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Monday musings on Australian literature: Australian Women Writers’ Challenge 2013

December 30, 2013

Australian Women Writers Challenge
As last year, I’m devoting my last Monday Musings for 2013 to the Australian Women Writers Challenge. This challenge, instigated by Elizabeth Lhuede in response to growing concern in Australian literary circles about lack of recognition for women writers, was so successful in 2012 that Elizabeth, with the help of a team of volunteers, decided to continue the challenge in 2013. I am one of those volunteers – responsible for the Literary and Classics area – and, of course, am also a challenge participant. It was a quieter year for the challenge as we settled into a routine, but that doesn’t mean nothing memorable happened. So, before I round-up my own challenge I’d like to comment on a few of the highlights for me.

The main excitement was, I think, the announcement of the inaugural Stella Prize. The prize was not created by our Challenge, but it grew out of the same concerns that inspired the Challenge. Marg (Adventures of an Intrepid Reader) attended the award ceremony on behalf of the Challenge and wrote a post on the experience. The winner, Carrie Tiffany (for her novel Mateship with birds), impressed us all by sharing a portion of her prize with the shortlisted authors. A lovely gesture recognising the complex and uncomfortable nature of literary competition.

In October, as a special “event”, the Challenge focused on women writers of diverse heritage, and asked four authors to write guest posts. If you’d like to read these posts, they are:

  • Tseen Khoo: on her frustration about “narrow interpretations of writing by Asian-Australian women writers”
  • Alice Pung: on, interestingly, “Ruth Park, class, and marginalisation”
  • Malla Nunn: on her experience as an African migrant turned Australian writer
  • Merlinda Bobis: on “the necessity of creating and defining ‘home’ both for herself, as a writer, and for her readers”.

Finally, one of the features I particularly enjoy about the challenge is seeing Australian women writers support it (and each other) by reviewing books by other women writers. Annabel Smith, Amanda Curtin and Jessica White are three who have been particularly active this year.

If you are interested in the challenge, you can check it out at the link above, and, if you’d like to join up for 2014, you can fill out the form on this page.  This year, it is possible to join up as a reader or as a reviewer. The challenge can also be found on Facebook, Twitter (@auswomenwriters), GoodReads and Google+.

As I explained in last year’s highlights post, the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge is my only challenge. Once again, I signed up for the Franklin-fantastic Dabbler level, which is that I’d read (and review) at least 10 books by Australian women writers in more than one genre/category. Here is my list (with links to my reviews) for this year.








I have enjoyed taking part in the challenge – for being part of a team of committed people keen to spread the word about the breadth of Australian women’s writing, and for being introduced to that breadth. I am learning a lot more about Australian women’s literature than I could possible have learnt by beavering away here on my own. Roll on the 2014 challenge.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. December 30, 2013 23:05

    Thanks for all your updates throughout the year, too, Sue. All the best for 2014. John

    • December 31, 2013 08:46

      Thanks John, and the Challenge loved your contributions to it this year. I look forward to sharing more book discussion with you in 2014.

  2. December 31, 2013 02:24

    I am so impressed with all you and the challenge team have done this year! You know as it goes on day by day you don’t see how big it is until you sum it up like have. Great work! I expect 2014 will be just as good and, I’d wager, even better!

    • December 31, 2013 08:39

      Thanks Stefanie … We are hoping so. We don’t have the figures in but certainly the number of reviews posted last year increased, probably by around 20%.

  3. December 31, 2013 03:42

    I’ve been reading a few of the relevant books published before or around 1900, as you know, so don’t hesitate to drop me a line if you want any summaries or suggestions in that area.

  4. chillcat permalink
    December 31, 2013 07:48

    Thank you! I’ve enjoyed reading many of these reviews and ordered quite a few books. Looking forward to reading Madeleine St. John – I was utterly curious!

    • December 31, 2013 08:44

      That’s the best response if all, Catherine, that is, that you’ve ordered some of the books. I’m sure you’ll find St John fascinating.

  5. Sharkell permalink
    December 31, 2013 12:39

    This AWWC is certainly working for me. I have not been part of the challenge and, without focusing on Aussie female writers, I have managed to read 17 books by Aussie women out of my 89 books read this year. This has just been from reading reviews and picking up books that have piqued my interest. So, well done to all involved.

    • December 31, 2013 15:29

      Oh thanks Sharkell … That is the point isn’t it, the reading of Aussie women. I assume the books have been good?

      • Sharkell permalink
        December 31, 2013 20:04

        Yes, three of them have made my top ten reads for the year, The Fine Colour of Rust by Paddy O’Reilly, The Burial by Courtney Collins and Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.

        • January 1, 2014 01:28

          That’s great, Sharkell. I’ve only read one of those to date, thoughnBurial rites is coming up soon, but I was very impressed with The burial. And am keen to read O’Reilly as I’ve only read one short story of hers.

  6. January 1, 2014 22:36

    I thoroughly agree with you on Courtney Collins and The Burial. It is lingering in my mind in a way that few books do. I highly recommend it to anyone who will listen !

    • January 1, 2014 23:01

      Oh good lazycoffees, the more of us who talk about it, the more will read it (I hope!)

  7. January 2, 2014 10:48

    Sue, you’re a godsend for Australian women writers too! Thanks so much for being one of our readers and for championing Australian literature – people like you put food on our tables! I’ve loved your wonderful reviews and am looking forward to reading more of them next year.

    • January 2, 2014 11:10

      That’s very kind of you Jessica! I look forward to reading more of yours too – they always offer a different perspective and set me a-thinking!

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