Monday musings on Australian literature: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2018

AWW Badge 2018As has become tradition, I’m devoting my last Monday Musings of the year to the Australian Women Writers Challenge* – but, this year it coincides with New Year’s Eve. When this post goes live, who knows what revelry I’ll be up to! Hmm … I can but hope! Seriously, though, I wish all you wonderful Whispering Gums followers an excellent 2019 in whatever form you would like that to take. I also want to thank you for supporting my blog with your visits and comments. You make this blog such an enjoyable experience for me.

Now, the challenge … it has continued to go very well. In my area of Literary and Classics, we consolidated 2017’s impressive increase in the number of reviews posted, with roughly the same number posted again this year. Theresa Smith (of Theresa Smith writes), continued to oversee the day-to-day management of the blog, enabling Challenge founder Elizabeth Lhuede to be less hands-on. Elizabeth is, however, still an active presence, particularly when it comes to resolving technical issues, reviewing our policies (such as “do we need to update our definition of historical fiction”?), and so on. The database now contains reviews for nearly 5,200 books across all forms and genres, from all periods, of Australian women’s writing. This means that the number of books reviewed on our database increased by 800 books – a 17% increase. Most of these were new releases but older books were also added, making the database particularly rich for readers interested in the long tail!

Most years, I’ve shared some highlights from the Challenge, but this year was more one of consolidation than of many new happenings, so, in the interests of keeping this post short and to the point, I’ll move straight on to reporting on the reviews I contributed for the year.

My personal round-up for the year

Let’s start with the facts, followed by some commentary. I posted 34 reviews for the challenge, four more than I did in 2016 and 2017, but one, admittedly, was a guest post. Here they are, with links to my reviews:

Jenny Ackland, Little godsFICTION


Carmel Bird, Dead aviatrixSHORT STORIES


Amanda Duthie, Margaret and DavidNON-FICTION

This year I reversed the trend of previous years which saw me reading fewer and fewer novels for the Challenge – 48% in 2015, 40% in 2016, and only 34% in 2017 – compared with other forms of writing. This year, however, novels comprised over 55% of my AWW challenge reading, which proportion more closely reflects my reading preferences.

I read no poetry or verse novels this year, but I did read two plays by Garner. I also read fewer short story collections or anthologies, but I did read more Classics, including individual short stories. I’d love to read more of those. My non-fiction reading was more diverse – that is, significantly fewer memoirs than last year.

Claire G Coleman, Terra nulliusI’m disappointed that I only read two books this year by Indigenous Australian women – Claire G. Coleman’s novel and Marie Munkara’s memoir. I’d like to improve this next year – and have two right now on the “definitely-will-be-read pile”, so that’s a start.

Anyhow, if you’d like to know more about the Challenge, check it out here. We are also on Facebook, Twitter (@auswomenwriters), GoodReads and Google+. Do consider joining us. All readers are welcome.

Finally, a big thanks again to Theresa, Elizabeth and the rest of the team. I love being part of this challenge, partly because I believe in its goals but also because the people involved are so willing and cooperative. They are a pleasure to work with. See you in 2019.

And so, on to 2019

AWW Challenge 2019 BadgeThe 2019 sign up form is ready, so this is also my Sign Up post for next year. As always, I’m nominating myself for the Franklin level, which is to read 10 books by Australian women and post reviews for at least 6 of those. I expect, of course, to exceed this.

* 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 have been one of the challenge’s volunteers since 2013, being responsible for the Literary and Classics areas.

22 thoughts on “Monday musings on Australian literature: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2018

  1. The AWWC is a great initiative and is producing great results, ie more books by Oz women being read and discussed. Congratulations on the part you play, and to Theresa and Brona and the other section heads with whom I don’t interact so often, but I always read their reports in case they contain books I can give as gifts. I don’t do challenges but am glad to contribute reviews of little known oldies. Not NY here yet and don’t think I’m going to make bnb it despite the encouragement of my kids.

    • Thanks Bill… We are glad you have joined the Challenge which technically you are doing by posting reviews even if technically you aren’t!

      I love that you see the round-ups in other areas useful for gift ideas. I read them partly for that reason too. Very useful when you are out of your depth.

      We just made it to midnight, partly by watching the Hopman Cup which we had recorded earlier in the day!

  2. Happy New Year, Madame Gums. Thanks for all the thoughtful reviews you wing our way – you’re a living treasure, for writers and readers alike.

  3. Hi Sue, Happy New Year and to all at AWWC. I read 40 this year (I think I failed my target of 50); and reviewed a few. Overall I read 125 books; 74 women authors and 53 Australian authors. I also read 26 non fiction.

    • Happy New Year to you too Meg. You may not have reached your reading goal, but none of us woukd criticise your making 40!!! You are a great supporter of Aussie women’s reading.

      I’ll be posting my overall stars tonight or tomorrow… My ratio of women to men is higher than yours. It wouldn’t hurt me to bring it back a bit to your 60%, but I do love reading women writers the way some people love, say, crime or memoir.

  4. You read an impressive list of books in 2018. I see that you read a good number of short story collections. That is something that I have been meaning to do but have not done. Of course, 2019 is another chance. Hopefully it will be a food reading year for us all.

    Have a happy New Year’s!

    • Thanks Brian, and a Happy New Year to you too. I look forward to sharing more book talk with you over 2019. I’ve enjoyed getting to “know” you better this year.

      I do love reading short stories – collections or individual ones, probably less so anthologies unless they have been especially curated (which I suppose most are, but some are “more” curated than others, if you know what I mean!)

  5. Marvellous achievement, WG, for the year 2018!
    Just saw on TV how your country folks celebrate 2019 way ahead of us. As always, spectacular light show in Sydney. Happy New Year to you and … break your own records come 2019! 🙂

    • Thanks Arti … did you watch our fireworks live? If so, we were watching together. We went out early – saw an advance preview of Green Book – but were home in time to watch the fireworks. I’d love to break some of my records next year – time will tell.

      Here’s wishing you a record-breaking year too!

  6. Thanks for all you do at AWW Sue. Like Bill, I always look forward to the monthly round ups from you and the other bloggers who coordinate different genres if only to appreciate the depth and breadth of Australian women writers — and for potential gift ideas! I read 19 books for the challenge this year (and there wasn’t a dud one among them) even though I only aimed to read 10. Will post a summary later this week and sign up again for 2019! Happy New Year to you! X

    • Thanks kimbofo. I enjoy it, though sometimes those monthly posts come around a bit too quickly! I like reading those of others too for the same reasons. I love that you are taking part and plan to continue to do so.

      Happy New Year to you too.

  7. Congrats on a great list/result Sue. I’ve read five of the books on your lists and have several others on the TBR pile. Honestly, I’d be happy to read nothing but books by Australian women.

    • Thanks Angela. I agree in the sense that, given so much great Aussie women writing that I never get to, I wouldn’t feel my reading would suffer in terms of interest, challenge, or enjoyment.

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