As last year, I’m devoting my last Monday Musings for 2013 to the Australian Women Writers Challenge. This challenge, instigated by Elizabeth Lhuede in response to growing concern in Australian literary circles about lack of recognition for women writers, was so successful in 2012 that Elizabeth, with the help of a team of volunteers, decided to continue the challenge in 2013. I am one of those volunteers – responsible for the Literary and Classics area – and, of course, am also a challenge participant. It was a quieter year for the challenge as we settled into a routine, but that doesn’t mean nothing memorable happened. So, before I round-up my own challenge I’d like to comment on a few of the highlights for me.
The main excitement was, I think, the announcement of the inaugural Stella Prize. The prize was not created by our Challenge, but it grew out of the same concerns that inspired the Challenge. Marg (Adventures of an Intrepid Reader) attended the award ceremony on behalf of the Challenge and wrote a post on the experience. The winner, Carrie Tiffany (for her novel Mateship with birds), impressed us all by sharing a portion of her prize with the shortlisted authors. A lovely gesture recognising the complex and uncomfortable nature of literary competition.
In October, as a special “event”, the Challenge focused on women writers of diverse heritage, and asked four authors to write guest posts. If you’d like to read these posts, they are:
- Tseen Khoo: on her frustration about “narrow interpretations of writing by Asian-Australian women writers”
- Alice Pung: on, interestingly, “Ruth Park, class, and marginalisation”
- Malla Nunn: on her experience as an African migrant turned Australian writer
- Merlinda Bobis: on “the necessity of creating and defining ‘home’ both for herself, as a writer, and for her readers”.
Finally, one of the features I particularly enjoy about the challenge is seeing Australian women writers support it (and each other) by reviewing books by other women writers. Annabel Smith, Amanda Curtin and Jessica White are three who have been particularly active this year.
If you are interested in the challenge, you can check it out at the link above, and, if you’d like to join up for 2014, you can fill out the form on this page. This year, it is possible to join up as a reader or as a reviewer. The challenge can also be found on Facebook, Twitter (@auswomenwriters), GoodReads and Google+.
As I explained in last year’s highlights post, the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge is my only challenge. Once again, I signed up for the Franklin-fantastic Dabbler level, which is that I’d read (and review) at least 10 books by Australian women writers in more than one genre/category. Here is my list (with links to my reviews) for this year.
- Courtney Collins’ The burial
- Michelle de Kretser‘s Questions of travel
- Anita Heiss‘s Paris dreaming
- Rachel Hennessy’s The heaven I swallowed
- Dorothy Johnston‘s The house at no. 10
- Krissy Kneen‘s Steeplechase
- Christina Stead’s For love alone
- Carrie Tiffany’s Mateship with birds
- Romy Ash’s “The basin”
- Barbara Baynton’s “A dreamer”
- Barbara Baynton’s “Scrammy ‘and”
- Dorothy Johnston’s Eight pieces on prostitution
- Dymphna Cusack’s A window in the dark
- Gabrielle Gouch’s Once, only the swallows were free
- Anita’s Heiss’s Am I black enough for you
- Anna Krein’s Night games
- Bianca Nogrady’s The end: The human experience of death
- Helen Trinca’s Madeleine: A life of Madeleine St John
- Thea Astley’s “The monstrous accent on youth”
- Linda Jaivin’s Found in translation: In praise of a plural world (Quarterly Essay)
- Melissa Lucashenko’s “How green is my valley”
- Melissa Lucashenko’s “Sinking below sight
- Irma Gold’s (ed) The invisible thread
- Irma Gold and Craig Phillip’s Megumi and the bear
I have enjoyed taking part in the challenge – for being part of a team of committed people keen to spread the word about the breadth of Australian women’s writing, and for being introduced to that breadth. I am learning a lot more about Australian women’s literature than I could possible have learnt by beavering away here on my own. Roll on the 2014 challenge.