Writing & News

Statement about Upswell Publishing and The Dogs

The events of the past fortnight in the media and amplified on social media have been personally distressing as well as concerning for my very-new publishing venture. I had worked with John Hughes on four books before The Dogs. I take my role as a publisher very seriously in all aspects: primarily as a partnership between writer and publisher that then extends into a relationship of trust with the reader of the finished book. It has been exhilarating for me to take new writers into print and present their carefully prepared writing to readers they don’t know, and to reviewers and critics who, we always hope, will address this work with great consideration.

My impulse is always to stand by my author. Why otherwise would I enter into an agreement with them? When I read the manuscript of The Dogs, I was instantly attracted to the character of Michael Shamanov, a dissolute and very flawed middle-aged man dealing with his aged mother who wanted her life to end. Although I have read most of the books now revealed as being quoted without attribution in The Dogs, I sincerely did not recognise them folded into a new text. That’s a trust thing, I think. They formed part of this narrative; I don’t have the kind of mind that can sift through the strands of a long novel to hear discord. Besides, it is a book about discord and discomfort between people. (In literary publishing we do not use software tools to track plagiarism.)  I was affronted when John Hughes wrote, in his rejoinder in The Guardian yesterday: I wanted the appropriated passages to be seen and recognised as in a collage

But this isn’t really about literature: I have published many writers who use collage and bricolage and other approaches to weaving in other voices and materials to their own work. All of them have acknowledged their sources within the book, usually in a listing of precisely where these borrowings come from. I should have pushed John Hughes harder on his lack of the standard mode of book acknowledgements where any credits to other writers (with permissions or otherwise), and the thanks to those nearest and dearest, are held. I regret that now, as you might expect. To have provided a note in this book with attribution would have been the only way to treat it.  I now recognise this as a breach of my trust.

Ethics and accountability are paramount considerations for me in the business of publishing books, and my obligations at this moment are focused upon readers and potential readers of the books I make and, importantly, to all the writers who have entrusted me and Upswell with their labour, intellectual and imaginative, and their trust. 

Upswell relies upon credibility and trust. That has been damaged this fortnight, and I seek to reaffirm my position. I am currently thinking seriously about my options. It will take time to untangle this mess.

Sincerely, Terri-ann White. 17 June 2022