Monday musings on Australian literature: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

aww2017 badgeAs has become tradition, I’m devoting my last Monday Musings of the year to the Australian Women Writers Challenge*. But, this time, my last Monday Musings also coincides with Christmas Day, so I wish a happy, peaceful holiday season to all my readers here who celebrate this time of year, however or whatever you celebrate.

Now, on with the show … This year has been an active one at the Challenge with a significantly increased number of reviews, in my area at least. We’ve also, with the help of new Challenge volunteer Theresa Smith (of Theresa Smith writes), published a large number of interviews with authors in our Spotlight series and, through connections made by Challenge founder Elizabeth Lhuede, published several posts on classic Australian women writers. In other words, we are extending the content on the blog to make it a broader resource beyond our round-ups and the reviews database which is, of course, the backbone of the challenge. The database now contains reviews for over 4,400 books across all forms and genres of Australian women’s writing, from all periods. This represents an increase of over 20% on last year’s total. Another good achievement.

Once again the Challenge ran some special events during the year, achieved some milestones, and introduced some new initiatives. These include:

  • Spotlights: Throughout the year we posted a variety of Spotlights – Saturday and Sunday Spotlights comprised author interviews (of which I did two, with Sara Dowse and Dorothy Johnston), Small Press Spotlights in which we featured some of Australia’s small publishing houses), and spotlights on classic women authors, like Ada Cambridge.
  • Facebook Page: Our Facebook Page – Reading Australian Women Writers – which was created last year, continues to attract readers wanting to share their latest Aussie women writers’ reads.
  • Bingo: We ran our second Bingo challenge – two in fact, one general, one classic – but I let it slip. Next year I will try a reminder system, although I’m not keen to overfill my blog with non-review content.
  • New releases: We are playing with how to capture and promote upcoming releases. We haven’t settled on the perfect process yet. Watch the blog for more on this.
  • Diversity: Once again author and researcher Jessica White coordinated a series of guest posts by “diverse” writers. There were posts by writers living with mental illness, by lesbian/queer writers, and others. These sorts of posts help make the AWW blog stand out from the crowd.

My personal round-up for the year

Let’s start with the facts, followed by some commentary. By the end of the year I will have posted 30 reviews for the challenge, the same as last year. Here they are, with links to my reviews:

Catherine McKinnon, StorylandFICTION

Rebekah Clarkson, Barking dogsSHORT STORIES


Gabrielle Carey, Moving among strangersNON-FICTION

I’ve noticed an interesting trend over the last three years in my Aussie women’s reading – a noticeable decrease in the proportion of novels:  48% in 2015, 40% in 2016, and just 34% this year. I’m not sure why this is, but I have been aware of reading more non-fiction this year – more by accident than on purpose. The types of novels I read changed from last year too, with very few debut novels this year as against nearly half last year, and two classics as against none last year!

Indigenous writers represented 10% of my total, with two books by Ali Cobby Eckermann and one by Ellen van Neerven. And memoir featured significantly – again – in my non-fiction reading, though they weren’t all your traditional memoir, one being an essay anthology, and two being what I would call “hybrids”. Overall, I’m reasonably satisfied with the diversity of my contribution – though I could always do better.

Anyhow, if you’d like to know more, check out the challenge here. The 2018 sign up form is ready, so do consider joining us. All readers are welcome. I’ll be there again (this being my sign-up post).  The challenge is also on Facebook, Twitter (@auswomenwriters), GoodReads and Google+.

Finally, a big thanks to Theresa, Elizabeth and the rest of the team – including my longtime online bookgroup friend Janine Rizzetti (Resident Judge of Port Phillip), who joined us this year. Once again it has been a positive experience, which is a credit to the willingness and flexibility of those involved. See you in 2018.

* This challenge was instigated by Elizabeth Lhuede in 2012 in response to concerns in Australian literary circles about the lack of recognition for women writers. I am one of the challenge’s volunteers – with responsibility for the Literary and Classics area.

39 thoughts on “Monday musings on Australian literature: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

  1. Merry Christmas, Sue – you know, this Musings might well be the very first one that I haven’t read on its own Monday – my Christmas stamina is not what it was and I was in bed too early to see it!
    I’m interested in what you say about capturing new releases: earlier this year I suggested opening my blog to debut authors to spruik their books in a series to be called Debut Mondays…and to my astonishment only one author responded! I thought this would be a good way for me and my readers to know about upcoming titles, but it’s obviously not going to happen, eh?
    So I’m just going to continue doing what I’ve always done, just reviewing what comes my way without much of a plan. I did 60+ new releases this year – a figure which is interesting in itself. Nearly all of these were Australian new releases, and if that’s how many in the genres I read that hit my desk in one year, just imagine how many new releases across all genres there must be altogether! How can so many new books hitting such a crowded marketplace be profitable? For the individual author, how difficult it must be to attract attention amongst the throng! And for us as readers, the challenge is to find the books that interest us and not get overwhelmed by it all.
    Anyway, greetings of the season, I hope you find time for plenty of idle summertime reading:). And as always, thank you for a wonderful year of blogging, I treasure your blog above all others for the interesting discussions raised by your musings, and I especially like the reviews of books we’ve both read because I always learn something new about the book!

    • Thanks for this great response Lisa – and no, my Christmas stamina is not as it used to be either. A bit sad in a way but c’est la vie. We’re still here!

      I remember that post of yours, and noticed that none had come though you’d had that early response. Of course Anna said she liked the idea so I’m sure she’d point her next debut author to you. And yes, you do wonder how many of the new releases achieve much for their authors and publishers. I was interested in Annabel’s recent of post on finances in publishing, on how advances work. The responses to her post were very interesting too.

      Anyhow, thanks for enjoying my MM. There are a few people who seem to read it regularly and that inspires me to keep going! So thanks a lot for commenting and letting me know you are reading it. And yes, I especially like seeing our reviews of the same book for the same reason. It tells you a lot about readers, doesn’t it? Authors can never really know what people will get out of their novels. I’m sure people take away things that the author never planned for or even thought were there!

      And of course, thanks for your wonderful blog too. It is really special to have this connection with another person who loves similar kinds of books and is happy to share their ideas.

  2. The AWW Challenge is obviously a great initiative, not that I need much encouragement to read Aust women writers, but your classics focus led to a couple of great essays – Burgess on Ada Cambridge and Ontivero on Tasma. I have used your MM list here to update my AWW Gen 1 page with links to Louisa Atkinson. And I have also linked Louise Mack to an old post on republished classics so I won’t forget it when I come to Gen 2 which I am thinking about more and more. Anyway, I’m definitely looking forward to another 52 thoughtful Monday Musings in the New Year.

    • Thankyou very much Bill – it’s good to have another Aussie-women focused reader, around, particularly one interested in the older writers. I need to make sure I’m organised for your Gen 1 week or it will creep up on me when I’m not ready!

  3. Thank you very much for all the love you share, WG. You inspire me to be a focussed reader. There is so much to learn from this post, and I am so glad I get to read your reviews and posts. I also hope that I would get to read some of these books soon. I have been eyeing Ali Cobby Eckermann’s books for a while and ‘Habits of Silence’. I look forward to following the challenge and your reviews. Many thanks! ❤ Happy holidays!

    • Thanks Deepika. I love that your interests are so broad enabling you to be interested in our down under authors. I like being a reader with a focus – but not so focused that I become narrow. A focus enables you to get to know an area well, but being so focused that you never explore other areas would be sad I think. Seems to me that you are doing well with reading widely, but also developing an interest in authors from your area too.

      Happy holidays to you too.

      • Thank you, WG. It is quite a coincidence that I was actually looking for a review in your website and this comment reached me.

        I just came across this book ‘Lucy And Linh’, written by Alice Punga. It is pegged as an ‘Australian YA’. I saw the word Australia and I thought of you. But I was not sure if you read YA. Sounds like this book is great. 🙂

  4. Best seasons greetings and thank you for interviewing me for the Challenge. Your questions were intelligent and thoughtful and made me think about my book in different ways. Thanks also for the reminder to sign up for 2018.

    • Thanks Dorothy. I was thrilled that you were happy to be interviewed for the challenge. Those interviews will be a great resource for future readers.

      I hope you are having a lovely holiday season down south!

    • Thanks John, that’s a lovely thing for you to say. We do miss you, you know, but I see you pop up “liking” something so I know you are still around. That’s a start at least!

      All the best to you too for 2018.

  5. Hi Sue, The ‘AWW Challenge’ was worthwhile with some very good reads. I was down at my daughter’s for Christmas, and I was able to read four more books by Australian women. I reread Miles Franklin’s My Brilliant Career and My Career goes Bung – I forgot how good they were. On the plane I was able to finish Force of Nature by Jane Harper and read Jackie French’s Grim, Crims & Convicts 1788-1820 which was entertaining. My youngest grandson also enjoyed it. I hope you had a lovely Christmas, and all the best for next year. Always looking forward to reading your blogs.

    • Thanks Meg. Lovely to hear from you. I’m impressed that you read all that over the Christmas break. How great that your grandson also enjoyed the French book.

      And that’s a lovely thing for you to say regarding reading my blog. I must say I always love the fact that you engage with my posts and respond with your contributions in the comments. It makes blogging worthwhile to have people willing to engage through the comments.

  6. What a fantastic roundup: the group sounds very satisfying indeed. And obviously there are loads of great books awaiting those of us who are not geographically inclined to read Aussie writers. (As if we needed another reminder!)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s