Monday musings on Australian literature: The new AWW, six months on

In February, a new AWW (Australian Women Writers blog) team, comprising its founder, Elizabeth Lhuede, Bill Holloway (The Australian Legend) and me, published our first post in our revamped blog. Six months on we have settled into a nice little routine which I’d like to share with you, but first …

Let me recap what I explained in my last AWW Challenge post for 2021. This challenge was, as many of you know, instigated in 2012 in response to concerns in Australian literary circles about the lack of recognition for women writers. By 2021, things had changed significantly with women writers seeming to be well-established on Australia’s literary scene, at least by observable measures. Because of this and some additional practical reasons, it was agreed that the challenge would change tack in 2022 and focus on past, and often under-recognised or overlooked, women writers from the 19th- and 20th-centuries. The new team decided that we would write articles about and reviews of earlier writers, and publish their actual writings – in full or excerpt form, as appropriate. Our reasoning was that Australia’s rich heritage of Australian women’s writing hasn’t been fully explored and we wanted to nudge it into the limelight.

So, what have we done? We have established the following routine:

  • on Wednesdays we publish essays or articles on relevant writers, works, or topics; and
  • on Fridays we publish actual writings, related, where possible, to that Wednesday’s post.

Bill is our commissioning editor, which means he sets up our posting timetable and approaches others (mostly bloggers we know) to contribute to our Wednesday articles, while Elizabeth schedules the Friday posts, drawing from the work she’s done, and is still doing, on locating and listing online content for past women writers. I have the easy job, being part of the ongoing consultations and keeping an eye on some of the background issues like our category and label policy and practice. Each of us also writes one Wednesday article a month, with the other week/s (given there are three of us) being a guest post.

We have not imposed a structure over the content of the posts. That is, we have not decided to explore past Australian women writers chronologically or geographically or thematically. Instead, we have drawn on contributors’ interests and experiences. This has resulted in an eclectic mix of posts, but, we believe, an interesting one, that should appeal to a variety of tastes and interests.

So, for example, Jonathan Shaw (Me fail? I fly!), who contributed many poetry reviews to the original blog, agreed to write articles on past women poets. His first was on Zora Cross. Brona (Brona’s Books) posted on Mary Gaunt, while author and blogger Michelle Scott Tucker posted on the children’s writer Patricia Wrightson and the issue of appropriation. We have also been thrilled to have contributions from overseas bloggers interested in classic Australian literature, like French blogger Emma (Book Around the Corner) on Catherine Helen Spence’s Mr Hogarth’s will, and Canadian Marcie McCauley (Buried in Print) on Katherine Susannah Prichard’s Goldfield’s trilogy.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth has focused specifically on our goal of finding forgotten and overlooked writers. Putting her research skills to work, she has unearthed writers we really never have heard of – and, along the way, has discovered some fascinating stories. Netta Walker, for example, took her on a merry chase, as did another wonderful find of hers, the case of Eucalypta (or, Mrs H.E. Russell). As for Bill, in between tracking down guest posters, he has been contributing posts on works by some of his favourite independent women, like Miles Franklin and Ada Cambridge.

Posts on topics other than individual writers and works include guest poster and literature honours student Stacey Roberts on Using the AWWC Archives, and mine on Primary and Secondary Sources.

So, six months in, we seem to be going strong, though there’s not a lot of comment engagement on the blog. More of that would be lovely.

We’d love to know whether you’ve looked at the blog. If you have, what have you liked or not liked, and is there anything you would particularly like to see? (We are open to offers too!)

32 thoughts on “Monday musings on Australian literature: The new AWW, six months on

  1. [gasp !]
    You people !!!! Your work ethic is mind-boggling.
    My compliments, and hopes of intelligent comment from those far more literary than I ..

  2. I don’t have enough time to READ all this stuff you actually PRODUCE week on week, so I think I am DOUBLY culpable when it comes to not paying enough attention to this great little initiative of yours.
    These names possibly aren’t sufficiently obscure for you, but I thought of Vicki Viidikas and Jill Neville. They’re rather more contemporary than most of the forgotten female authors you’ve dug up. Glenda Adams and Robin Klein also seem to be fairly well off the radar these days, too. Especially Klein; she was huge when I was a kid growing up in the ’80’s. I believe she’s still in the land of the living…?
    When I’m back in Perth next month, I should have a trawl through some second hand bookstores and see if I can think of anyone else you haven’t shone the light on yet…

    • Haha Glen … understand completely. There’s so much I don’t have time to read too.

      Thanks for those names. If we manage to keep going we will get to some of the more recent writers, I’m sure. So far, Patricia Wrightson is the most recent we’ve done. I know of Jill Neville and Adams and Klein, but don’t know Vicki Viidakis. I wonder if some of those are being picked up by the Untapped project, particularly Adams?

      Are you visiting Perth or moving back?

      • Vicki Viidikas wrote experimental, broadly “counter-cultural” poetry and prose, from the late ’60’s until her death in the late ’90’s. She was a contemporary of John Tranter and Michael Wilding, amongst others.
        I remember getting 50 pages or so into Neville’s “Last Ferry to Manly” in the UWA library many years ago, and really enjoying. But it was sometime after I graduated, so I never got to borrow the book and finish. And I don’t think I’ve seen a copy of it since *sobs.* Again, maybe that’s another target for the forthcoming bookstore sweep.
        Just going to Perth for a visit, but it’s been 20 months since I’ve been back, with all this COVID nonsense of the last two years. So I’m rather overdue.

        • And BTW, “COVID nonsense” is just my cock-eyed way of acknowledging what an almighty imposition it’s been on everyone. I’m not a denier, I promise.
          (two clarifications on your blogsite in two days; I’m clearly on a roll. Shall I go for the hat-trick tomorrow?)

        • And that’s how I read it Glen … didn’t take you for a denier … for some reason or other!

          I like hat tricks … though I may not post tomorrow for you to achieve one. Sorry!

    • I’m interested in the later period too: Glenda Adams has a presence on my blog with Dancing on Coral, which was a prompt for me to chase up The Tempest Of Clemenza and Longleg but I don’t have Games of the Strong yet. On my review you can find a link to her daughter’s ‘Reading Glenda Adams’ blog.
      I am not sure, but I think I heard that Robin Klein had dementia…

      • I used to have a first edition of Dancing on Coral, courtesy of Save the Children. I think it won the Miles Franklin in the late ’80’s, didn’t it? It’s one of a multitude of books that I can no longer recall if I kept or re-homed when I moved to Alice. I certainly read it beforehand, and I particularly remember a couple of Adams’ short stories that I came across in anthologies.
        Yes, I’d heard the same about Robin Klein. I was too chicken to float the possibility in case I was wrong. Can’t remember where I picked that up, now. I didn’t really get into Alison Ashley for some reason, but I LOVED Penny Pollard. Apart from our shared fondness for epistolary formats (both diaries and letters) she was, and remains, everything I am not. 🙂

        • Yes, Adams won the MF in 1987.
          Re Robin Klein: I used a lot of her books in the library program, because I focussed almost entirely on Australian authors. The kids loved her stories.

        • Ha, just answered the MF question too, Lisa should have checked all the comments before replying!

          My daughter enjoyed many of her books. I would have loved her if she’d been published in my childhood I reckon.

        • Thanks Glen, as l’ve responded to Lisa, I’ve read that Adams too. Yes, she won the MF in 1987.

          Klein was too late for me, but my daughter loved her. I do remember reading Thing and Thingnapped to her and loved them as books to read aloud. Sounds like she’s a bit of a role model for you? I like her advice to writers as shared in Wikipedia – real, and humble.

      • Thanks Lisa. Yes my reading group read Dancing on coral, and the short story related to it, in our first year or so. And re Klein, I think you’re right- I felt I had heard something about her and this rings a bell. A sad thing to happen – to anyone, eh.

  3. Let’s put aside the fact that I loved the old AWW format for a moment (!) and talk engagement: I am BAD at engagement, and it is mostly because I’m lazy. For whatever reason, I have to reenter my profile/ credentials every time I visit the blog (this seems particular to the AWW site because I don’t have the same issue elsewhere, where my WordPress profile is used) and then a quick comment turns into a bit more of a process.

    • The old format was great I agree, Kate, but one issue was finding someone willing to convene it. It was a big job.

      As for that problem, you are lucky it’s just that one! I’ve had it with a few all year, including Lisa’s blog. So irritating. I found a workaround… check that little follow button that comes up bottom right of the screen. There’s a login option. Log in there … it knows my details there so it’s quick … and then the comment block knows me. You blog doesn’t know me immediately either but does when I enter my email. Other blogs know me immediately. It’s so frustrating.

  4. Engagement is a good question/point Sue. I often read the AWW posts during my lunch break or a coffee break on the weekends…on my phone. Commenting on my phone, for anything other than a quickie, is a chore. So I wait until I’m on my laptop. But when I’m on my laptop, it’s usually because I’m focused on writing my own blog post and don’t want to/ have the time to go back and find posts I meant to comment on but didn’t!!

    The posts I’ve read are also pretty comprehensive and unless I’ve read the author in question, I don’t always feel like I have anything else to add. Asking a question at the end of the post is a great way to encourage comments too, which I know you know, since you’ve just done so above so effectively 🙂

    I haven’t had any of the problems you and Bill have experienced with commenting on other blogs, but I do sometimes have issues logging into the AWW, even on my laptop.

    A ‘like’ button would be great.

    • Thanks for all this, Brona … I know exactly what you mean about phone and laptop. I frequently have the same issue with reading on my device whereas I write on my laptop. Commenting on the device is a chore for multiple reasons, including the actual signing in problem.

      I usually use questions on Monday Musings, as you know I did here, and always on Six degrees, but rarely on other posts. I’m not sure there’s always an obvious question on the AWW posts besides “have you read?” which is sort of understood anyhow I think?

      Good point about the like button. I’ll check that but I have a vague memory that it’s not available via our hosted version. I seem to remember something about that a few years ago but will check again.

  5. Well written Sue! You might have warned me, and I might have prepared an intelligent comment. I’m honoured and pleased that you and Elizabeth thought to ask me to join you, as I see it in some ways as a continuation of what I was attempting with AWW Gens 1, 2 and 3. And I’m pleased with all of our friends who have willingly pitched in with guest contributions. I wonder if Glen is thinking up 1,200 words even as I write.

    I enjoyed the old AWWC too, but as I wrote when we were setting out, it still exists on Facebook. I wonder if Theresa is planning on an annual summary post.

    Because, I think, I have three identies and 3 sites (incl. my business site) on WP I must fill in my name, email and password every time I comment, so I understand how tedious that might be for others.

    • Haha Bill … I nearly did warn you but decided to surprise you instead! Yes, this does extend your AWW Gens nicely I think … but are we doing one in January 2023? I was just thinking about that the other day. I’ve forgotten what you were thinking and haven’t gone back to check.

      I only have two separate WP identities as I use WG for most of the sites I’m involved in and the other one is a self-hosted site so they are never confused. The free WPs don’t know it exists. So, WP should not be creating commenting problems for me. I now have a workaround but if I forget to use it I am put through the mill (on selected sites, like Lisa’s).

      Have you approached Glen?

  6. Being the slow type I have only just discovered the “like” button for the Aus Lit blogs I follow, I have also just subscribed to AWW, so I am looking forward to the updates. Contribution is an interesting thing. I have to admit that I am one of those that reads but hardly comments, a bit of a lurker. Time plays a big part, off work for a week and now catching up on plenty of backlogged emails for example has allowed a couple of comments, but time can be a factor (I need to retire). I do appreciate every one of the posts, here and elsewhere, that I read and am of the opinion that they are of huge importance to our literary discussions.

    • Thanks very much … retirement is grand if you are able to do it! Lurking is beter than not reading at all, so thanks for that … but it is always great to hear from readers when they have the time. Helps us bloggers know what interests our followers for a start, and the conversation can be fun. But you know all that. Thanks for following and subscribing.

  7. Thanks for sharing this update, Sue! Since I’m not in Australia, I don’t regularly visit the AWW blog unless Bill shares that he had a post on there. I think for me I’m more interested in finding new books to enjoy instead of reading posts about the history of the author and her connection to other authors I don’t know, but whom I believe are well-known in Australia. I get it; I do similar things with Zora Neale Hurston being friends with Langston Hughes, who was friends with etc. etc. Sometimes the book posts are more a long summary of a book instead of a review about the quality of the writing, and those are less interesting to me, too, but I believe other readers appreciate them.

    • Thanks Melanie. I completely understand on all fronts. This is a niche interest I realise but we’d particularly love more Aussies to learn more about our heritage. I do take your point about summaries, as you probably guess.

      • I’m taking this criticism of summaries personally. How else can you write about a book no one has read?
        And writers’ biographies and memoirs – I could criticise them as literature but their greater value is usually the information they contain.

        • Good questions Bill. To my mind it’s a matter of degree and every blog writer and reader is a bit different. I’m interested in what it’s about … the essential plot in a paragraph, then what are the themes or ideas the author is exploring and what I think about them or how relevant they are etc, and then how well is it written. Is there anything special or interesting or remarkable or innovative about that.

          As for writer’s biographies and memoirs I think both aspects are important. A dry biography may have lots of info but be tedious to read. I think that should be critiqued along with the value of the content.

          BTW I think you do all this but perhaps with a different weighting or balance?

        • If I am struggling for a point of entry into a review then summary is my goto (along with “research”, ie. wiki). But I am hyper aware of ‘summary’ criticism and so am always looking for a way out.

        • Finding that point of entry is the challenge isn’t it. When I wrote my first blog review … on my reading group blog, a good friend said, but what is the book about? I learnt a lesson from that! I can’t assume people know the book!

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