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Monday musings on Australian literature: AWW Challenge 2013 First Quarter Progress Report

April 8, 2013

Regular readers here know that while I generally do not do challenges I am taking part in the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge – because it’s what I like to read anyhow. The challenge, which began last year, was so successful that the initiator Elizabeth Lhuede, decided to continue it this year – and called on other bloggers to help. I am one of those bloggers and have responsibility for overseeing the Literary (fiction and non-fiction) area. We have now completed the first quarter of 2013 – how can that be, by the way (!) – and I thought it might be interesting to produce a bit of a report card.

Australian Women Writers ChallengeBefore I continue, I need to explain that the “Literary” category isn’t easy to define. The Challenge’s policy is that reviewers allocate the category/ies to the books they review, though the AWW Blog Team does do the occasional editing or tweaking where there are glaring errors. Given that proviso, on with my quarterly report – and I’ll start by providing some perspective. In 2012 some 1526 reviews were logged for the challenge. So far, in the first quarter of 2013, 614 reviews have been logged. Clearly, the challenge is gaining momentum, which is really exciting. These reviews cover the whole gamut of women’s writing – all genres, non-fiction, poetry, short stories, and even some self-published works.

Kate Grenville - Cambridge - January 2012

Kate Grenville, Cambridge, January 2012 (Photo credit: Chris Boland, via Wikipedia)

In the “literary” area, which for the purposes of my survey here includes “Classics”, 112 reviews (or more) were logged in the first quarter, representing over 20% of the reviews posted. These reviews cover 71 authors, which means of course that several authors have been reviewed multiple times. The most frequently reviewed authors are:

  • Kate Forsyth whom I must admit I don’t know: Six reviews for her novel The wild girl
  • Karen Foxlee whose Anatomy of wings I read before I started blogging: Six reviews, including five for her current novel The midnight dress
  • Miles Franklin, of course: Five reviews ranging across her work, including one for her diaries
  • Kate Grenville whose The lieutenant I reviewed last year: Three reviews
  • Lisa Jacobson whose The sunlit zone has been shortlisted for the inaugural Stella Prize: Three reviews for The sunlit zone.
  • Dorothy Porter, whose The bee hut I’ve reviewed: Three reviews for two of her works
  • Madeleine St John, the subject of Helen Trinca’s biography which I’ve just reviewed: Three reviews for The women in black
  • ML Stedman whose debut novel The light between oceans is winning or being shortlisted for many awards: Four reviews for The light between oceans
  • Amy Witting, a late bloomer: Three reviews ranging across her work

Besides these, there are also reviews for well-known writers like Helen Garner, Anna Funder and Ruth Park and for writers not known to me. There are reviews for poetry, including verse novels by Lisa Jacobson and Dorothy Porter, and poetry collections by Amy Witting and Suzanne Edgar. There are of course gaps, but overall it’s encouraging to see such a diverse range of Aussie women writers brought together in one place. It can only be good for them, and for Australian literature in general, to be so clearly identified.

While the challenge is about reviewing women writers, this does not mean the reviewers have to be women. It’s encouraging to see several men actively contributing to the challenge. Some men are clearly not averse to reading books written by women!

If you are interested in the challenge and would like to take part – it’s never too late – or would like to check out some of the reviews, click here for the challenge site and have a look around. I’d be surprised if you didn’t find something to interest you. And, if you see any major discrepancies in categorisation, please let us know.

Are you taking part in the Challenge? And if so, is it changing what you read?

22 Comments leave one →
  1. April 8, 2013 11:45 pm

    This is probably my literature of choice, too; the challenge lies in keeping up (or trying to) with all the titles I want to read!

    • April 9, 2013 12:07 am

      That makes me feel so much better Amanda. I’ve been feeling that I’m in a challenge that’s not really a challenge but now I realise that it definitely is! So much more I want to read that I can possible find time for … including some writers who comment on this blog! They’re in my sights though!!

      • April 9, 2013 8:59 am

        *chuckle* Amanda’s new novel Elemental arrived in my post box yesterday, and if it’s anything like as good as The Sinkings, you could start with that one.

        • April 9, 2013 9:16 am

          Where did my reply just go? I must try to get to her as I’m sure I’d enjoy it. You know, I didn’t even open my book yesterday. So many things to do. Time … Where does it go? (Just deleted my longer rant … !)

        • April 9, 2013 11:17 am

          I could say exactly the same…
          I go back to work next week and have done hardly any of the things I planned to do…

        • April 9, 2013 11:35 am

          It’s tricky isn’t it – but you do seem to get to do your reading, which always impresses me. I tend to feel driven by my too many dilettantish interests I think!

  2. April 8, 2013 11:48 pm

    I almost feel guilty I’m not throwing up my hand! While writing and promoting my own work doesn’t stop me reading, and I’ve also read quite a few of the books you mention here, I think I’ve become a commitment phobe in later life! I will have a ferret around though..

    • April 9, 2013 12:08 am

      Oh Catherine, I know you’re reading some great stuff including women, and that’s the most important thing. The challenge is just the icing on the cake! I’m a bit of a commitment-phobe these days too, so I understand completely.

  3. April 9, 2013 12:06 am

    It’s so great to see the AWW challenge grow by leaps and bounds this year. I’d noticed several reviews by men, which I hadn’t noticed last year, but perhaps there were some then too. Also great to see. I participated last year and this year too. I don’t know that it’s changing what I read as such, but like you I’m learning about new authors and books all the time too. I think it’s wonderful to see Aussie Women Writers getting so much exposure, and see all the reviews come together in one place.

    • April 9, 2013 12:11 am

      Yes, I agree Louise … yes, there were some men last year but not as many I think, and not reviewing as consistently as people like Philip, John and Jonathan are. I think having all the reviews in one place is a particularly useful thing. The list probably needs to be exposed to the net better than it is I think but we are gradually getting a handle on all the technology!

  4. April 9, 2013 4:17 am

    Bravo! 🙂

  5. April 9, 2013 8:35 am

    Great going sue all the best stu

  6. April 12, 2013 8:55 pm

    Doing the challenge last year changed my reading quite a bit. I always had good intentions about reading more Aussie authors, and I did read them, but nowhere near as much as I did last year or as I am this year. It has also influenced other challenges. For example, I am only counting books by Aussie authors for my Historical Fiction Reading challenge this year!

    • April 12, 2013 9:25 pm

      Oh that’s great Marg – it’s great to support Australian authors, women or men, I think.

  7. April 14, 2013 6:02 pm

    Fascinating stuff – I’ve never done a challenge before. This one certainly has a wide range of books in it – but does it not interfere with your usual reading schedule too much? I’m not sure I’d like to abandon that serendipity of stumbling across a new book and fitting it into the schedule

    • April 14, 2013 6:22 pm

      No, I’ve never done one before either Tom … and this one doesn’t really interfere with my schedule at all. To complete the highest level of the challenge I only have to read 10 works by Aussie women in a year. I can’t imagine a year in which I wouldn’t do that anyhow because it’s one of my reading interests. This is why, though, I don’t do other challenges – because I want to be free to read what I want to do. It’s also why I feel guilty about doing this one – it’s not really a challenge!

  8. April 15, 2013 6:22 am

    All is explained!

  9. buriedinprint permalink
    April 24, 2013 10:36 am

    I was just petting my (small) collection of Kate Grenville’s novels this morning and wondering WHY I haven’t read Joan Makes History yet. You’ve made me want to go back to the shelves and start petting other books now… (everybody does this, right?)

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