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Monday musings on Australian literature: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2019

December 30, 2019

AWW Challenge 2019 BadgeFor some years now, I have devoted my last Monday Musings of the year to the Australian Women Writers Challenge* – and this year I am continuing that tradition! Sorry, if you hoped for something else. With the New Year – I love the sound of 2020 – just two days away, I wish all you wonderful Whispering Gums followers a wonderful year to come in whatever form you would like that to take.Thank you, too, for supporting my blog with your visits and comments.

Now, the challenge … it has continued to go very well. The full database now contains reviews for nearly 6,100 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 in 2019 by 900 books, or 17%, which is about the same increase as last year. In my area of Literary and Classics, we had roughly the same number of reviews posted as last year.

My personal round-up for the year

It was not, I have to say, my best Challenge year, as I posted only 25 reviews over the year, about 25% less than last year. I’m not sure how that happened, but c’est la vie. It was clearly a different sort of reading year. Anyhow, here they are, with links to my reviews:

Book coverFICTION




  • Nhulunbuy Primary School, with Ann James and Ann Haddon, I saw, we saw (picture book)


Book coverThis year, fiction (including short stories) represented around 57% of my AWW challenge reading, which is similar to last year. I read no poetry or verse novels again this year, and I read fewer Classics than last. However, I did read three classic short stories by Capel Boake for Bill’s (The Australian Legend) Gen 2 week as well as Louise Mack’s novel. On the plus side, I read more indigenous writing this year – two anthologies, a picture book, and Melissa Lucashenko’s Miles Franklin award-winning Too much lip (as well as some male authors who shall not be mentioned here!)

If you’d like to know more about the Challenge, check it out here. We are also on Facebook, Twitter (@auswomenwriters), and GoodReads. 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, not only because it equates with my reading goals but also because the people involved are such a pleasure to work with. See you in 2020.

And so, 2020

Challenge logoThe 2020 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.

Do you plan to sign up?

* 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. Theresa Smith (of Theresa Smith writes) now oversees the day-to-day management of the blog, but Elizabeth is still an active presence.

27 Comments leave one →
  1. December 30, 2019 23:48

    Thank you for another entertaining and stimulating year. I really appreciate the Australian Women Writers Challenge. I get the regular summaries of reviews by genre (and I often save the childrens and YA for later present buying) And via Facebook I see all the reviews as they go up. I can and do use the website to chase up reviews of books I’m interested in and there’s that excellent database of books before 1935 which can be downloaded.

    I don’t enter the Challenge but this year I posted 23 reviews of my own plus 6 guest reviews or reposts, of Australian women writers.

    • December 31, 2019 08:21

      Thanks Bill. I’m so glad you find it a useful resource. I find it so too, for the reasons you mention. I think technically you are in the challenge, by virtue of adding reviews… Which we greatly appreciate. You and Jonathan, in particular, add reviews in areas little covered by others.

    • December 31, 2019 10:29

      I didn’t realise you weren’t participating! All of your reviews in the database indicated otherwise. Thank you for your support!

      • December 31, 2019 10:34

        No, I didn’t realise either Theresa. From my POV, if you add reviews to the site, you are signed up!! The rest is just formality. I think this challenge with its dedicated blog and database is quite different from the typical challenges run by bloggers.

        • December 31, 2019 10:58

          Yes, you’re right. And there are people who have been very active in the Facebook groups and linking reviews who don’t feel they’re ‘doing’ the challenge because they never officially signed up, but their involvement speaks volumes to their commitment. I feel if you’re involved in the ‘community’ aspect, then you’re supporting the challenge, irrespective of targets, sign ups, etc.

        • December 31, 2019 11:10

          Yes, agree completely.

      • December 31, 2019 10:41

        Let’s say I don’t set myself a target, and I’d hate to be seen as ‘competing’.

        • December 31, 2019 10:49

          That’s essentially what I do too Bill. We offer a create-your-own challenge, but I just take the top level, Franklin, which is way less than I do, or ever have done in my adult reading life as I’ve focused on reading Aussie women for decades. So, in effect, I’m not aiming at anything or competing,

        • December 31, 2019 10:56

          Fair call!

  2. Sara Dowse permalink
    December 31, 2019 06:26

    Happy 2020, WG. Thanking you for your excellent reviewing and looking forward to them in the new decade.

    • December 31, 2019 08:25

      Thanks very much Sara. As I’ve said before, I love knowing you are here and hearing from you every now and then.

  3. December 31, 2019 10:16

    I’ve signed up for 2020! I’ve enjoyed reading and posting my reviews for the past two years though this is the first time I’ve formally signed up. I enjoy your weekly posts too 🙂

    • December 31, 2019 10:21

      Great Denise. Posting reviews is really important, but signing up is that extra special thing of making a commitment, so thanks.

    • December 31, 2019 10:27

      Thank you for the official sign up Denise! Glad you’re sticking with us.

  4. December 31, 2019 10:18

    Wishing you happy reading and stimulating conversations throughout 2020.

  5. December 31, 2019 10:26

    Thanks Sue. I don’t know where I’d be with the challenge behind the scenes without your experience and wisdom! Cheers to another successful year! 🥂

    • December 31, 2019 10:36

      Thanks Theresa. Likewise. It’s a team isn’t it. It has been so good having you step in when Elizabeth was feeling the need of support.

      • December 31, 2019 10:59

        It is so rewarding to work with people who are all committed to a universal goal. I feel as though we’ve been lucky with editors in recent years and this seems set to continue.

  6. December 31, 2019 12:38

    Well done, Sue, and happy reading for 2020!
    (I’m finding it hard to be bookish today, everything seems trivial in the light of the bushfire disaster that’s unfolding).

    • January 1, 2020 10:08

      Understand Lisa. We spent all day yesterday watching ABC News. Shouldn’t have because it was distressing … we have many friends evacuated at the South Coast, on beaches, in surf clubs. And the smoke here is unbelievable. Is Melbourne getting it? We’ve had smoke on and off now for at least 3 weeks. What can we say?

  7. buriedinprint permalink
    January 1, 2020 06:38

    Some reading years just don’t fit into the pattern as readily. Maybe it will make a different kind of sense a short while from now, looking back at it.

    I’ve joined the AWW challenge a couple of times – once successfully and once not-so-much I think. This year I’m simply planning to emphasize the books on my own shelves and there are quite a few Australian women (and some Patrick White!) in the mix – so maybe I’ll contribute in an unofficial way. There are definitely some newer books – which have landed on my reading radar thanks to the Stella and to voracious readers – on my TBR too. But they’ll wait for another reading year (probably). Regardless, I enjoy reading about your reading!

    • January 1, 2020 10:10

      I think you’re right Buried. One of the interesting things about doing these right ups is seeing patterns and reflecting, isn’t it?

      Re the Challenge, I reckon you are official as soon as you post a review to it! It’s good to have people sign up but the reviews are the important things.

  8. January 1, 2020 22:50

    AWW remains my favourite reading challenge – not only have I discovered some excellent authors, it has opened up some new reading ‘opportunities’ for me, such as giving me incentive to read the Stella longlists (again, introducing me to authors I may not have discovered otherwise). But most importantly, AWW feels like a real community, and one that continues to grow (and this distinguishes it from other challenges I participate in).

    Thanks for all your work Sue.

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