding. “It’s my money.”

Specifically, his retirement pension, which should have funded the publication of 20 books that White loves by the end of this year through his nonprofit organization, Upswell Publishing.

It’s incredibly prolific for someone who didn’t know what to do less than two years ago when her 25 years as director and editor at UWA Publishing ended in acrimony.

“They’re still publishing the books I acquired, but they’ll be out of print soon,” White says.

“I took a forced layoff in the middle of 2020 and I didn’t know what I was going to do,” she adds. “Then I found something to do.”

Before launching Upswell last year, White wrote a landmark investigation for the opening of the WA Museum Boola Bardip, crushing an 18-month research and writing project into five months.

Camera iconTerri-Ann White. Credit: Robert Frith/Photo of tassel

“Which was a way to stop thinking about what had just happened to me after 25 years at UWA,” she says.

After considering naming his new venture Ampersand, White settled on Upswell – his description of the “surge of joy” felt when listening to music, experiencing art or turning the pages of a big Book.

Its mission is to share the voices of engaging writers regardless of where they come from, their style or genre.

Upswell, which White runs from home, will specialize in non-specialization. “I’m a bit tired of fast food literature.”

Unveiled in August last year, the burgeoning publishing house‘s debut work was Imaginative Possession: Learning to Live in the Antipodes by social science scholar Belinda Probert, followed by The Sweetest Fruits by Monique Truong and The Dogs by John Hughes.

A Vietnamese-American writer from Brooklyn, whom White met while attending the Perth Writers Festival 20 years ago, Truong offered Upswell the Australasian rights to her book, already a bestseller in the United States.

“She gave me this rather beautiful gift,” says White, who “bent over backwards” to ensure that Upswell’s edition accommodated Truong’s afterword and cover design wishes.

“We did things that (the American publishers) Penguin wouldn’t let her do.”

I’m a little tired of fast food literature.

UWAP published four of Hughes’ works during White’s tenure. The Dogs is shortlisted for Victoria’s Premier’s Literary Awards and White believes the NSW author’s latest novel will also give the Miles Franklin Prize a boost.

This year, Upswell will publish three novels – one from Australia, one from New Zealand and one from a Turkish-German writer.

The rest of the Class of 2022 covers memoir, poetry, photography and history, including former Film Australia chef Sharon Connolly’s story about her vaudeville star parents My Giddy Aunt and comedian sisters .

“A lot of these books are very hard to categorize,” White says. “None of them are straight, which is pretty good.”

Upswell will publish composer Simon Tedeschi’s debut novel (or “extended lyrical essay”) in May, Fugitive.

Classical pianist Simon Tedeschi plans to unveil his first novel, Fugitive, this year.
Camera iconClassical pianist Simon Tedeschi plans to unveil his first novel, Fugitive, this year. Credit: Cole Bennetts

“He’s completely over the moon,” White laughs. “He can barely contain himself. It’s a very short book, around 15,000 words, but it really packs a punch – it’s so splendid.

While Fugitive features stunning covers by Tedeschi’s partner Loribelle Spirovski, White is keen to use contemporary WA artists, such as Penny Coss, for her releases.

Here is a publisher who encourages readers to judge the book by its cover.

“I really like the subject matter of the book,” says White. “I really like to pay close attention to the paper, the font, the font size and, of course, the cover.”

Upswell tomes are printed in Melbourne by Black Inc. and distributed through Penguin Random House.

While White read about 250 manuscripts in part (she usually reads the first and last pages, plus a random page to decide whether or not to read the whole thing) before whittling them down to the 17 due for publication this year, she prefers to adopt a curatorial approach.

Perth poet Scott-Patrick Mitchell.
Camera iconPerth poet Scott-Patrick Mitchell. Credit: David Cox Media

One of his first projects after launching Upswell was to convince local poet Scott-Patrick Mitchell to finally publish his debut.

A memoir about years of meth addiction, Clean is set to be unveiled in March.

“I’ve known Scott-Patrick for years and he should have his own full book by now,” White says. “When I started (Upswell) last year, I reached out to him and said, ‘Come on, let’s do this.

“He had a finished manuscript but was hesitant…it’s difficult, but in this really difficult story, he brings great beauty.”

Upswell’s list also includes former Penny Wong senior adviser Allan Behm’s study of our recent abject failures in international relations, No Friends, No Enemies: Restoring Australia’s Global Relevance; The exploration of polyamory, cryptocurrency, clubbing and commons by Melbourne-based newcomer Sally Olds, People Who Lunch; and Susan Varga’s last memoir, Hard Joy.

White says a good editor requires “bravado and risk-taking” as well as being “open to reading a lot without getting to the gems, reading hard stuff to find the potential”.

Potential, and this surge of joy.

About Florence M. Sorensen

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