The Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015 is open.
I’m excited to be part of the challenge. Last year was the first time I’d committed myself to it and I was very tentative. There was no guarantee that I’d be able to complete the task because I was new to blogging. I mistakenly believed that the challenge expected participants to blog, as well as read and review a set number of books. This is not so. You can read about it here.
If you look at the book review sections of Australian newspapers you will notice that books by men are reviewed more often than those by women. Reviewers are more likely to be men. The same applies to journals where books are reviewed.
I could hardly believe my eyes when I read an article in the Weekend Australian this weekend (3 and 4 January, 2015). Under the heading ‘Read On’ (Books, p. 14-15). Stephen Romei wrote what he called “A sneak preview of the year ahead in literature’.
After wishing his readers a happy 2015, he continued:
At this time of the year I scour the publishers’ advance catalogues and never fail to be slightly surprised by how many good books are in the pipeline for the coming 12 months. This year is no different and, as always, it’s difficult to know where to begin.
From there, he itemises and discusses around a hundred book titles. A quick count reveals that seventy four of the books are by men. Twenty three are by women and three are by authors who use only their initials. Perhaps Romei is not entirely to blame for not including more women writers. Perhaps the publishers’ catalogues are at fault.
Hallo‽ Where are all the excellent women writers hiding this year?
(You may have read about that symbol in another of my blogs. Called an interrobang, it combines a question mark and an exclamation mark. It’s especially useful for when a writer wants to explode!)
Long- and short-lists for most major literary prizes in this country are frequently dominated by books by men.
The Australian Women Writers Challenge began in 2012 in an attempt to redress this gender imbalance. Reviewers, men and women participants, commit to reading and reviewing books by Australian women.
Levels of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015
There are four levels in the challenge. Three of them bear the names of the writer and feminist, Stella Miles Franklin. Her best known book, My Brilliant Career was published in 1901.
- The Stella Level – the reviewer reads four books and reviews three.
- The Miles Level – the reviewer reads at least six books and reviews four.
- The Franklin Level – the reviewer reads at least ten books and reviews at least six.
- For the final level, the reviewer chooses how many books he or she will read and review. Read more about the Challenge here.
I enjoyed being a participant last year. I met the challenge in spite of major family upheavals which threatened to derail me. You can read my summary of the Challenge here.
Braver this year, I plan to complete the Franklin level. That means I’ll read at least ten and review at least six books by Australian women.
One of the problems with such a challenge is the enormous choice of books available.
As a writer of memoir and occasional facilitator of memoir-writing groups, I read many memoirs and other life-writing. This year I plan to read more widely from different genres than those that usually attract my attention. I’ll definitely include novels from the genre sometimes referred to as chick-lit and also some young adult novels.
I look forward to involvement in the the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015. I also look forward with deep interest to reading the reviews of other participants.