Aquarius Publishing editor-in-chief Chu Ya-chun (朱亞君) was on Tuesday last week named Publisher of the Year by Kingstone Books for publishing provocative and introspective best-selling books by new authors.
In June, Chu nearly committed suicide over a social media backlash stemming from her refusal to print Lin Yi-han’s (林奕含) Fang Ssu-chi’s First Love Paradise (房思琪的初戀樂園), with some alleging that the refusal was connected to Lin’s death by suicide in April.
At the time, Chu said she had refused to publish Fang’s story because she was worried that Lin’s fragile mental state might not handle the publicity and stress, not because she found Lin’s manuscript wanting.
In her acceptance speech, Chu said the cyberbullying that she experienced triggered a nervous breakdown, but a firm belief in her life’s calling to discover writers helped her to endure the crisis.
Aquarius this year published two books by new authors that made it onto its 10 Most Influential Books of the Year list, Kingstone said, adding that the books are psychiatrist Chou Muer’s (周慕姿) Emotional Blackmail (情緒勒索) and Lin Li-ching’s (林立青) Working People (做工的人).
“For exploring manuscripts that have potential, creating a platform for Chinese-language authors and publishing provocative books that spark debate in Taiwan like Emotional Blackmail, which sold 150,000 copies, [Chu] is named the publisher of the year,” Kingstone said.
Chu related to the emotional devastation wrought by the controversy during the summer, saying that she was unable to sleep or function, while medication she was taking often made her forget whether she had fed her 80 pet fish.
“I experienced a loss of faith, emotion and conviction in my values,” she said, adding that at the time, she felt online media’s accusations and the social-media furor gave her “no way out.”
Taking a months-long leave of absence, Chu said she was able to recuperate from the blow.
She has been telling new editors in her speaking tours in central and southern Taiwan that editing is creative work.
“The writer’s job is to write about the time they are in,” Chu said. “The editor’s job is to find outstanding writers who can leave a record of our time.”
“The noisier the times become, the more the world needs focused and professional editors,” she added.
The bookstore’s 10 Most Influential Books of the Year is a selection conducted by Kingstone through the voting of publishers, authors, readers and the news media.
Seven books on this year’s list were printed by Taiwanese publishers. These included Lin Hsiao-ting’s (林孝庭) historical work in English on Taiwan titled Accidental State, Ho Ching-yao’s (何敬堯) book on national folklore titled Taiwanese Spirits and Monsters (妖怪台灣) and Wang Hung-che’s (王宏哲) Secrets of Child-Raising and Education (教養的祕密).
Kingstone’s Writer of the Year was Chang Man-chuan (張曼娟), who in recent years has been branching out into young adult fiction and children’s books.
Kingstone’s top 20 Bestsellers of the Year included Fang Ssu-chi’s First Love Paradise, Emotional Blackmail and Mu Yan-ko’s (慕顏歌) Your Kindheartedness Must Have a Sharp Edge (你的善良必須有點鋒芒).
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