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Monday, December 31, 2012

Reflecting on my 2012 Australian Women Writers Challenge

Hello Darling Readers,

It seems fitting that the same year that Julia Gillard roared about misogyny in Parliament  there was a real focus in Australia, regarding the gender divide in publishing. 

Jane Sullivan began the year with this poignant piece about literary sexism, concluding with these frightening statistics: 

Miles Franklin Award since 1957
■40 wins for men
■13 for women
■10 men won more than once
■Two women won more than once: Thea Astley (four times, including a joint win) and Jessica Anderson (twice)
So, 27 men, nine women have won.
In the past 10 years, only two women have won: Alexis Wright (Carpentaria, 2007) and Shirley Hazzard (The Great Fire, 2004)

And just this month author Tara Moss broke down the gender-divide in a blog post. The pie-graph which shows that the New York Review of Books reviewed 627 books my male authors in 2011, and only 143 by female authors kinda says it all. 

But there were also some wonderful literary landmarks for women in publishing this year. For starters, The Stella Prize opened its doors for entrants into the annual literary prize for Australian women’s writing. Anna Funder won the 2012 Miles Franklin Award, a particular triumph after last year’s male-only shortlist. And overseas there was even more triumph, with Hilary Mantel becoming the first female author to win the Man Booker Prize twice.

So what’s all this fuss about more exposure for women writers? And why was there an Australian Women Writers challenge, let alone a prize created for Australian Women Writers? No, it wasn’t a case of ‘if you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail’, as some wrongly assumed. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that the gender divide is exclusive to literature. This is something that the anonymous feminist group, the Guerrilla Girls, have been protesting in the art world for ages. 

Heck, video blogger Anita Sarkeesian even received copious amounts of online abuse for daring to speak out about the inherent sexism in the gaming community. 

And actress Geena Davis has created an Institute on Gender in Media to address the serious lack of female representation in films and TV (and if you really want to blow your mind, watch the documentary ‘Miss Representation’) 

Now, speaking of Geena Davis, I think her Institute’s slogan really gets to the heart of the gender divide, whether it be in literature, film, television or the art world. ‘If she can see it, she can be it.’ That is so, so true. And if she can read it, she can be it – that means reading strong, female heroines who don’t simper and pout before their male counterparts (sorry, Bella Swan) and it means that women who work in the publishing industry see their accomplishments reflected in awards and reviews. 

I kicked off 2012 with a give-away centred around some of my favourite young adult Australian Women Writers, to highlight my participation in the challenge which aimed to get more people reading books by female authors. And now the year is almost over, and I thought to reflect on a few of the AWW books I read this year.

I read 27, and I wish I'd read more. To be fair, I did also make it a point to interview most of these authors too, or write articles around them, but laying them all out makes me realize that I should have read a lot more, and I’m making a promise to myself to at least double that number in 2013. Because there is a gender divide in publishing, and every single person whose world revolves around books should be outraged and do everything they can to address the issue and bridge that divide. 

• The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf’ The Tribe #1 by Ambelin Kwaymullina & Kill Your Darlings blog
• 'The Fine Color of Rust' by P.A. O'Reilly and interview 
• 'Creepy and Maud' by Dianne Touchell and interview 

• 'Quintana of Charyn' Lumatere Chronicles #3 by Melina Marchetta
• 'Friday Brown' by Vikki Wakefield - interview, Melbourne Writers Festival recap and 'in conversation' recap

• 'I'll Tell You Mine' by Pip Harry and interview 
• 'Shadows' The Rephaim #1 by Paula Weston and interview 
• 'Holier Than Thou' by Laura Buzo and interview 

• 'Red Queen' by Honey Brown
• 'After the Darkness' by Honey Brown
• 'Disharmony' The Telling #1 by Leah Giarratano and interview 

• 'Mary Bennet' by Jennifer Paynter
•  'The Golden Day' by Ursula Dubosarsky
• 'Ruby Moonlight' by Ali Cobby Eckermann

• 'Night Beach' by Kirsty Eagar and interview 
• 'Grace Beside Me' by Sue McPherson and Kill Your Darlings blog 
• 'The Children of the King' by Sonya Hartnett

• 'Losing It' by Julia Lawrinson and Melbourne Writers Festival recap
• 'The Wrong Boy' by Suzy Zail
• 'Queen of the Night' by Leanne Hall

• 'The Reluctant Hallelujah' by Gabrielle Williams and interview 
• 'Sea Hearts' by Margo Lanagan and interview 
• 'Playing Beatie Bow' by Ruth Park

• 'Halfway to Good' by Kirsten Murphy
• 'May Gibbs: More than a Fairy Tale' by Robert Holden and Jane Brummitt
• 'The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots' by Loretta Hill


  1. Wow, I think 27 book by AWW is great! I read 3 and will be doing the challenge again in 2013. Just bookmarked this page to come back and read later, especially the interviews. Happy New Year!

  2. Lots of interesting sounding books there. Well done on your efforts last year.

  3. You should be proud of those 27, Danielle! Before the AWW I never thought about how many books by Aussie women I was reading, now it's a focus for me, as I'm sure it is for you! Here's to another great year!


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