21 February 2006
South African Michelle Matthews, publishing manager of women’s imprint Oshun Books, has been named by the British Council as a finalist for the 2006 International Young Publisher of the Year Award.
Matthews was selected from thousands of possible international candidates, with the British Council saying she epitomised the award requirement that the winner “not simply have an impressive CV, but the qualities and vision to be a potential leader in their national publishing sector, with an entrepreneurial drive tied to a strong creative ability”.
She leaves for the UK on 24 February 2006, joining nine other nominees competing for this prestigious international industry prize at the London Book Fair.
The award is a collaboration between the council and the fair, launched in 2004 to celebrate the entrepreneurial and leadership ability of a young person aged 25 to 35, working in the publishing sector in their own country.
The award is targeted at transitional and developing economies and celebrates and champions the notion of creative leadership – specifically the need to identify and nurture future leaders of the publishing industry in these markets. The award provides this group with access to London Book Fair as an opportunity for exchanging ideas and trading rights with UK professionals.
Matthews was recruited by Struik Publishers to develop their new women’s imprint. Launching Oshun Books in October 2004, Michelle quickly drew notice as one of the industry’s brightest young stars, excited by and invested in “strong new voices, unexplored niches and new readerships”.
By the start of 2006, Oshun Books had published 24 titles – 13 of them by first-time authors. These include journalist Sam Cowen’s bestselling Waiting for Christopher, poet Lebo Mashile’s collection In a Ribbon of Rhythm, Rosie Fiore’s fresh, funny and wise This Year’s Black and, most recently, award-winning playwright Nadia Davids’s At Her Feet.
As Oshun’s publishing manager, Matthews commissions titles, develops manuscripts, liaises with authors, manages her publishing programme, works closely with the sales and marketing teams, and manages a team of full-time and freelance staff.
Matthews graduated from the University of Cape Town with a distinction in English in 1999. She has worked as an editor and arts reporter at the Mail & Guardian and was the managing editor of SL student magazine – where she “interviewed rock stars, dived with sharks and danced to drum ‘n bass at 4am in Sao Paolo”.