Recently, the West Australian writing community was stunned by the shock announcement that the 85 year old publishing house was told to systematically shut down its operations and move to an open access, digital model, supposedly to ‘modernise’ it. Local, national and international writers expressed their outrage and rallied to support the publisher. A Change.org petition has gathered almost 10,000 signatures in a week. I am one of the authors published by UWAP, alongside several hundred others I have read for more than 20 years, and some, more recently, who have become friends through sharing this publishing life. Over the next few weeks, I intend to showcase the writing of the authors published by this press, their work, their wisdom and their contribution to the cultural life of this state and beyond.
The first writer I have chosen is Amanda Curtin. She has published three books with UWA Publishing. The first of these was The Sinkings. When I read it in 2011 knowing it was Amanda Curtin’s PhD thesis at the same university where I was beginning my own PhD, I was overwhelmed at the standard set and almost gave up my own feeble attempts at writing. Then I met Amanda and she was so lovely, generous, and most bafflingly, supportive of my writing that I thought it would be worthwhile to at least attempt to write something approaching the lucidity that is the hallmark of this writer’s work. The Sinkings is a work of fiction based on real events and written with lyric intensity and abundant humanity. The book of short stories that followed, Inherited, is a collection that highlights the power of fiction in allowing us to inhabit lives and viewpoints that differ vastly from our own and yet make us feel as though we have always known these things. Finally, Elemental arrived, a book that lives up to the force alluded to by the title. A powerful story of migration and memory, war and loss and the resilience of human, especially female, spirit to overcome, sidestep and survive against odds.
Without UWA Publishing, these stories would not have transformed the lives and imaginations of thousands who have read these works. How can the university justify its ill-advised move against the publisher that has served as the custodian of our stories for decades?