As I’ve done over the last two years, I’m devoting my last Monday Musings for the year to the Australian Women Writers Challenge. This challenge, which most of you probably know by now, was instigated by Elizabeth Lhuede in response to concerns in Australian literary circles about the lack of recognition for women writers. I am one of Elizabeth’s band of volunteers – responsible for the Literary and Classics area – and, of course, am also a challenge participant.
The challenge has had another successful year with continued commitment by a wide range of reviewers. In 2015, we will be moving to a self-hosted site and plan to produce a single searchable database of all reviews logged since the challenge started in 2012. This will provide an excellent entree to a wide variety of Australian women’s writing across all forms and genres that has not been easy to access to date.
As last year, the Challenge ran some special events during the year, including a focus on indigenous writers, writers from diverse backgrounds, and writers with a disability. These events have included interviews and guest posts, and I thought I’d share some with you here, because they are worth reading and because they demonstrate the depth of diversity the Challenge reaches for:
- Honey Brown (Women writers with a disability): on living with paraplegia and the surprising links between creativity and coping with adversity.
- Eleanor Jackson (Queer women writers): on how being a “bisexual, biracial female writer” affects her art.
- Ambelin Kwaymullin (Indigenous women writers): containing reviews of 5 works by Aboriginal women (including one by an Aboriginal community) which “offer insights into Aboriginal culture and existence”.
- Donna McDonald (Women writers with a disability): on the struggle for rights for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, and how exhausting it is.
- Yvette Walker (Queer women writers): on two queer writers – Elizabeth Bishop and EM Forster – who have inspired her.
- Jessica White (Women writers with a disability): on her deafness which brought isolation and dislocation but some consolations too!
If you are interested in the challenge, you can check it out here. I don’t believe the sign up form is ready for 2015, but keep an eye on the site. We’d love you – whether you are female or male – to join us next year. The challenge can also be found on Facebook, Twitter (@auswomenwriters), GoodReads and Google+.
As regular readers know by now, the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge is my only challenge. This year I posted 30 reviews for the challenge, three more than last year. My breadth is similar to last year, except interestingly, I reviewed no poetry this year, whereas last year I contributed three poetry reviews. What happened? However, I am pleased that I managed to read four books from my TBR pile for the challenge. Now that is something worth crowing about! Anyhow, here’s my list (with links to the reviews):
- Jessica Anderson, One of the wattle birds
- Thea Astley, Drylands
- Brooke Davis, Lost & found (Debut novel)
- Sara Dowse, Schemetime
- Beryl Fletcher, Juno and Hannah (New Zealand author published by Australian independent publisher)
- Hannah Kent, Burial rites (Debut novel)
- Kirsten Krauth, just_a_girl (Debut novel)
- Margaret Merrilees, The first week (Debut novel)
- Roslyn Russell, Maria returns: Barbados to Mansfield Park (Debut novel)
- Angela Savage, The dying beach (Crime)
- Annabel Smith, The ark (Speculative fiction, published as an interactive app, ebook and in print)
- Tara June Winch, Swallow the air (Indigenous writer)
- Evie Wyld, All the birds, singing
- Barbara Baynton, Billy Skywonkie (Individual story)
- Barbara Baynton, Bush church (Individual story)
- Cate Kennedy (ed), Australian love stories (Anthology)
- Catherine McNamara, Pelt and other stories (Collection)
- Angela Meyer (ed), The great unknown (Anthology)
- Deborah Sheldon, 300 degrees & other stories (Collection)
- Helen Garner, The house of grief (True crime, more or less)
- Sue Milliken, Selective memory: A life in film (Memoir)
- Jill Sanguinetti, School days of a Methodist lady (Memoir)
- Olivera Simić, Surviving peace: A political memoir (Memoir)
- Margaret Rose Stringer, And then like my dreams (Memoir)
- Clare Wright, The forgotten rebels of Eureka (History, and the 2013 Stella Prize winner)
- Kate Forsyth, Stories as salvation
- Kathy Marks, Channelling Mannalargenna
- Mary Grant Bruce, The early tales
- Eleanor Dark, Juvenilia
- Ethel Turner, Tales from the “Parthenon”
Again, I have enjoyed taking part in the challenge – and plan to take part again next year, both as volunteer and participant. I particularly want to thank Elizabeth and the rest of the team for making it all such a cooperative, and enjoyable experience. I look forward to 2015.
24 thoughts on “Monday musings on Australian literature: Australian Women Writers’ Challenge 2014”
Sue, you’re amazing! I just scraped through with my mere 10 reviews 🙂 Thanks for the shout-out, and I’m looking forward to reading more of your reviews next year.
Why thanks Jessica … and thanks for your wonderful work for the Challenge. I love your diversity round-ups.
That’s quite an impressive list there. I re-read Ruth Park’s Harp in the South Trilogy researching my family history in Sydney’s Surry Hills and was really struck by her character descriptions and construction and her language although the details have faded a bit. I have just finished reading “Every Man Must Have a Shed” by William McInnes …not female but Australian and loved that. Heard him speak at our local library. i love Australian literature!! xx Rowena
Oh yes, Rowena, Ruth Park is a wonderful writer. I first read the first two ie not Missus in my teens. They are memorable books. If you haven’t read Swords and crowns and rings put it on your list. Wonderful characters there too. I’ve read one of McInnes’s memoirs … I think the one with hobby in the title, set near where I lived for many years. He’s a good storyteller, isn’t he?
I plan on reading a lot of Aussie books this year, but I don’t like categories so won’t do that.
Fair enough, Guy. I don’t care how you describe them as long as you read them!! I’m not big on tight categories, but I do find loose ones useful. It all depends on the purpose.
It’s an impressive list, Sue! 🙂
Great list, Sue. Thank you. The best thing about it (apart from the reviews of course) is that you encourage and challenge me to read more widely and review more in 2015.
Thanks Maureen … And I’m very glad if that’s the effect on you! More reviews are what we love.
Thank you for your wonderful contribution to the AWW team, Sue, and for the breadth and depth of your reviews.
Thanks Lizzy … You know it’s a rel pleasure for me don’t you? You are a pleasure to work with on this.
I am sure that there is an underrecognition of women writers in Australian literature – as everywhere but it seems to me that Australia has produced so many famous women writers- Miles Franklin to Henry Handel Richardson, from Germaine Greer to Judith Wright. More than most any other country almost?
You know your Aussie writing, Ian, and you are right, we have produced some great women writers. Whether we’ve produced more than other countries is harder to prove, though per capita we are probably up there. Interesting point.
Well done Sue. I was hoping to beat my tally this year, but I don’t think I did (although I haven’t done my end of year post yet, so there’s still a chance). Thanks for all your work on the challenge, I’ve always enjoyed reading your wrap-ups. I’m looking forward to participating again next year.
Thanks Louise – on all counts. I’m so glad you plan to continue to participate. It’s great having people stick with it from year to year – and I know the authors appreciate the coverage they get.
Thanks Sue for all your wonderful musings, they have led me to some new Australian writers and some very enjoyable reads. At the moment I am reading The Bush, and it immediately brought to mind your musing on the topic of ‘landscape’ in writing. It is satisfying that such connections can be made when reading and bring in other perspectives of the writing. Looking forward to your reviews on more Australian women writers next year.
Thanks Meg … And I so appreciate that you take the time to comment. It adds immeasurably to the pleasure of blogging to have people respond and engage. Happy reading to you in 2015.
Wonderful wrap-up! How exciting the Challenge will have its own site next year! Thanks for those article links too. They look like they will be interesting reading!
Thanks Stefanie … Yes, each year the presentation of the Challenge has improved. It’s becoming a bit of a fixture here I think.
I’ve added new-to- me Australian books to my Kindle just now, and set in the place we’ll be staying in Sydney so VERY VERY soon. Surry Hills here we come (via Kuala Lumpur at turn of Jan/Feb). Thank you Whispering Gums and Rowena.
Oh that’s great to hear Carol. What have you downloaded? I’m guessing Ruth Park’s Harp in the South?
Yes, you guessed right! And I downloaded the Tasmanian memoir suggested here too, it was FREE!!
Thanks Carol … You’re in for a treat then.
And don’t you love free e-books?