Professor Terri-ann White, Director of UWA Publishing (UWAP), has always had a love of writing and a passion for books.
While she’s been at UWA for 20 years, in three quite different roles, Terri-ann’s literary journey began much earlier.
“I opened a bookshop once I had finished my degree. I was 23 and wanted to create a cultural space where people could come and talk all things literary, through readings, seminars and events.
“It was a wonderful space, open to anyone and we would regularly have academics and authors visit and participate in discussion. To say I was in my element is an understatement.”
Terri-ann owned the bookshop for 13 years, and over this time pulled back from being full time in the store and focused more on her writing and teaching.
“In 1993 I was the writer-in-residence at Curtin University and had a year away from the bookshop. It was a great experience and when I returned to the shop I knew it was time to move onto the next project.”
After a couple of years of freelancing, Terri-ann joined UWA in 1996 teaching literature and writing in the English department.
“I like to say this was my first ‘proper’ job. For the first time I received holiday pay and superannuation and didn’t have to factor in anything else such as paying part-time staff. It was quite a shift from being a small business owner and I was very excited,” she says.
“I loved my time as a lecturer, and this role also gave me the opportunity to connect with people whose work I admired who were now my colleagues. I had gone from being very much a lone wolf to being part of a fantastic community and I couldn’t have been happier.”
In 1999 Terri-ann was seconded part-time to establish the Institute of Advanced Studies and in 2000 became the Institute’s full-time Director.
“I had oversight of the Institute’s move to the Old Irwin Street building and the establishment of its annual programs. It was an intense role, and, in 2006, I also became the Director of UWAP so I was leading a very busy double life!
“I left the Institute in 2011 to completely devote my time to UWAP. This was a particularly trying time to be in publishing as the bottom had fallen out of the industry, and the sector was really in crisis,” she says.
Now in its 81st year, the staff lineup at UWAP is smaller than before but Terri-ann says that by outsourcing editing and design a greater number of books are actually published.
“UWAP is one of just four university presses in Australia and we have come a long way. Historically we published textbooks and books of local interest. We didn’t start publishing fiction until 2005.
“Since this time our publications have covered a huge range across fiction, poetry, art, design, photography, natural history, food and wine. We have also established a dedicated scholarly list,” she says.
And while telling the WA story is a big focus for UWAP, its mission remains much larger.
“We’re proudly Western Australian, and proud to be in Australia but we are global in our interests. As a university press we must be.
“As a modern university, part of our mission is to help spread knowledge and we must always strive to be dynamic, cross-disciplinary and intercultural,” she says.
Hear Terri-ann talk about the evolution and role of UWAP.