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Monday musings on Australian literature: Australian Women Writers’ Challenge 2014

December 29, 2014

awwchallenge2014As 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):






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 Comments leave one →
  1. December 30, 2014 00:44

    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.

    • December 30, 2014 08:19

      Why thanks Jessica … and thanks for your wonderful work for the Challenge. I love your diversity round-ups.

  2. December 30, 2014 01:39

    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

    • December 30, 2014 08:23

      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?

  3. December 30, 2014 01:58

    I plan on reading a lot of Aussie books this year, but I don’t like categories so won’t do that.

    • December 30, 2014 08:25

      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.

  4. December 30, 2014 02:19

    It’s an impressive list, Sue! 🙂

  5. December 30, 2014 14:10

    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.

    • December 30, 2014 15:02

      Thanks Maureen … And I’m very glad if that’s the effect on you! More reviews are what we love.

  6. December 30, 2014 17:42

    Thank you for your wonderful contribution to the AWW team, Sue, and for the breadth and depth of your reviews.

    • December 30, 2014 18:09

      Thanks Lizzy … You know it’s a rel pleasure for me don’t you? You are a pleasure to work with on this.

      • ian darling permalink
        December 30, 2014 21:03

        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?

        • December 30, 2014 21:09

          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.

  7. December 30, 2014 22:27

    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.

    • December 30, 2014 22:30

      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.

  8. Meg permalink
    December 31, 2014 07:21

    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.

    • December 31, 2014 08:07

      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.

  9. January 1, 2015 04:12

    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!

    • January 1, 2015 07:57

      Thanks Stefanie … Yes, each year the presentation of the Challenge has improved. It’s becoming a bit of a fixture here I think.

  10. Carol S permalink
    January 5, 2015 04:38

    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.

    • January 5, 2015 04:43

      Oh that’s great to hear Carol. What have you downloaded? I’m guessing Ruth Park’s Harp in the South?

  11. Carol S permalink
    January 5, 2015 05:06

    Yes, you guessed right! And I downloaded the Tasmanian memoir suggested here too, it was FREE!!

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