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Publishing Profile—Cassia Gaden Gilmartin

Cassia Gaden Gilmartin, Production Executive at New Island Books

How I started in publishing

I began my work in publishing by founding Channel, a journal of environmental writing that aims to respond to the current ecological crisis through poetry and prose, in partnership with my co-editor Elizabeth Murtough.

We made the decision to start the journal in 2019, on the day of the first global climate strike that year, and it was a really satisfying way to bring our creative skills into the service of a cause we both care about deeply.

I always had the thought in the back of my mind that I’d like to build a career in publishing, but creating Channel has made me fall even more in love with this field of work than I thought I would.

We’re still going strong, with our eighth issue due out this spring, and the challenge of turning our contributors’ words into printed products that we and the authors can take pride in has never stopped exciting me. 

The creative community I’ve discovered through the journal – the writers, artists, editors and makers of other small, independent publishing projects it’s brought me into contact with – have been an immense source of inspiration, and continue to inform my work in book publishing.

Where I work now

I’ve been working since December 2022 as Production Executive at New Island Books, a Dublin-based independent publisher of literary fiction and Irish interest non-fiction.

This is my first in-house role—after the years of searching and interviewing to find a job in Irish publishing that was the right fit for me I couldn’t be happier with where I’ve ended up.

New Island publish the kind of books I’d read for pleasure – big-hearted, insightful books with a lot to say about the society we live in – and my knowledge of editorial and production processes is increasing exponentially thanks to my colleagues’ support. 

The latest publication from New Island Books is Perpetual Comedown, by Declan Toohey. Cover Design by Jack Smyth.

The best thing about my role

There’s nothing like holding a book that I’ve worked on when it arrives from the printer. Production is about interpreting an editorial team’s vision for a book through the lens of the time, budget and print processes available, then keeping an eye on all the logistical pieces that need to fall into place for that vision to be realised.

I like to think of it as being about making an imagined thing manifest, taking the idea of a book that’s in the team’s minds and helping it become ink on paper. There’s a kind of alchemy to that process that’s fascinating to me, and there’s a satisfying tangibility to the end result.

A mistake I made

I once left a poem I’d accepted for publication out of an issue of Channel entirely. We only discovered this mistake after sending the issue to print, when the poet got in touch to ask why her name wasn’t included on our website—and though I was, of course, mortified, there was nothing to be done about it at that stage but to apologise.

Thankfully, she was incredibly generous and forgiving in her response, and allowed us to publish her work in the following issue. That contributor’s kindness, and the relationship we’ve built with her since, have stuck with me as an example of the connectedness I always want to feel with the writers whose work I publish.

The shock of that mistake also woke me up to the volume of work I was trying to maintain, which had become unsustainable, and I’ve been more careful since then to manage my workload and focus on what matters most.

My proudest moment so far

One of my proudest moments has got to be the launch of Channel‘s seventh issue last October. I love all our launches, but this one felt like a particularly important celebration of how far we’ve come.

In 2022 we started to expand the Channel team to include a Publishing Intern, with a new person occupying this position each year. Our intern for last year was Dorje de Burgh, a visual artist who allowed us to feature some of his work on the cover of Issue 7.

Cover art, Dorje de Burgh

The launch venue, The Library Project in Temple Bar, are also the publisher of Dorje’s photobook, what are the roots that clutch, and it was fantastic to share the evening with him and with their team – as well as, of course, with the tourists who are always popping their heads around the door of any Temple Bar venue, and whose interest was immensely gratifying.

What the future holds

I can’t wait to see what’s ahead in my work at New Island. I’m really proud of the books we publish, which stood out to me long before I joined the company for their production quality as well as for their content, and I know that as part of the team I’m going to learn more and more about how to make the beautiful printed objects that our authors and audiences deserve.

I’ve also taken over as Chair of SYP Ireland for 2023, and I’m so excited to start building events and supports for Ireland’s early-career and aspiring publishers in collaboration with this year’s team.

My particular route into publishing has made me conscious of the huge breadth of publishing activity going on in this country, from imprints of multinational publishers to small, artist-led print and digital projects, and the prospect of getting more of those people talking to and learning from each other is hugely exciting to me.

A book recommendation this month

I’ve just finished Weave by Oein DeBhairduin and Deirdre Sullivan, illustrated by Yingge Xu, the latest in a book series called Solstice Series from Skein Press. These books bring together multiple writers and visual artists in really innovative ways, sparking the kind of creative conversations that publishing is all about for me.

The next in the series, Majed Mujed’s The Book of Trivialities, is out this April, and I can’t wait to read it.