Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014
I’ve recently signed up to the Australian Womens Writers Challenge. Started in 2012, the aim of the challenge is pretty simple – read a book by an Australian female writer and submit a review. From memoir, to short stories, self-published, literary, crime and romance, fantasy or young adult novels, and more. Anyone can sign up and submit reviews directly to the AWW2014 Challenge via their website. You can also join the group and submit reviews via Goodreads. See links below to sign up to the AWW2014 Challenge.
Started in 2012, the Australian Women Writers Challenge received 1500+ reviews of books written by women in its first year, followed by 1800 reviews in 2013 covering over 700 Australian women writers. The challenge is growing in its popularity and raising awareness of the gender imbalance displayed when it comes to the reviewing of books.
In 2011, author Tara Moss commented on her blog about the fact that writing by women is still vastly underrepresented in reviews. ‘In the New Yorker (Magazine) 22% of book reviewers were women and 20% of books reviewed were by women writers.’ Hopefully this has improved since 2011!
Tara Moss also commented on the gender imbalance between male and female writers who have won major awards. In her blog she refers specifically to the Miles Franklin Award, one of Australia’s most prestigious awards, that is named after a woman, Stella Marie Miles Franklin, who pretended to be a man to have her book, My Brilliant Career, published in 1901. My instant thought after writing the last sentence was – well, those were the times. And they were, but times have changed haven’t they? We can only hope!
I need to add of course, that regardless of the gender, a book should be nominated by its merits only – but if books by women writers are not being read and reviewed as much as male writers, then they are not represented fully.
Kathryn Heyman (my writing mentor) also joined the debate last year by sending an open letter the editors of the London Book Review regarding the lack of reviews by women writers compared to men. Kathryn comments on her reply from the London Book Review – ‘My LRB correspondent explained that “men vastly outnumber women among writers proposing pieces”, but then went on to confirm that it is the editors who approach contributors – so, surely, in this case, the complication lies with the editors themselves. Is it more complicated to commission a woman than to commission a man? I want journals like this to succeed. I want to celebrate literature being taken seriously, being given proper space for reflection. However, I don’t believe that serious literature is confined to male writers.’
Genre Fiction vs. Literary Fiction
Now, its all very well to raise the awareness of female writers in high brow journals like the The New Yorker Magazine, The London Review of Books, and awards like the Miles Franklin (amongst many other literary awards), but the reviews and shortlisted books associated with them are what is regarded as ‘Literary Fiction’, as opposed to ‘Genre Fiction.’
There are many opinions and discussions regarding the difference between the two. There was an interesting article recently by Steven Petite in the Huffington Post. The article mentions – Genre Fiction “includes many subcategories such as Mystery/Thriller, Horror, Romance, Western, Fantasy, Science Fiction, etc. (Literary Fiction) is more difficult to classify or break apart into subcategories. To put it simply, Literary Fiction is anything that does not fit into a genre.” He also states the following:
“In essence, the best Genre Fiction contains great writing, with the goal of telling a captivating story to escape from reality. Literary Fiction is comprised of the heart and soul of a writers being, and is experienced as an emotional journey through the symphony of words, leading to a stronger grasp of the universe and of ourselves.”
I like all styles of books, but I am writing Genre Fiction. There isn’t a hope in the world (maybe in another world though!) that a fantasy novel about a boy, a dragon and miniature talking monkeys is EVER going to be awarded the Miles Franklin or the Stella Prize, or the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, or the Man Booker or the Pulitzer Prize for Literature (I could go on), and reviews of Genre Fiction (female and male writers) is not covered in high brow literary journals, so that is why I am supporting the Australian Women Writers Challenge, Australian writers of speculative fiction (male and female), genre fiction journals, and beginning to review good books (male and female) in ALL of the genre’s, including ‘Literary’ novels on my blog and Goodreads.
Don’t think I have forgotten about male writers though! I have read four books by male authors in the last couple of months and have three on my ‘to read’ list. I was happy to find after counting up all of the books in my library, I had a pretty good balance of female and male writers. I still regard all books on their merit, not the gender of the author, but I am just taking some time to support female writers by submitting my reviews to the AWW2014 Challenge.
- Read all of my book Reviews HERE
Thanks for reading – Comments welcome.
Read the full Huffington Post article on Genre vs. Literary Fiction