The Australian Women Writers Challenge
Today I’m going to do something I have rarely (if ever) done before – this post has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with food, although would surely qualify as brain-food, instead I’m going to take the opportunity to let you know about a great initiative that has been designed solely to promote the work of women authors in Australia.
As mentioned repeatedly in the past, I’m a lazy creature, and before I embarked on the blogging career which seems to take up a great deal of my spare time, I spent most of that time on the sofa with my nose in a book. I’ve always been an avid reader who, given the opportunity, likes nothing more than to devour as many books as I can and read widely in the areas of both non-fiction and fiction.
Last year I stumbled upon the Australian Women’s Writers Challenge. Early in 2012, the results of statistics gathered by Bookseller & Publisher which were published in Crikey demonstrated a decided gender bias towards male authors having their books reviewed in influential newspapers, magazines and literary journals. This had been commented upon earlier than this (late in 2011) by Australian writer Tara Moss who had subsequently been howled down. Elizabeth Lhuede, a reader of Moss’ blog who was stung into the realisation that she too read fewer books by women, decided that words were not enough in this particular case and leapt into action.
Taking full advantage of digital communication and social media, Lhuede contacted as many librarians, booksellers, publishers, book bloggers, English teachers and authors as she could reach, inviting them to read, review and link to more publications by Australian women. Finding a receptive audience, it wasn’t long before over 350 participants had joined in the challenge and hundreds of reviews and links began to appear on the AWW blog. By the end of 2012 the challenge had attracted both national and international attention with more than 1500+ reviews linked to the blog and a roundup of 2012 releases on Huffington Post Book blog.
The challenge was far more successful last year than Lhuede could have dreamed of and this year she tells me she has gathered a team of 15 book bloggers to keep an eye on reviews and post monthly round-ups on the AWW blog. The fantastic potential of this challenge has not escaped Elizabeth’s notice and she has a firm eye on the future of women’s writing in Australia. She says, “I hope word about the challenge will spread and a wide reading, as well as reviewing, community will be established – through blogs, social media, libraries and writers’ organisation. My dream would be to influence the general book buying public, not just those in the book industry. If word could get out about how diverse the writing by Australian women is – not just literary writing, although the quality there is impressive – but also within different genres and special interest areas: speculative fiction, romance, crime, histories, indigenous writing. By the time the Stella Prize short list is announced each year, it would be fantastic to think the books nominated are already well known and widely read.”
It didn’t take me long to knock over the newest releases by my favourite Australian women authors (among whom are Charlotte Wood, Anna Funder and Kathryn Fox if you are looking for a few to start with) and I have been astonished at the breadth of material out there for me yet to explore. There are very active discussion groups for the Australian Women Writers Challenge on Good Reads and ever growing communities on Facebook and Twitter. If you are a keen reader, I’d suggest you take a look at what is happening over at AWWC. At the very least you will find some brilliant reading suggestions to add to your beside pile and you might even have a hand in changing the face of the Australian book industry!