Australian Women Writers 2016 Challenge completed

The time has come to write my annual completion post for my one challenge of the year, the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge. As in previous years, I signed up for the top-level, Franklin, which involves reading 10 books and reviewing at least 6. I’ve exceeded this, and I plan to continue to add to the challenge, as I’ve done in previous years, but half-way through the year seems a good time to write my completion post.

I have, so far this year, contributed 14 reviews to the challenge.

Jane Jose, Places women makeHere’s my list in alphabetical order, with the links on the titles being to my reviews:

This is quite different to last year’s completion post list which included one classic and one book by an indigenous author. I like to read classics, and I also like to read indigenous authors, but this year so far I’ve read neither. Instead, I seem to have read significantly more non-fiction, six out of 14 in fact. By the end of last year’s challenge, I’d read seven non-fiction out of 27 books in total. Looks like I’ll exceed that this year unless I stop reading Australian women’s non-fiction pretty well right now.

It’s also a little different because it includes two books by an author, the wonderful Elizabeth Harrower. Of course, it’s not that I don’t read multiple books by authors – but this usually happens over time. I tend not to find an author and immediately go hell-for-leather with that author – not because I don’t want to, but because I have books lined up, which brings me to …

… plans for the rest of the year. I know I’ll be reading at least one indigenous woman, Ali Cobby Eckermann, and I do have a couple of classics I really want to get to this year, but the review copies are piling up and there’s my reading group schedule, so I’m just going to see how it goes. The best laid plans, and all that!

Do you plan your reading in advance – and if so, do you keep to it – or do you just read what comes? 


25 thoughts on “Australian Women Writers 2016 Challenge completed

  1. Well done, Sue. I don’t do this (or any other challenge) but I’m pleased to report that I would have completed the Franklin too:)
    I wish that mob counting stats for the Stellas would start including the Blogosphere, I’d really like to know just how we compare. My reviews since I started in 2007 have consistently hovered about 45% female /55% male and I’m not even consciously choosing women writers over men.
    Litbloggers may not have the same prestige as print (which is declining in importance anyway) but I bet we have an influential readership all the same.

    • Yes, it would be interesting to know I agree., Lisa. In one way, though, I can understand why they may not, because bloggers are not part of the formal system if that makes sense. But, I’m thinking of an MM on the recent report and it would be worth mentioning this point, wouldn’t it?

      • LOL I think the formal system is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Book reviews are part of (they say) being treated seriously. But they are being selective about which book reviews count and who it is that’s taking women’s fiction seriously.

        • Following Lisa, according to reports I read in the last few days Fairfax are planning seriously for weekend-only newspapers. Bloggers soon will be the mainstream. I imagine it would be simple for WordPress to supply and publish weekly or monthly readerships for reviews sorted by book and/or by blogger.

        • Ah, Lisa, I thought you’d reply like this. Of course I agree that we book bloggers play an increasingly visible role, and yes, they are being selective (at least, I hope they are being selective rather than oblivious!). Do we volunteer bloggers currently have the “power” (in numbers, for example) to impact the industry, and it’s the industry that they are targeting.

          Still, it would be good to see someone start to research the role of bloggers. No-one really knows what impact we do have on the “industry”. That’s the research that probably needs to be done first?

        • Well, if there’s any point to these gender wars at all, somebody ought to be monitoring the effect on the industry. What exactly is the target outcome? Is it sales? Is it increased or better output from women when they win a money prize or a fellowship? Is it parity with prize winners? (If it is, bad luck for male writers who’ll be dismissed from the prize pool on the basis of their gender until the numbers are equal). Is it something more nebulous – perhaps the prestige of being studied in an academic way, as the subject of a PhD or a biography? How are these things measured in a rigorous way that stands up to independent scrutiny? (Does BookScan even measure sales by author gender?)
          When we did action research projects at work, we were expected to clearly define the problem, provide adequate evidence to support the proposition that there was a problem, have baseline data to define the starting point, and then monitor progress with regular data collection and rigorous analysis.
          There are a lot of bloggers and people of goodwill (including you) working very hard on this issue, and yet their contribution is being ignored.
          I suspect that it’s as simple as print reviews being easy to count. But in a world where most people are not reading the print media, it’s just not meaningful data any more.

  2. Over the Christmas holidays I make a list of books that I would like to read the next year or two. Around 40 books, half from my shelves and half from the library/bookstore. I don’t stick to it religiously but if I can’t figure out which book to read next I will often go to the list and pick one from there. I think I’ve only read 5 or 6 from the list so far this year but it works when I need it to. Congratulations on meeting your AWW challenge.

  3. Congratulations Sue, some good reading you have accomplished. What was your favourite read? I always have an ever growing list of books to read. I reserve most of them at the library which I visit at least once a week; and usually take home 2 or more reserved books from my list. However, every now and then I do read a book that is not on my list. It is either from the library, op shop or airport.

    • Oh, that’s a hard question Meg. Of the fiction though I’d probably have to say the two Harrowers, but they’ve all been good reads, really. The nonfiction I might just leave except to say that Backlash was a really worthwhile read, and the two Holocaust memoirs took me to some aspects I hadn’t fully read before.

      Using the library reserve list is a great way to manage your reading. Do you always remember why you reserved a book?

  4. to an extent I plan my reading ahead. I belong to two book groups. One on line reading mostly Australian books, and one f2f as an U3A class; so to the extent that I know I have to have a book read by a certain date I plan to read the required books in the week before the discussion. Otherwise I get books passed on to me from a reviewer; and I request books at the local library, some from reviews, some recommended by other book group members or by yourself; and when going to pick them up or return them i usually see something else where I recognise the author, or it’s on my mental list because others have mentioned it.

    • Love it, Carol – partly structured, partly more organic. A nice mix. I once belonged to an online Aussie-focused bookgroup and enjoyed it, but we all faded away, partly I think because a few of us started up blogs and we involved in other online book groups as well. I really enjoyed the extended online discussions though.

  5. Hi Sue, it is always difficult to pick out the best read. The library asks me to supply a suggested reading list for their book clubs, and I find that not easy to do. No, I don’t always remember why I reserved a book. I take it home and once I read the blurb it all comes back to me.

    • Oh, how great that the library asks you to do that, Meg. You are such a great and prolific reader. You haven’t joined a group yourself?

      I’m glad the blurb brings it back to you. I’m not sure I always remember why I wanted to read a certain book – or, I guess I mean, who might have recommended it! I try to set up systems but then they become onerous to maintain so I give them up.

  6. Interesting idea Bill. WordPress clearly have our stats as they produce those annual reports but there might be a bit of programming to do do reports by book given the idiosyncratic ways different bloggers label their books and posts?

  7. Probably the easiest way, without getting WordPress to add data fields, would be to self-declare as you do for the AWWC. Needs thought!

    Meanwhile, I made a quick run through of my posts for 2016 so far, and I have reviewed 9 books by men, 16 by women. Of those 4 were Indigenous. And only 8 books were current releases.

    • Thanks Bill. It’s interesting to analyse one’s reading patterns sometimes isn’t it? I must say that I feel I’ve had too many recent releases recently and I want to get back to some older books.

  8. All good questions Lisa and I can’t really answer them because I’m looking at the research from the outside without access to the full picture, but my understanding is that the aims include increased opportunities for and recognition of women writers. Rightly or wrongly, they are basing their research, I believe, on the view that “mainstream” reviewing – as in reviewing in recognised publications – is still where the real influence lies. I think they see “peer reviewing” – particularly GoodReads etc – as “technically” improving gender equality but they don’t see that sort of reviewing as having significant impact on the sort of recognition that makes sales and increases kudos.

    To be honest, I don’t think my blog is big enough to have a significant impact. It certainly makes a contribution to the conversation and I know anecdotally that some people do choose to read books I post on, but I, personally, don’t feel overlooked. (In fact I’m much happier if I can potter away quietly under the radar. Less stress to perform that way. I’m a wuss, I know.)

    Still, I agree that there is more that can be researched in the area of blogging – we are really in a transition time aren’t we? Let’s hope the resources are there for this research to be done.

  9. Pingback: New AWW Facebook groups and other news | Australian Women Writers Challenge Blog

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