This month, the NSW Writers’ Centre hosted the first not-Friday Club, an opportunity for those unavailable to attend the usual talks to attend a Thursday session. Our Membership Officer Sherry Landow spoke to Nick Tapper, Commissioning Editor at Giramondo Publishing.
Besides his work at Giramondo, Nick has recently edited and written introductions to the artist monographs Ngarra: The Texta Drawings and Shane Pickett: Meeyakba. Previously, he was editor of Metro and Screen Education as well as manager of art book distributor Books at Manic. He has worked in multidisciplinary industries across theatre, festivals, galleries, and cinemas.
Nick discussed his journey into the literary world, Giramondo’s publishing aims, and his role at the small publisher.
From an early age, Nick involved himself in a diverse range of arts communities. In smaller cities such as Perth, where he grew up, different arts disciplines are much more closely-knit, Nick said. He was led on a “varied process of discovery” during his university years, experimenting with theatre, architecture, cinema, and photography.
Returning to Darwin after a university exchange to Hong Kong, Nick became interested in writers working in transnational contexts such as Brian Castro. He moved to Melbourne in 2007, completing his Honours thesis in literature discussing Castro’s work alongside W.B. Sebald and Walter Benjamin.
For Nick, literature became a means where he could engage his other artistic interests. It was an opportunity to explore “diverse possibilities in what can be a very straightforward field,” he said. After his appointment as Giramondo’s commissioning editor in March this year, Nick relocated to Sydney after a decade residing in Melbourne.
…Giramondo: boundary-pushing literary voices
Giramondo was established in 1995 with a focus on publishing innovative, often experimental, prose, non-fiction and poetry from Australian authors. It has since expanded to publishing overseas writing, in particular works in translation and literature from the broader southern hemisphere. The publishing house is heavily invested in promoting transnational, diverse voices. It’s interested in subversions to the traditional, remaking form and raising a platform for otherwise marginal ideas.
Institutional support – from Australia Council and the University of Western Sydney – has been fundamental for a small publisher like Giramondo to remain consistent with its literary vision. “By staying small and knowing what our authors are and what our readership is we can be fairly considered in what we do,” Nick said.
In 2017, Giramondo published 25 books, with another ten to a dozen currently in production. In recent years, there has been a focus towards publishing literature from Western Sydney, including Michael Mohammed Ahmad’s The Tribe and Felicity Castagna’s No More Boats. Nick attributed the rising tide of Western Sydney voices to local writers’ collectives such as Sweatshop for creating a community of support and positive critique.
…Life as a publisher
At Giramondo, Nick has worked on the development of forthcoming texts such as Gerald Murnane’s Border Districts and Alexis Wright’s memoir Tracker, as well as the just-released illustrated essay collection Mirror Sydney by Vanessa Berry.
“In a way I feel like my job title is fraudulent.” Nick joked. He described his role as one encompassing everything from working on manuscripts, liaising with authors in the development stage, project management, and managing media requests. He also reads incoming submissions and keeps an eye out on the activity of other publishers in the industry. Arguing over the design of the book cover sometimes takes as long as the development of the manuscript itself, Nick laughed.