The Australian Women Writers Challenge

Journal: 082

I like last year’s logo, though one of my friends thinks poor Miles (it is of course Miles Franklin’s silhouette) is losing all her thoughts, or all her sense more likely, out the top of her head. We don’t have one for this year, and we are using the heading from an earlier year again. We – I say we, as I am now on the AWWC editorial team, with the site’s founder, Elizabeth Lhuede, and Sue (Whispering Gums) – will try and update the site’s appearance as we go along.

Over the past ten years they have built up a considerable database of reviews of Australian women’s writing (a lot of it contemporary of course); and also Elizabeth has been/is building an archive of out of copyright stories and novels. To complement that, I hope I can consolidate the work we have done here with AWW Gens 1 2 and 3 – which is roughly the period AWWC will cover from now on – onto the AWWC site as well.

Those of you who enjoyed the challenge of setting -and meeting – a target, may still, I hope will, post reviews on the Facebook page Love Reading Books by Aussie Women. I know, it’s not the same thrill as being mentioned in Summaries.

My reason for writing this post is to encourage conversation about the site. The reviews database needs a lot of work to make it friendlier to update and to search on. We are concentrating on the ‘magazine’ side at the moment – I think it’s looking good, don’t you – but we will definitely get back to the database side, though perhaps ‘eventually’ rather than ‘soon’.

For those of you I haven’t persuaded to subscribe, I will put up a list each month of the previous months posts.

AWWC February 2022

Wed02Elizabeth LhuedeA new year and a new focus
Wed09Michelle Scott TuckerAustralia’s First Women Writers
Fri11ELElizabeth Fenton, The Journal of Mrs. Fenton (extract)
Wed16Bill HollowayLouisa Atkinson, Gertrude the Emigrant (review)
Fri18wadHLouisa Atkinson, Gertrude the Emigrant (extract)
Wed23Whispering GumsEarly Australian women writers, 1: Primary sources
Fri25ELLouisa Anne Meredith, Voyage out, 1839 (extract)

I’m thoroughly enjoying being part of AWWC, the to and fro as we get stuff sorted, and the contact with other bloggers as I source guest posts. I’ve always dreamed of being involved with a literary magazine and this is pretty close.

Somehow, the gaps in my real work have aligned to allow me to get well ahead with my AWWC posts and even a little ahead with posts here. Today, as I write, is Sunday. Last week I did a milk run up north, with a final delivery east of Marble Bar (Australia’s hottest town, on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert), had radiator problems, got going using black pepper as ‘Bars Leak’, then broke down again almost directly outside Volvo, Port Hedland. They, despite being booked a fortnight in advance, replaced my fan, fan belt and pulleys while I waited and got me on my way home.

Yesterday, the Milly’s Moving project had me up a ladder painting; and tomorrow I will be (on Monday I was, you know what I mean) on my way again, first with a machine to Kalgoorlie and then a road train load back up past Marble Bar to Telfer.

The wet season (Summer) means roads up north are routinely under water – though not to compare at the moment with the east coast – the photo is of the Shaw River between Port Hedland and Marble Bar, and there’ll probably be a couple of more crossings between Marble Bar and Telfer.

[Weds night as I post this I am stuck in Port Hedland waiting out Cycllone Anika which is due to cross directly over Telfer, my destination, some time tomorrow.]

Just to slip in a literary reference, Ernestine Hill took a detour to Marble Bar (1932 ish), I think on her way back from Darwin to Port Hedland. Nullagine, 90 km of barely driveable dirt road south, was then the principal town of the region, and I believe Hill heard in one of Marble Bar’s many pubs about the escape of the Rabbit-Proof Fence girls back to Jigalong which came under Nullagine’s jurisdiction, and so made her way to Jigalong to meet them (The Great Australian Loneliness, 1937).


Recent audiobooks 

Helen Garner (F, Aus/Vic), Stories (2019)
Suzanne Collins (F, USA), The Hunger Games (2008) – SF
Suzanne Collins (F, USA), Catching Fire (2009) – SF
Suzanne Collins (F, USA), Mocking Jay (2010) – SF
Claire Fuller (F, Eng), Bitter Orange (2018) – more drama than Crime

Currently Reading:

Doris Lessing (F, Eng), Shikasta (1981) – SF
Madelaine Ryan (F, Aus/Vic), A Room Called Earth (2020)

More for the TBR:

Speaking of Milly’s Moving, I took some bags of clothes to a local Anglicare and, having not been in a secondhand store since Covid, came out with 13 books, for less than the price of one new one, nearly all Virago Modern Classics. Hopefully, you can tell me where I should start.

Eliot Bliss, Saraband (1931)
F Tennyson Jesse, The Lacquer Lady (1929)
Laura Talbot, The Gentlewoman (1952)
MJ Farrell (Molly Keane), The Rising Tide (1937)
Rosamond Lehman, Invitation to the Waltz (1932)
EM Mayor, The Squire’s Daughter (1929)
EH Young, Jenny Wren (1932)
Elizabeth Jenkins, The Tortoise and the Hare (1954)
Ellen Wilkinson, Clash (1929)
Rosamond Lehman, A Note in Music (1930)
May Sinclair, The Three Sisters (1914)
Sunetra Gupta, A Sin of Colour (1999)
Hanif Kureishi, The Bhudda of Suburbia (1990)

24 thoughts on “The Australian Women Writers Challenge

  1. Intrigued to see that you’re listening to a Claire Fuller audiobook – she’s just up the road from me (relatively speaking) and I keep meaning to get to her books, since she’s a local author and does lots of events in the neighbourhood. But her debut didn’t appeal and somehow I’ve never picked any of the others up – I’ll be interested to hear what you think!


    • The protagonist (Bitter Orange) is an old woman, dying in a nursing home, recalling an earlier time when she was a fortyish maiden introduced to a bit of sexual excitement. I wouldn’t rush to pick it up.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve read two of those you picked up – EH Young (I’ve read every one of her Virago published books I think – at least all that had been published when I discovered her) and Kureishi (which I’ve reviewed on my blog I think), and I would recommend Jenny Wren. To be honest, I can’t remember what it, in particular, was about, but EH Young was an interesting woman (check her biography) and I loved reading her. I think you’d like the Kureishi too. I have wanted to read Lehman, and I feel I have read a Molly Keane.

    I like your idea of reporting on the challenge each month, and I love that “I’ve always dreamed of being involved with a literary magazine and this is pretty close”.

    Hope you aren’t hold up too long?


    • Ok, you’ve given me a place (or 2) to start on the Viragos. It’s 10am Thurs, I unloaded in Pt Hedland – Telfer is directly under the ex-cyclone right now and the road in will be closed until Monday, and probably the public (Woodie Woodie Rd) road as well, at the Oakover River.
      The ‘Lit Mag’ thing is one of the reasons I’d like to get the banner right sooner rather than later, as well as some more interesting typefaces in the subsidiary headings.


      • I think you’d better email Elizabeth and me about those. I’m not too bothered about the banner because I have no vision for it. As for subsidiary headings I’m not sure what our options are though with a hosted site we have more. I’m a less is more person and like to keep typefaces reasonably simple. Are you stuck there till Monday.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Apropos of other things, I stumbled across Reading the Mallee, and think you might be interested despite your lack of enthusiasm for Bill Green. It’s a reading project funded to, yes, encourage the reading of books written in or about the Mallee. See
    I had a brief hunt for some of the books I saw while surfing their site, but so far haven’t found any of them.


  4. I’m not keen on posting reviews to Facebook pages and miss not being able to add to the website database. I understand the shift to older (ie dead) women writers but think it’s a shame we can’t continue to support living female writers who need championing so that they can benefit from increased exposure… I see from figures released by the Stella Prize today that gender parity for reviews in the mainstream media have finally tipped in the balance toward women but men still dominate longer form reviews so I guess the battle is not yet over.

    PS If you need a new header / logo / social media tile hit me up. It’s basically what I do for a living now, albeit in the automotive industry…


    • That’s a very nice ps thankyou Kim and we may take you up on it.

      I like the idea of continuing to accumulate reviews but my understanding is that the database we have and particularly the front end are not stable enough.


    • Yes, I’m torn too kimbofo … I feel a limb missing when I’ve written Aussie women’s reviews this year. I don’t add the little image to my posts and don’t add them to the database.

      The trouble is that the database needed a lot of maintenance which I used to do – fixing duplicate entries, wrong authors, bad links, etc etc. It was time consuming but necessary for the round-ups, but we aren’t doing the round-ups now of course. Also, the actual usage of that database was pretty low. The records show under 20,000 hits on the Books Reviewed database over the life of the website. That’s not a lot over 10 years. Of course, some of the Home Page hits might have gone there but even if you double that? I think it’s a great resource, and I did use it at times, but how many people did use it?

      But, I agree with you, the Facebook site suits those who want to chat contemporary books but it’s not a resource and it doesn’t have the public profile that the AWW site has, even if it’s not accessed a lot!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Interesting about database usage. My marketing brain suggests it probably wasn’t widely known and with a bit of foresight and a small budget could have been promoted, especially to schools and other institutions, as a free resource to use. Perhaps even establishing a link with the Stella Prize could have helped spread the word about it. As I continually tell the people I work worth, people won’t buy things if they don’t know they are there to buy!


  5. My goodness, Clash is really hard to get hold of, you did well (I had a copy that one blogging friend sent me that I gave to another, a precious commodity. It’s good, too).


  6. What a lovely lot of titbits in here Bill.
    Glad Milly’s move is progressing as it should, we finally got B24 and GF moved to Brisbane this week, although with the floods all up and down the east coast of Australia, getting the furniture van there was an epic roadtrip for Mr Book and B24 in the end. But they are safely ensconced in their new home now.

    As you already know, I am a sucker for a truck on the road pic, and seeing blue skies through your windscreen was a real treat. We haven’t seen blue skies for over 2 weeks in Sydney.

    The AWW wrap up was a handy prompt to remind me that I am 2 (actually 4 if I count the March posts) behind. A day at home today will hopefully rectify that.

    Not sure if you particpiate in the biannual club by year reading events hosted by Simon and Kaggsy, but the April one is #1954Club and I will be reading The Tortoise and the Hare.
    I have a real fondness for the green Virago’s. The year I lived in London, there was a little community library not far from where I lived/worked that had a whole wall of green Virago’s. I devoured them indiscrimately.


    • Settlement day on the new place was Thurs so I finally got to see it when I got home. It’s beautifully located, a decent six from the WACA would land on her balcony, and we walked up to an old favourite restaurant on Claisebrook Inlet for lunch.
      I saw in the paper today you may have grey skies until August. Your Blue Mountains house may have washed down to Penrith by then.
      I’m at least one AWWC post behind myself. I think we may all soon have a backlog of Friday stories.
      I see the 19xx club everywhere of course but have never read for it. Maybe, this year – but more likely an Australian.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love that you were meant to leave things behind at the charity store and ended up with enough books you likely needed a bag to carry them. It’s so very hard to resist that wall of used books! The one thing that has kept me from buying too many books lately is how much better I feel reading all these TBR of books that I own with Biscuit and getting them on their way to a new owner.


    • I haven’t bought a lot of books since Covid, and charity shops seem to carry mostly romances and blockbusters. I miss having second hand book stores nearby but they all seem to have closed down. I still have the stock to open one of my own, but Milly and I have both moved on. Maybe in our eighties.
      Your and Biscuit’s book club has been good for you, and her too probably, in so many ways.


      • We used to have a used bookstore in my hometown that was mostly paperback romances, which was pretty gross because those books are made with cheap paper to begin with. The deterioration was something you could both see and smell. There’s a good one here in South Bend, though, run by a kindly gent.


      • We have a concentration of bookstores, new and secondhand, in Fremantle, also home to a Notre Dame University, and very few anywhere else in Perth. Perhaps these days you need that combination of students and a patient shopowner.


  8. Oh, my, what a photo. I feel damp. And very far away from Australia. (Only the latter is a reflection of reality!)

    That’s a fab collection of Viragos. Lehmann (sp?) is one of my ATFs and I know I’ve read the first one you found (but can’t recall for sure if it is the first in the duology to which it belongs) and Note in Music is a standalone but I haven’t read it yet. She’s smashing.


    • Based on past performance it’s going to take me a few years to get through these – and they are not my only unread Viragos – but I can see I have something to look forward to.


  9. The AWWC project sounds great. And right up your alley!
    Like Marcie implied, that picture feels so very far away from here. It’s almost eerie.
    Such a great stack of books you came away with! You’ve given me the urge to make a trip to the used book store. Not that it takes much for me to get a hankering for it!


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