This month marks the five-year anniversary of the Australian Women Writers Challenge. As those familiar with this blog will know, the AWW challenge was established with the aim of helping to counter the gender imbalance of reviewing of books by Australian women in mainstream media. To do this, the challenge sought to bring together an online community of individuals dedicated to reading and reviewing a full range of books by Australian women, including books from genres generally overlooked by mainstream media. It was envisaged that the challenge would include anyone who cared to join: writers and ordinary readers, male and female; book bloggers, library staff, book shop workers and educators; in effect, whoever could post a public review, either on a personal blog, Facebook note, or an online site like Goodreads.
Over the past five years, that’s what we’ve done. We got together a team of volunteers and sent out the call for participants to join. With the help of a specialist, we built a website which now includes a searchable database. Collectively we’ve read thousands of books, and written many thousands of reviews, mentioning more than a few of them in our regular roundups. After five years, it’s time to ask: to what extent has the AWW challenge achieved its goal?
A possible way to assess this would be to compare the number and type of AWW reviews with those that have appeared in mainstream media during a similar period. To this end, Stella Prize Manager Veronica Sullivan has kindly sent me the data captured by the Stella Count over the past few years. With the help of an AWW intern, I’m slowly making my way through this data and hope to be able to report on some findings before long.
Until then, we’d love to know what you think. Has the AWW challenge changed your reading and/or reviewing habits in any way?