Miles Franklin Award 2023 longlist

I haven’t posted a Miles Franklin longlist for a while, but when I saw today’s come through with its intriguing mix of titles, I decided it was time to do one again.

The longlist

  • Kgshak Akec, Hopeless kingdom (UWAP)
  • Robbie Arnott, Limberlost (Text) (my review)
  • Jessica Au, Cold enough for snow (Giramondo) (my review)
  • Shankari Chandran, Chai time at Cinnamon Gardens (Ultimo Press) (Brona’s review)
  • Claire G Coleman, Enclave (Hachette) (Bill’s review, on my TBR)
  • George Haddad, Losing face (UQP)
  • Pirooz Jafari, Forty nights (Ultimo Press)
  • Julie Janson, Madukka: The river serpent (UWAP)
  • Yumna Kassab, The lovers (Ultimo Press)
  • Fiona Kelly McGregor, Iris (Pan Macmillan Australia) (Lisa’s review; kimbofo’s review)
  • Adam Ouston, Waypoints (Puncher & Wattmann) (Lisa’s review)

Some random observations:

  • There is impressive diversity in the writers listed as I recollect there was last year, including seven of the eleven being by women, and two being by First Nations writers.
  • Independent publishers are well represented, which is also becomings more common in recent prize listings
  • Only a small number of these have been reviewed by my usual list of litblogger suspects, which makes me wonder about our reading choices versus those being chosen for these awards lists.
  • Most of the novels are by authors with at least one book under their belt but Hopeless kingdom is a debut novel by a Sudanese-Australian author. Like many debut novels it is inspired by her own experience of migration from Africa to Australia. It won the Dorothy Hewett Award for unpublished manuscript in 2021. 
  • There’s been little commentary today on the news sites, but hopefully this is because the announcement is less than a day old – or, maybe longlists just don’t garner the same interest as shortlists?

The judging panel

The 2023 judges are, from the announcement on the Perpetual Trustees website, Richard Neville, Mitchell Librarian of the State Library of NSW and Chair; author and literary critic, Dr Bernadette Brennan; literary scholar and translator, Dr Mridula Nath Chakraborty; book critic, Dr James Ley; and author and editor, Dr Elfie Shiosaki. This is, I believe, the same panel as last year’s, but Chakraborty and Shiosaki were new last year so there is some commitment to refreshing the panel. I don’t think it hurts for there to be some stability in panels, but a managed turnover is also important. (Says she!)

From this website too is a statement from the judging panel:

The 2023 longlist is a reflection of the breadth and depth of contemporary Australian story-telling. The eleven longlisted novels define Australian literature as a transformative space where writers are singing the songs of the nation today. They reverberate with the cadences of this land where Indigenous sovereignty was never ceded, but also bring to us mellifluous sounds from far-away lands, weaving together literary traditions from around the world. The words of our novelists, grounded in personal experience, poetry and philosophy, are heralds of the new dawn of Australian fiction: they hum and hiss with language that is newly potent and styles that are imaginative and fresh.

The shortlist will be announced on 20 June, and the winner on 25 July.


Monday musings on Australian literature: the ACT Book of the Year Award

I think it’s time I dedicated a post to the Book of the Year Award made in my own jurisdiction. I briefly introduced it back in 2018, and then wrote recently about its 2022 shortlist. But today, I want to document it a bit more thoroughly. (For the record, the 2022 winner has now been announced, Lucy Neave’s second novel, Believe in me.)

The ACT Book of the Year Award is presented by the ACT Government for contemporary literary works, and is currently worth $10,000. Unlike most of the state government awards (but like the Northern Territory Literary Awards), it is limited to local writers. Only one award is made, and like the Stella Prize, the winner can be fiction, non-fiction or poetry. The award was first made in 1993 – and was shared by poet AD Hope and novelist Marion Halligan – so the 2022 Award is its 30th.

Winners to 2022

  • 1993: Marion HalliganLovers’ Knot (novel, read before blogging); A.D. Hope, Chance encounters (poetry)
  • 1994: John Foulcher, New and selected poems (poetry)
  • 1995: Sara Dowse, Sapphires (novel)
  • 1996: Paul Hetherington, Shadow swimmer (poetry)
  • 1997: Francesca Rendle-ShortImago (novel, Lisa’s review)
  • 1998: Lee Chittick, Travelling with Percy : A South Coast journey (biography)
  • 1999: Craig Cormick, Unwritten histories (non-fiction/satire)
  • 2000: Adrian Caesar, The white: Last days in the Antarctic journeys of Scott and Mawson 1911-1913 (non-fiction)
  • 2001: Alan GouldThe Schoonermaster’s Dance (novel, Lisa’s review); Dorothy Johnston, The Trojan dog (novel)
  • 2002: Jackie French, In the blood (YA novel)
  • 2003: John Clanchy, The hard word (novel)
  • 2004: Marion Halligan, The Point (novel, read before blogging)
  • 2005: Tony Kevin, A certain maritime incident: the sinking of SIEV X (non-fiction)
  • 2006: John Clanchy, Vincenzo’s garden (short stories)
  • 2007: Quynh Du Thon That, Sunday menu : selected short stories of Pham Thi Hoai (short stories)
  • 2008: Tony Kevin, Walking the Camino: A modern pilgrimage to Santiago (memoir/travel, Lisa’s review)
  • 2009: Nicholas Drayson, A guide to the birds of East Africa: A novel (novel)
  • 2010: Marion Halligan, Valley of Grace (novel, my review, and additional post)
  • 2011: Chris Hammer, The river: A journey through the Murray-Darling Basin (non-fiction)
  • 2012: Bill Gammage, The biggest estate on earth: How Aborigines made Australia (non-fiction, on my TBR)
  • 2013: Frank Bongiorno, The sex lives of Australians: A history (history)
  • 2014: Gordon Peake, Beloved land: Stories, struggles and secrets from Timor-Leste (non-fiction)
  • 2015: Mark HenshawThe snow kimono (novel, my review)
  • 2016: Frank Bongiorno, The eighties: The decade that transformed Australia (history)
  • 2017: Tom Griffiths, The art of time travel: Historians and their craft (history, on my TBR, Lisa’s review)
  • 2018: Paul Collis, Dancing home (novel, on my TBR, Lisa’s review)
  • 2019: Robyn CadwalladerBook of colours (novel, my review)
  • 2020: Lisa Fuller, Ghost bird (YA novel)
  • 2021: Subhash Jaireth, Spinoza’s overcoat: Travels with writers and poets (essays, Lisa’s review)
  • 2022: Lucy Neave, Believe in me (novel, my review)

(Links on author’s names take you to my posts on that author, which may not necessarily include the work listed.)

The winners tell you something about Canberra. For example, you might have gleaned from the early winners that Canberra has been particularly strong in poetry, and you’d be right. Well-regarded twentieth century poets like A.D. Hope (1907-2000), David Campbell (1915-1979), and Rosemary Dobson (1920-2012) made this region home for significant stretches of their lives. Canberra’s strength in this form is reflected in poetry winning three of the first four awards. Poetry continues to be strong here, though has featured less in the awards as they’ve progressed through the years.

THEY used to say in my neck of the North Carolina woods that if you shook a tree a banjo player would fall out. I’m beginning to think that if you shake a tree in Canberra, you’re more likely to dislodge a poet. (Bob Hefner, Canberra Times, 25 July 1993)

Couldn’t resist sharing that … but now, moving along … Canberra is also the national capital of Australia, so is the home of our national parliament. History and politics are, consequently, a significant interest of its residents, and this too is reflected in the sort of non-fiction that has won the award – the controversial sinking of SIEV X, the fraught Murray-Darling basin, and revisiting the role of First Nations Australians in our history, to name a few.

In terms of fiction, Canberra’s successful Seven Writers group is well represented here with Marion Halligan, Sara Dowse and Dorothy Johnston all being winners. The year Sara Dowse won she made history, apparently, by also winning the ACT Book Reviewer of the Year award. What, a reviewer award?

Yes! It seems that the ACT Book Review of the Year (as it was initially called) was instigated in 1993, alongside the Book of the Year. It was won by Amirah Inglis for her review of two books – As good as a yarn with you, edited by Caroline Ferrier, and A fence around the cuckoo by Ruth Park – in the November 1992 issue of Monash University’s Editions. In 1994, there were joint winners, Robert Boden’s review of Stanley Breeden’s Visions of a rainforest in The Canberra Times, and Amirah Inglis’ review of Hazel Rowley’s Christina Stead: A biography in the National Library’s Voices. Then in 1995 came Sara Dowse, named as ACT Book Reviewer of the Year. After that a review award seems to disappear from view. What a shame.

Have you heard of professional review or reviewer awards? If so, I’d love to hear about it.

Meanwhile, I hope you have found this little history of my local award interesting!

ACT Book of the Year Award 2022 shortlist announced

For some reason – perhaps because I don’t write about every award every year – I’ve only written once before about the ACT Book of the Year Award. It is an award presented by the ACT Government. Unlike most of the state government awards, the award is limited to ACT Writers, and, like the Stella, it is not limited to genre or form. The award was first made in 1993 – shared by poet AD Hope and novelist Marion Halligan – so this is its 30th year.

The shortlist for the 2022 award – for books published in 2021 – was announced on the weekend by Tara Cheyne*, the Minister for the Arts. The seven finalists were selected from the 43 eligible nominations.

The shortlist

  • Dylan van den Berg, Milk (play, also won the 2021 Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting, in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards)
  • Merlinda Bobis, The kindness of birds (short story collection; on my TBR; Lisa’s review)
  • Tim Bonyhady, Two afternoons in the Kabul Stadium: A history of Afghanistan through clothes, carpets and the camera (social history, also shortlisted for the 2022 Mark & Evette Moran NIB Literary Award)
  • Omar Musa, Killernova (poetry and woodcuts; on my TBR, my book launch post)
  • Lucy Neave, Believe in me (novel; my review)
  • Hugh Poate, Failures of command: The death of Private Robert Poate (war history)
  • Kaya Wilson, As beautiful as any other: A memoir of my body (memoir)

The winner will apparently be announced in the coming weeks, but no actual date has been given, and I can’t find any information about the judging panel. 

In addition to these awards, the ACT also has annual awards presented by the ACT Writers Centre (now called Marion).

* Tara Cheyne first became known to me as the delightful blogger behind In the Taratory, but she stopped blogging – unfortunately but understandably – when she decided in 2016 to stand for the ACT Legislative Assembly. I love that she is our Minister for the Arts.

Monday musings on Australian literature: on 1923: 5, Novels and their subjects

On the basis that what novelists write about provides some sort of insight into their times, I’ve done a little survey of the books published by Australian writers in 1923 to see what their subject matter might tell us about Australian life and literature 100 years ago.

First, here are the books I found, mostly via Trove:

  • J. H. M. Abbott, Sydney Cove
  • Vera Baker, The mystery outlaw
  • Marie Bjelke-Petersen, Jewelled nights
  • Capel Boake, The Romany mark
  • Roy Bridges, Green butterflies
  • Dale Collins, Stolen or strayed
  • Arthur Crocker, The great Turon mystery
  • Bernard Cronin, Salvage
  • A.R. Falk, The red star 
  • J.D. Fitzgerald, Children of the sunlight
  • Frank Fox, Beneath an ardent sun
  • Mary Gaunt, As the whirlwind passeth
  • Jack McLaren, Fagaloa’s daughter
  • Mary Marlowe, Gypsy Royal, adventuress
  • Catherine Martin, The incredible journey
  • Jack North, Son of the bush
  • Ernest Osborne, The plantation manager
  • Steele Rudd, On Emu Creek
  • Charles L. Sayer, The jumping double
  • H.F. Wickham, The Great Western Road

Twenty books in total, six of them by women. Unfortunately, I am not at home so can’t check these against 1923 in the Annals of Australian literature (but I’m sure Bill will when he sees this post!) Wikipedia’s page 1923 in Australian literature includes a few others: D.H. Lawrence’s Kangaroo, but he’s not Australian though the book was set here; Arthur Gask’s The red paste murders, but Project Gutenberg Australia says it was published in 1924; and Nat Gould’s Beating the favourite, but he died in 1919, and I can’t find much on this book. Further, from his biography, he is as much English as he is Australian. However, it is worth sharing that Andrews in the ADB says that Gould “inaugurated the Australian sporting novel”. Charles L. Sayer’s 1923-published The jumping double represents this new genre.

For this post, I’m sticking with my neat 20! Of these, around a third seem to be historical novels. J.H.M. Abbott’s and Mary Gaunt’s were set in the early days of the colony, while those by Vera Baker, Capel Boake, Arthur Crocker and H.F. Wickham encompass bushrangers in some way. Roy Bridge’s Green butterflies is an interesting member of this “historical” group. J.Penn (writing in Adelaide’s Observer, 5 May 1923) explains:

There is something decidedly unusual in a story which starts in Tasmania in 1830, and ends in Victoria at the present time. The title is the weakest thing about “Green Butterflies” … In this book, Mr. Roy Bridges fulfils much early promise, and shows himself definitely one of the novelists who count.

Bridges spans this almost 100-year period by telling the story across two or three generations of a family, taking its readers from the horrors of colonial Tasmania, with its “savage blacks and even more savage bushrangers … being put down by Governor Arthur”, to the “dirty settlement” of Melbourne, and then on to the present day, when, says a character, “the war has changed everything; we’re not narrow as we used to be”. So, a recognition here of the impact of World War 1 on Australian society, although war novels didn’t become popular for another few years.

Bushrangers were prevalent in the historically-set novels. The worst of the bushranger era had ended by the 1880s, but they were clearly still foremost in the public imagination, particularly in terms of escapist adventure. Further, with bushrangers being a particularly Australian form of outlaw, their presence would have appealed to those wanting Australian stories.

The rest of the novels were, as far as I can tell, set in more contemporary times, though some of the synopses were not completely clear about their period. The majority were adventure and/or mystery novels. (We know Australians love mystery and adventure!) A couple were set in New Guinea (including New Britain). One is Jack McLaren’s Fagaloa’s daughter, which Hobart’s World (8/11/1923) described as “a tale of stirring venture among the savages of Papua and adjacent islands, with white men doing deeds of unusual daring afloat and ashore”. The titular daughter ‘is given a European education, and is clever and beautiful, and “white all through,” despite the fact (or perhaps because of it) that she is the offspring of colored parents’. She apparently proves her worth when her white trader husband is attacked by a “cannibal hill-tribe”. Meanwhile, Ernest Osborne’s The plantation manager was described in The Armidale Chronicle (11/4/1923) as “adventure on a North-Western Pacific plantation” that “gives a striking account of the difficulties a manager encounters in developing tropical estates. A bright love story is interwoven throughout the adventures with the head-hunters”. You get the picture! White colonialism, fear of other…

Of the mystery novels, Stolen or strayed by Dale Collins received more attention than most, partly because he was already a journalist, but also because this novel, like several in this post, were part of the Bookstall series. I plan to feature him specifically in a later post. Stolen or strayed moves between underworld Melbourne and the Murray River, and received mixed reviews. Another Bookstall mystery, The red star by A.R. Falk, is set in Sydney’s underworld. The Brisbane Courier (23/6/1923) wrote that Australian writers hadn’t “developed the field of detective fiction to any extent”, but that Falk had

written a far better detective story than the majority of those that are imported. The scene is laid in Sydney, and the fight between detectives and a clever gang of thieves and murderers is told in a very convincing manner. The ending, perhaps, is forced, but otherwise the story takes a high place among current detective fiction.

Bushrangers in the country and the underworld in the cities, plus the occasional offshore exotic location, were popular settings and subjects at the time, suggesting that the focus on “the bush” was at least lessening as the Australian nation developed. That said, Steele Rudd’s On Emu Creek was about a city man turned farmer, and followed his pattern of using humour rather than mystery or adventure to tell its tale.

But, I’m going to conclude on something quite different, Catherine Martin’s The incredible journey. Bill has reviewed her second novel, An Australian girl, published in 1890. The incredible journey was her last. Margaret Allen writes in the ADB:

Catherine published, under her own name, The Incredible Journey (London, 1923) which, written very effectively from an Aboriginal woman’s point of view, was about a desert journey to recover her son, taken by a white man. H. M. Green found it a most interesting and realistic novel.

Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, I struggled to find a review of this novel in the newspapers in Trove. Far better to write about mystery and adventure novels, it seems, than one attempting to represent a First Nations’ experience. While I don’t imagine it was First Nations assessment that the novel was written “very effectively from an Aboriginal woman’s point of view”, it is at least encouraging to see someone recognising the cause. (I have now ordered the book.)

So, there you have it. I could write more on my 20 books, but I think this gives you a flavour.

Thoughts anyone?

Other posts in the series: 1. Bookstall Co (update); 2. Platypus Series; 3 & 4. Austra-Zealand’s best books and Canada (1) and (2)

Stella Prize 2023 Shortlist announced

It says something about my discombobulated year that I didn’t post on the Stella Prize longlist. And then, I was packing for Melbourne this morning while I listened to the shortlist announcement on ABC RN Breakfast. (Something new I think for Stella.) I didn’t have time to stop and write my post, then, but here I am overnighting in Wangaratta – don’t laugh truckie Bill – and have a few minutes to write a post.

I haven’t read any of the shortlist, you probably won’t be surprised to hear, but as I heard the announcement, I remembered that I had one on my TBR, so I immediately swapped out one of the books I had selected for my holiday reading pile to include it.

This year’s judges are author Alice Pung, in the chair, with her co-judges bibliophile and host of The Garrett podcast (among many other roles) Astrid Edwards; essayist and literary critic BeeJay Silcox; writer, editor, broadcaster, and Walkley award-winning journalist Jeff Sparrow; and First Nations poet, essayist and legal advisor Alison Whittaker. None of these were on last year’s panel. Stella, in fact, does a stellar (sorry!) job of keeping its panels fresh.

You may remember that poetry was added as an eligible form for the prize last year. Indeed, a poetry collection won last year

The shortlist

The 2023 Stella Prize shortlist is:

  • Debra Dank, We come with this place (Echo Publishing, memoir)
  • Eloise Grills, big beautiful female theory (Affirm Press, graphic memoir for want of a better description): Kate’s review
  • Sarah Holland-Batt, The jaguar (University of Queensland Press, poetry collection): Jonathan’s review
  • Adriane Howell, Hydra (Transit Lounge, novel): Lisa’s review
  • Louisa Lim, Indelible city (Text Publishing, memoir)
  • Edwina Preston, Bad art mother  (Wakefield Press, novel): on my TBR, Lisa’s review

The announcement this morning included an interview with Stella Prize CEO Jaclyn Booton and shortlisted author Edwina Preston who said that her book had been rejected 25 times before it found a publisher. She said that if she hadn’t had an agent who kept plugging away, she would have given up. Good on Wakefield! It’s a lovely little independent press in Adelaide, which publishes across an impressive range of fiction and nonfiction forms. I visited them once, many years ago, and have reviewed many of their books. 

So, three nonfiction works/memoirs, one poetry collection, and two novels, continuing wonderful diversity of form that characterises the Stella Prize. I must say – though I haven’t included them all here – the covers for these books are stunning – strong, expressive covers that eschew those book cover cliches so often associated with books by or featuring women.

Alice Pung says of the shortlist:

Although all the books on our shortlist are very different, common themes emerge about a woman’s relationship to her art and to the world around her. All our shortlisted books also explore with moving complexity some of the most pivotal relationships in a woman’s life, and their roles as daughters, partners, wives, and mothers.

Each shortlisted author will receive $4,000 in prize money. The winner will receive $60,000 (through the support of the Wilson Foundation). There’s more on the shortlist on the Stella website.

The winner will be announced on 27 April.


Monday musings on Australian literature: on 1923: 4, Austra-Zealand’s best books and Canada (2)

Last week I wrote about Canadian librarian, George Locke, commissioning Australian critic and journalist AG Stephens to compile the “best 100 imaginative Australian and New Zealand books” to be sent for exhibition in Toronto’s public library”. I ended on the commission having been completed, but I did not include his list because, not only had it taken me a while to find, but it then needed some editing before I could download it to share.

I’m not going to share the whole list, now, either. It is long, and probably not of core interest to most readers here. So, I plan to introduce the list, and then share selections – and, of course, I’ll give you the link so those of you who are interested can peruse the lot.

The list

After trying a few search strategies to locate the full list, I finally found it in Adelaide’s The Register (11 August 1923), in J. Penn’s “Literary Table” column. I’ve come across his columns before during my Trove searches, but have not yet found much about him. So, let’s move on. I’ve noted his name for further research, along with other mysterious by-lines I’ve seen.

Penn starts with some background. Stephens, he says, “was not required to display the historical course of literature”, nor “to include works of record, works of science, works of reference”:

His task was to choose works of literature identified with Australia or Zealandia, typifying Austra-Zealand character, suggesting life and thought native to Australia or Zealandia at the present day, yet readable and valuable elsewhere by reason of their art, by force of their genius. 

Penn suggests that “as a natural consequence of the change of environment, the character of Australians, and to a less extent of Zealandians, is gradually differentiating itself from the character of the parent British stock”. Some of the books in the list, he says, “exhibit this evolutionary change” while others reflect, in various degrees, “some of the qualities of world-wide literature”. Stephens, he continues, believes that the body of Austra-Zealand verse, which is “chiefly Scottish or Irish in origin”, is comparatively good. Regarding the rest, he quotes Stephens:

Austra-Zealand prose is good only in short stories. The best of the few long novels have been written by Englishmen. The list shows a distinct quality of English literary persistence, and a distinct preference of the Celtic mind for brief flights in prose and verse. Several books in the field of travel and description have a charming novelty. The juvenile books are excellent.

Interesting, eh? Not surprisingly, the list is verse-heavy. It is presented in categories …

  • Anzac (6)
  • Art and Illustration (8)
  • Drama (2)
  • Essays and Criticism (4)
  • Fiction (21)
  • Juvenile (11)
  • Reference (4)
  • Travel and Description (10)
  • Verse (34)

    … and is annotated with Stephens’ comments, which were presumably intended for Locke and his library.


    Book cover
    • 21. Becke (L.), By Reef and Palm, London, 1894. The first admirable short tales of the best East Sea writer since Melville. Neither Stevenson nor Maugham equals his graphic presentation of island nature and human nature.
    • 22. Bedford (E.), The Snare of Strength, London, 1905. An impetuous characteristic Australian novel, not shaped to gain its proper literary effect.
    • 23. Baynton (B.), Bush Studies, London, 1902. Short stories realizing with peculiar force and feeling the life they describe.
    • 24. Bartlett (A. T.), Kerani’s Book, Melbourne, 1921. In prose and verse the book of a typical young Australian.
    • 25. Browne (T. A.), Robbery Under Arms, London, 1888. Still the best bush story and the best long fiction written in Australia.
    • 26. Clarke (M. A. H.), For the Term of His Natural Life, Melbourne, 1874. Based on the records of the English convict settlement in Tasmania early in the 19th century. Picturesque, dramatic, and forcible at its epoch, it is moving into our literary past.
    • 27. Davis (A. H.), On Our Selection, Sydney, 1898. Lively humorous sketches of farm life and character.
    • 28. Dyson (E. G.), Factory ‘Ands, Melbourne, 1906. City life and character shown with brilliant satirical humour.
    • 29. Franklin (S. M.), My Brilliant Career, London, 1901. The first novel of a high spirited Australian girl- individual and characteristic.
    • 30. Furphy (J.), Such is Life, Sydney, 1903. Lengthy, slow, meditative, a lifelike gallery of bush scenes and bush people.
    • 31. Hay (W.), An Australian Rip Van Winkle, London, 1921. Personal and descriptive sketches are fully written and skilfully elaborated.
    • 32. Kerr (D. B.), Painted Clay, Melbourne, 1917. An Australian girl’s first novel, representing current fiction.
    • 33. Jones (D. E.), Peter Piper, London, 1913. The book of a typical Australian girl.
    • 34. Lawson (H.), While the Billy Boils, Sydney, 1896. Early collection of stories and sketches by the chief of Australian realistic writers.
    • 35. Lloyd (M. E.), Susan’s Little Sins, Sydney, 1919. Rare fertility of natural humour.
    • 36. Mander (J.), The Story of a New Zealand River, London, 1920. Best recent Zealandian novel, truthful and powerful.
    • 37. Russell (F. A.), The Ashes of Achievement, Melbourne, 1920. Placed first in De Garis prize competition of several hundred writers.
    • 38. Stephens (A. G.). ed. The Bulletin Story Book, Sydney, 1902. Many Austra-Zealand short stories permanently highly valuable.
    • 39. Stone (L.), Jonah, London, 1911. Keen observation, firm characterization, and witty exact description of city life.
    • 40. Wolla Meranda, Pavots de la Nuit, Paris, 1922. An Australian woman’s novel written in English, and first published in a French translation—a vivid story of sex in Australian scenes.
    • 41. Wright (A.), A Game of Chance, Sydney, 1922. One of the best books of a popular Australian writer of two score sporting stories. 

    So now, some thoughts. Remember that this was 1923. Many of our better-known early 20th century writers were just getting going. Katharine Susannah Prichard, for example, had written just three books by then, and Vance Palmer two. Others, like Christina Stead, M Barnard Eldershaw and Frank Dalby Davison had not quite started. Of course, some had, and are not included, like Catherine Helen Spence, as Bill (The Australian Legend) would say, and Price Warung, to name just two. Louise Mack is included, but in the Juvenile category – along with writers like Mary Grant Bruce and Ethel Turner.

    Capel Boake, Painted clay

    People will always complain about lists. Indeed, I think an important role of lists is to get book talk into the public arena. I shared some criticisms of this list last week. I’m therefore going to leave that issue and look briefly at what Stephens included. There are books here, for example, that we still know today – those by Barbara Baynton, TA Browne (aka Rolf Boldrewood), MAH (Marcus) Clarke, AH Davis (aka Steele Rudd), SM (Miles) Franklin, J Furphy, DB Kerr (aka Capel Boake) and H(enry) Lawson.

    There are some surprises here – for me. Wolla Meranda is completely new to me, and I plan to research her for a future post. EG Dyson’s Factory ‘Ands, with its “brilliant satirical humour” also intrigues.

    As some critics complained (in my post last week), there is one by Stephens himself – but it is an anthology so is surely not, really, self-aggrandisement?

    Finally, his annotations. Love them. Some read a bit strangely – syntactically speaking. However, as well as reflecting his own preferences, of course, they are succinct, not bland, and they convey how the works meet that commission – to represent Austra-New Zealand thought and character in readable but quality literature!


    To avoid writing a tome, I’m now going to share a few from Drama and Verse. Of the two Drama works listed, one is by Louis Esson, who was critical of the list. Stephens includes his 1912 Three Short Plays and annotates it with “exhibits dramatic power as far as he goes”. 

    Verse contains quite a few “Zealandians” (to use the language of the time). Australian poets include many still known to us, like Barcroft Boake, Christopher Brennan, Zora Cross, CJ Dennis, Adam Lindsay Gordon, and Henry Kendall. Several poets are noted (annotated) for their satirical or sardonic humour, which appeals to me. But I’ll conclude with one I don’t know, R Crawford’s 1921 The Leafy Bliss. Stephens’ annotation is “Awkward verse with astonishing aptitudes; the uncouth elf suddenly disclosing the high shining face of poetry”. (Should this be “uncouth self”? Anyhow, I love this annotation.)


    Picture Credit: Alfred Stephens, 1906, Public Domain, from National Library of Australia.

    Other posts in the series: 1. Bookstall Co (update); 2. Platypus Series; 3. Austra-Zealand’s best books and Canada (1)

    Monday musings on Australian literature: on 1923: 3, Austra-Zealand’s best books and Canada (1)

    For my third post in my Monday Musings 1923 series, I’m moving away from publisher initiatives, like the NSW Bookstall Co and the Platypus Series, to something a bit different. It’s an intriguing story about what one paper called “inter-Imperial amity”. It goes like this …

    Mr. George H. Locke (1870-1937) – as the newspapers of the day referred to him – was, at the time, the Chief Librarian of the Public Library of Toronto. He was significant enough to have a Wikipedia page, which tells us that he had that role from 1908 to his death. Wikipedia also says that he was the second Canadian to be president of the American Library Association (ALA). The Toronto Public Library website tells us a little more. He was their second chief librarian, and his memorial plaque credits him with having “transformed a small institution into one of the most respected library systems on the continent.” They say he was the first Canadian to be president of the ALA – but who’s counting! The important point is that he was an active librarian who not only “promoted library training and professionalism” but was intellectually engaged in the world of letters.

    All very well, I hear you saying, but what’s that got to do with us? Well, in 1923, he commissioned Mr. A.G. Stephens (1865-1933) to “choose the best 100 imaginative Australian and New Zealand books for exhibition in the Toronto library” (as reported by many newspapers of the day, like Brisbane’s The Queenslander, 3 March 1923). His aim, the newspapers say, was “to inform Canadian readers of the literary aspirations and performances of Australian and New Zealand authors”. This is an inspired and inspiring librarian!

    Now, A.G. Stephens, who also has a Wikipedia page, is well known to those steeped in the history of Australian literary criticism and publishing. He was famous for his “Red Page” literary column in The Bulletin, which he ran for over a decade until 1906. Stuart Lee, who wrote Stephens’ ADB article, says of this column:

    Stephens’ common practice was to spark controversy by attacking an established writer, such as Burns, Thackeray, Kipling, or Tennyson, thereby enticing correspondents as varied as Chris Brennan or George Burns to attack and counter-attack, sometimes over weeks. It was heady stuff.

    After leaving The Bulletin, Stephens worked as a freelance writer and editor. Some of the newspaper articles reporting on Mr. Locke’s initiative, also reference Stephens’ being the editor of the literary magazine, The Bookfellow. He had edited 5 issues of it in 1899, and then revived it as a weekly for a few months in 1907. After that more issues were published, at intervals, until 1925. Overall, Stephens was recognised for his criticism, literary journalism and literary biography. After he died, critic Nettie Palmer, writes Stuart Lee, complained about ‘the appalling lack of public response’ to the news of his death, while Mary Gilmore wrote in an obituary, that “only those who were intellectually shaped by his hand, only those who stood on the strong steps of his work, know with what a sense of loss the words were uttered, ‘A. G. Stephens is gone’.” All this suggests that he was a person well-placed to fulfil Locke’s commission.

    So, back to the commission. I found very little detail about it. Most of the papers announcing it merely explained what it was – which is what I’ve told you already. A few made the point – as did The Queenslander above – that ‘The “hundred best books” task has not been attempted in Australia before. An initial difficulty is that many of our best books are out of print, and have to be painstakingly sought for.’

    But, here’s the thing, on 3 August 1923, a few months after the commission was announced, The Sydney Morning Herald reminded readers of the commission, and then wrote

    The collection has now been made, and the books have been despatched to Canada.

    Nothing more! Back to the drawing board for me. After trying various search strategies – which produced a few comments on the list – I finally found the full annotated list. It’s way too long to share in this post – and it needs a lot of editing in Trove for it to be shareable. In the meantime, I’ll whet your appetite with this response to the list by critic and poet Louis Esson (1878-1943) in Melbourne’s The Herald (1 September 1923):

    Mr Stephens has now published his list of a hundred representative books. As might have been expected, they make a rather arbitrary and unsatisfactory collection. Half of them at least might have been omitted with advantage. Mr Stephens has an exaggerated opinion of the value of the writings and critical opinions of Mr A. G. Stephens. Fifteen of his hundred representative books have been either written or edited by himself. A number of feeble writers have been included while more important writers like Bernard O’Dowd, Frank Wilmot, Vance Palmer, Francis Adams, Walter Murdoch, Katharine Susannah Prichard, Price Warung and others are inadequately represented or not selected at all. Mr Stephens, no doubt, has done his best. He has a perfect right to his own opinion; but readers in Canada and Australia must be on their guard against accepting A.G.S.’s list as being in any way critical or authoritative.

    Esson isn’t the only one who commented on Stephens including himself.

    If you are interested, watch this space … the list is not quite what I expected, based on those early announcements. I’ll try to share it next week.

    Picture Credit: Alfred Stephens, 1906, Public Domain, from National Library of Australia.

    Other posts in the series: 1. Bookstall Co (update); 2. Platypus Series

    Monday musings on Australian literature: Some New Releases in 2023

    Maintaining tradition, my first Monday Musings of the year once again focuses on “new releases”. As before, it is primarily drawn from the Sydney Morning Herald. Jane Sullivan and the team do a wonderful job of surveying publishers large and small, but I have added a couple of my own! Also, as this is Monday musings on Australian literature post, my focus is Australian authors in areas of interest or relevance to me. Click on the SMH link to see the full list, which includes non-Aussies, Aussies I haven’t selected, plus additional info about many of the books.

    As usually happens, some books listed here were listed last year but, for some reason, were not published on schedule.

    Links on the authors’ names are to my posts on those authors.


    I have read a very small number from last year’s list, but a few more are on my TBR and will be read this year. (Indeed, one is almost finished right now!) Here’s this year’s selection:

    • Kim E. Anderson, Prize (Pantera Press, April)
    • Tony BirchWomen and children (UQP, November)
    • Stephanie Bishop, The anniversary (Hachette, April)
    • Benjamin Stevenson, Everyone on this train is a suspect (Penguin Random House or PRH, October)
    • Trent Dalton, untitled (Fourth Estate, October).
    • Gregory Day, The bell of the world (Transit Lounge, March)
    • Robert Gott, Naked ambition (Scribe, May)
    • Kate GrenvilleAlways greener (Text, July)
    • Toni Jordan, Prettier if she smiled more (Hachette, April)
    • Leah Kaminsky, Doll’s eye (PRH, September)
    • Melissa LucashenkoEdenglassie (UQP, October)
    • Catherine McKinnon, The great time (Fourth Estate, August)
    • Rachel Matthews, Never look desperate (Transit Lounge, September)
    • Drusilla Modjeska, Ways of being (PRH, November)
    • Kate Morton, Homecoming(A&U, April)
    • Graeme SimsionCreative differences (Text, January) 
    • Tracy Sorensen, The vitals (Picador, second half 2023)
    • Christos Tsiolkas, The in-betweens (A&U, November)
    • Pip Williams, The bookbinder of Jericho (Affirm, April)
    • Chris WomersleyOrdinary gods and monsters (Picador, second half 2023)
    • Alexis Wright, Praiseworthy (Giramondo, April) 
    • Emma Young, The disorganisation of Celia Stone (Fremantle, September) 

    SMH lists many books under Crimes and Thrillers, but this is not my area of expertise. So, I’m going to leave you to check SMH’s link if you are interested, and just bring a couple to your attention. They tell us that “the ever-popular small town with dark secrets plot gets a good work-out” in:

    • Lucy Campbell, Lowbridge (Ultimo, July); 
    • Nikki Mottram, Crows Nest (UQP, February)

    I mention them because UQP and Ultimo are worthwhile independent publishers. Dervla McTiernan has another book coming out, and there’s more, as I said, if you are interested.

    SMH also lists Debut Australian fiction, including some the result of “heated auctions” and some winners of manuscript prizes:

    • Mikki Brammer, The collected regrets of Clover (Viking, May): sold in 23 countries
    • Andre Dao, Anam (PRH, May): won the Victorian Premier’s fiction award for an unpublished manuscript 
    • Pip Finkemeyer, Sad girl novel (Ultimo, October)
    • Annette Higgs, On a bright hillside in paradise (PRH, July): won the 2022 Penguin literary prize
    • Megan Rogers, The heart is a Star (Fourth Estate, May)
    • Molly Schmidt, Salt River Road (Fremantle, November): won the City of Fremantle Hungerford prize
    • Aisling Smith, After the rain (Hachette, May), won the Richell prize
    • Michael Thompson, How to be remembered (A&U, March)
    • Dianne Yarwood, The wakes (Hachette, March)

    Short stories

    • Carmel Bird‘Love letter to Lola’: Eighteen stories and an author’s reflection (Spineless Wonders, May)
    • J.M. CoetzeeThe Pole and other stories (Text, July) 
    • David Cohen, The terrible event (Transit Lounge, June).
    • Laura Jean McKay, Gunflower (Scribe, October)


    SMH includes a wide range of new non-fiction books, so this is just a selection.

    Life-writing (loosely defined, and selected to those focused mainly on the arts and activism)

    • Belinda Alexandra, Emboldened (Affirm, April): novelist on some women who saved her after she ran from home in terror
    • Ryan Cropp, The life of Donald Horne (Black Inc, August): biography
    • Robyn Davidson, Unfinished woman (Bloomsbury, October): Tracks author’s memoir
    • Marele Day, Reckless (Ultimo, May): novelist’s memoir about her long friendship with an international fugitive 
    • Helen Elliott, Eleven letters to you (Text, May): journalist/critic on her younger years
    • Deborah Fitzgerald, In search of Dorothea (Simon & Schuster, August): biography of Dorothea Mackellar
    • Martin Flanagan, untitled (PRH, no date): journalist’s memoir on his time at a Catholic boarding school
    • Anna Funder, Wifedom (PRH, July): biography of Eileen Orwell, George Orwell’s ignored-by-biographers wife
    • Louise Hansen, Smashing serendipity (Fremantle Press, February): Binjareb Nyoongar woman’s story of her fight against violence and racism
    • Susan Johnson, Aphrodite’s Island (A&U, May): novelist on a year with her mother on the Greek island of Kythera
    • Krissy Kneen, Fat girl dancing (Text, May): third in her memoir series
    • Sarah Krasnostein, On Peter Carey (Black Inc, June): from Writers on Writers series
    • Matthew Lamb, Frank Moorhouse: A Discontinuous Life (PRH, December): biography of Moorhouse, proponent of the “discontinuous narrative” 
    • Frances Peters Little, Jimmy Little: A Yorta Yorta man (Hardie Grant, April): daughter on her First Nations’ musician father
    • Priya Nadesalingam with Rebekah Holt, Back to Biloela (A&U, October): on the refugee family’s ordeal on Christmas Island and final return to Biloela
    • Sam Neill, Did I ever tell you this? (Text, March): actor’s memoir
    • Matt Preston, Big mouth (PRH, November): billed as “a rock’n’roll memoir of death, guns and the occasional scandal”.
    • Jeanne Ryckmans, Trust: A fractured fable (Upswell, August): memoir and detective story 
    • Emmett Stinson, Murnane (MUP, August): biography of Gerald Murnane

    SMH also lists biographies and memoirs on/by politicians but, again, I’m taking a break from parliamentary politics, so check SMH’s link, if you are interested. However, I will note that journalist Chris Wallace’s Political lives (NewSouth, February) is based on her interviews with all living 20th-century Australian prime ministers and their biographers. That second part increases its interest for me.

    There are also two whistleblower stories coming out: Bernard Collaery’s The trial: Defending East Timor (MUP, late 2023) on being prosecuted, with “Witness K”, by the federal government for allegedly breaching the Intelligence Services Act, and David McBride’s The nature of honour (PRH, no date) on his facing prosecution for exposing alleged war crimes.

    History and other non-fiction (esp. racism, sexism, environmental issues)

    • Kate Auty, O’Leary of the Underworld (Black Inc, February): examines a massacre
    • Victor Briggs, Seafaring (Magabala, April): history, with First Nations perspective
    • Chanel Contos, untitled (Macmillan, no date): “a radical rethinking of what yes means when it comes to sex”. 
    • Megan Davis, Quarterly Essay On the Uluru Statement from the Heart (Black Inc, June): First Nations
    • Osman Faruqi, The Racist Country (PRH, August): racism
    • Clementine Ford, I don’t (A&U, October): challenges accepted ideas about marriage
    • Stan GrantThe Queen is dead (Fourth Estate, May): “pull-no-punches” look at colonialism, the monarchy and its bitter legacy for First Nations Australians
    • David Marr, A family business (Black Inc, October): history, First Nations focused
    • Shireen Morris and Damien Freeman (ed.), Statements from the Soul (Black Inc, February): First Nations issue
    • Lucia Osborne-Crowley, Maxwell (A&U, second half of 2023): on Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial and its implications for reparative justice
    • Grace Tame and Michael Bradley, Cancelled (Hardie Grant, September): on cancel culture.
    • Ellen van NeervenPersonal score (UQP, May): racism
    • Penny van Oosterzee, Cloud Land (A&U, February): on the tropical rainforest of northern Queensland
    • Justyn Walsh, Eating the earth (UQP, July): “an incisive celebration and a critique of modern capitalism”
    • Dave Witty, In search of lost trees (Monash University Publishing, May): meditation on nature


    Finally, for poetry lovers, here’s what they list, but there are more if you go to the relevant publisher websites:

    • Stuart Barnes, Like to the Lark (Upswell, February)
    • Bonny Cassidy, Monument, (Giramondo, October)
    • Amy Crutchfield, The Cyprian (Giramondo, September): 2020 winner of the Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize,
    • Madison Godfrey, Dress rehearsals (A&U, March): verse memoir about “a decade of performing womanhood in a non-binary body”
    • John Kinsella, Cellnight (Transit Lounge, April): verse novel
    • John Kinsella, Harsh Hakea (UWA Publishing, February): collected poems, volume 2
    • Kate Larsen, Public.Open.Space (Fremantle, July): debut collection after a decade working as an insta poet
    • David McCooey’s The book of falling (Upswell, February)
    • Kate Middleton, Television (Giramondo, October)
    • S.J. Norman, Blood from a stone (UQP, November): verse memoir about the legacy of violence towards women
    • PiO The dirty t-shirt tour (Giramondo, August): verse account of a US poetry tour
    • Omar Sakr, Non-essential work (UQP, April)

    And, one final surprise – we do expect to see the winner of Finlay Lloyd’s 20/40 Prize in November. That could be anything – but whatever it is, it is sure to be worth waiting for.

    Anything here interest you?

    Reading highlights for 2022

    Regular readers of my blog will know two things about my end of year reading highlights post, but I’ll reiterate them here: I always do my list right at the end of the year when I have read (even if not reviewed) all the books I’m going to; and I do not do a list of “best” or even, really, “favourite” books. Instead, I do a sort of overview of the year through highlights which I think reflect my reading year. I also like to include literary highlights, that is, reading related activities which enhance my reading interests and knowledge. All being well, tomorrow I will share my blogging highlights.

    Literary highlights

    My literary highlights, aka literary events, saw a return to more live events this year, though the pandemic has taught us that there are opportunities to be had by also continuing online experiences – so this year like last I enjoyed a bit of both

    Reading highlights

    I don’t have specific reading goals, just some “rules of thumb” which include reducing the TBR pile, increasing my reading of First Nations authors, and reading some non-anglo literature. While I didn’t make great inroads into these, I did make some, and, regardless, I had many reading highlights. Last year, I framed this post around my reading preferences, but this year I’m returning to my practice of pulling out random observations that epitomise my year’s reading.

    • Re-find of the year: Elizabeth von Arnim was an author I loved back in the 1990s, and I managed to finally revisit her again this year, via not one but two novels – Vera and Expiation – which reminded me why I enjoy her so much. She is sharply observant about men and women but also witty. I also read this year one of the three biographies recently published about her, Gabrielle Carey’s Only happiness here.
    • Retelling of the year: Retellings can be hit or miss for me but I was greatly moved by Tom Gauld’s graphic novel, Goliath.
    • Topic of the year (1): Mothers and daughters featured heavily in this year’s reading, through Jane Sinclair’s memoir Shy love smiles and acid drops, Elisa Shua Dusapin’s Winter in Sokcho, Lucy Neave’s Believe in me, Nell Pierce’s A place near Eden, Jessica Au’s Cold enough for snow not to mention that absolute classic, and a reread for me, Jane Austen’s Sense and sensibility.
    • Topic of the year (2): Colonialism and racism are issues that many of us read about in order to educate ourselves, and this year I read some magnificent explorations, from Damon Galgut’s The promise and Audrey Magee’s The colony to several works by people of colour, including Nella Larsen’s classic 1929 novel Passing, Julie Koh’s astonishing Portable curiosities, Evelyn Araluen’s Stella winner Dropbear, and Anita Heiss’s historical novel Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray.
    • New nationality (for me): I love to add new nationalities to my reading diet, and this year it was Uruguayan, via Ida Vitale’s intriguing Byobu.
    • New genre: Bibliomemoirs are not new, but the term for them is relatively so! Besides Gabrielle Carey’s Only happiness here (mentioned above), I read Carmel Bird’s thoughtful and engaging Telltale.
    • Totemic critters: Every year something interesting pops out from my reading. An odd narrator, perhaps – like a skeleton. This year, it was totemic critters with a few books featuring a lurking critter, such as Nigel Featherstone’s quoll (My heart is a little wild thing) and Lucy Neave’s fox (Believe in me).
    • The locals have it: I like to support local authors, and this year I have read more than usual – Nigel Featherstone’s My heart is a little wild thing, Shelley Burr’s debut rural noir Wake, Lucy Neave’s Believe in me, Nell Pierce’s A place near Eden, and (then resident) Margaret Barbalet’s Blood in the rain, plus two nonfiction works, Mark McKenna’s Return to Uluru and Biff Ward’s memoir-of-sorts, The third chopstick. I also read, but didn’t review several books by local picture book creators. For a little region, we achieve a lot!

    These are just some of 2022’s highlights…

    Some stats …

    I don’t read to achieve specific stats, but I do have some reading preferences which I like to track to keep me honest to myself! This year I was closer to my preferred ratios in most of the categories than I have been for years – without specifically trying. It just happened:

    My preferences are …

    • to read mostly fiction: 74% of my reading was fiction (meaning, everything not non-fiction, so novels, short stories, and poetry). This is close to my plucked-out-of-the-air 75% rule of thumb, and I’m pleased with that.
    • to give precedence to women: 64% of this year’s reading was by women writers, which is similar to last year’s 65%, and around my preferred two-thirds proportion.
    • to read non-Australian as well as Australian writers: 32% of this year’s reading was by non-Australian writers, which is close to my goal of around one-third non-Australian, two-thirds Australian.
    • to read older books: 34% of the works I read were published before 2000, which is more than in recent years. I did say last year that I wanted to increase this, because I love checking out older works.
    • to support new releases: 19% of this year’s reads were published in 2022, which is rather less than last year’s 25% for that year’s releases, but I’m fine with that – even if my to-be-reviewed pile isn’t.
    • to tackle the TBR, which for me means books I’ve had for over 12 months: This year I read just 5, which is similar to the last few years. I’d really love to lift this number because I have so many good (older) books there waiting to be read!

    Overall, it was a perfectly fine reading year but I didn’t read as much as I was hoping, mainly because Mr Gums and I are travelling more often to Melbourne to visit family. This is a good thing so I’m not complaining, but still, I’d like to have read more. 2023 is going to be a challenging year with a downsizing move in the offing, as well as our trips to Melbourne. Watch this space!

    Meanwhile, a huge thanks to all of you who read my posts, engage in discussion, recommend more books and, generally, be thoughtful and fun people. Our little community is special, to me!

    I wish you all an excellent 2023, and thank you once again for hanging in this year.

    What were your 2022 reading or literary highlights?

    Monday musings on Australian literature: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2022

    For around 10 years I devoted my last Monday Musings of the year to the Australian Women Writers Challenge, which most of you will remember was instigated by Elizabeth Lhuede in 2012 in response to concerns in Australian literary circles about the lack of recognition for women writers. As I explained last year, it would be changing tack in 2022 to focus on past and often under-recognised or overlooked women writers, from the 19th- and 20th-centuries. By the end of the last year, we felt that much of what we had aimed for in the original challenge had been achieved, with women writers seeming to be well-established on Australia’s literary scene, at least by observable measures. We hope that holds, as there have been regressions in the past. Just compare the impressive visibility of Aussie women writers in the 1920s and 30s with a couple of decades later. For now, though, things are looking positive.

    So, 2022 started with a new team overseeing this new phase, Elizabeth, Bill, and me. Our plan was to publish articles and reviews about earlier writers, and publish their actual writings – in full or excerpt form, as appropriate – in order to promote what we knew to be Australia’s rich heritage of Australian women’s writing. I’m not going to do a full rundown of the year’s achievements because Elizabeth will be doing an end-of-year round up on the site in January, but I do want to share a little about what we’ve achieved …

    What happened in 2022

    We have managed to post twice a week: articles and reviews on Wednesdays, and actual writings, related where possible to the previous Wednesday’s post, on Fridays. Bill took on the job of commissioning editor and has done a wonderful job of finding guest posters to fill the spare weekly slots. Elizabeth, who was keen from the start to bring actual writings to the fore, has scheduled all the Friday posts and worked on enhancing the Stories from Online Archives pages. In addition to writing my monthly Wednesday post, as all three of us have done, I have taken a quieter role in the background, including contributing to discussions about guest posts, and our policies and practices, and helping with various behind-the-scenes tasks like Trove editing to support postings.

    We made it to the end of the year, with a decent following in tow. Our stats have dropped significantly from the old challenge days, but we expected that with our narrower focus. While it is always encouraging to have readers, we see the main value of what we are doing to be long-term. In bringing past and lesser-known writers into the light, we not only ensure that they are visible and more easily found by people who are looking for them, but we’d like to think that this visibility will inspire, encourage and facilitate further research into Australia’s literary heritage. We have had at least one academic express gratitude for the help the site has provided her in her research. Music to our ears.

    Our Wednesday posts have been an eclectic mix. Rather than impose structure – thematic, chronological, whatever – on our posting schedule, we decided to let the posters choose their topic. This made it easier for Bill to lock in guest posters, because he could give them free rein depending on their relevant interests, and resulted in a variety of posts which (hopefully) appealed to our readers. To see what we posted, just head over to the site – with only two postings a week, there are not too many to scroll through.

    For now, I’ll briefly summarise what we three have done in particular.

    Elizabeth has focused particularly on lost writers, on those women who have all but disappeared from view. She has not only brought them into the light, but has solved a few mysteries along the way. For example, who was R McKay Tully? Male or female? Elizabeth worked it out. Or Netta Walker? A woman yes, but what’s in a name? Again, sleuth Elizabeth was on the case. The thing is that Elizabeth’s posts provide useful insights into the research process as well as into the writers she unearths.

    Bill, on the other hand has tended to write reviews – with a little biography thrown in – of authors he’s been keen to explore more, besides his beloved Miles Franklin, like Kylie Tennant (Ma Jones and the little white cannibals), Rosa Praed (The bond of wedlock), and Ada Cambridge (A mere chance). All are authors I’ve read but wish to read more.

    I started the year by posting on selected primary and secondary sources for research into Australian women writers, and then moved into posts on specific writers, many of them edited or enhanced versions of posts I’ve written here. These included posts on juvenilia, the poet Eliza Hamilton Dunlop, and journalist-botanist-author Louisa Atkinson.

    We have also had some wonderfully generous guest posters who accepted Bill’s call to delve into history for us – bloggers Jonathan Shaw and Brona from Australia, Emma from France and Marcie McCauley from Canada; published authors Jessica White, Michelle Scott Tucker, Debbie Robson and Nathan Hobby; and academics and historians Stacey Roberts and Linda Emery. We are hugely grateful to them.

    And so, 2023

    Although the blog is not generating a lot of traffic, Elizabeth, Bill and I believe it is serving the purpose we identified, and so have decided to continue in 2023. We would love, though, to hear if you have ideas for posts, or would like to offer a post yourself, or have any other suggestions.

    Meanwhile, I have enjoyed the year, because of our subject-matter and because Bill and Elizabeth have been so easy to work with. There’s something special about working with others on a shared goal … so roll on 2023. We are ready.