Sometimes the best things come in small bits and pieces, in little bites and nibbles. It is an art form in itself to attempt to convey what you want to say in a storyline that is restricted by a word limit and yet still have the words sing. It’s difficult to then conform to the restrictions of not just word limits but also forms and write poetry that, well, works.
After all the effort authors put in, the best we can do is buy and read their work, and review it. And that, readers who reviewed, you did in 2014. In fact, you reviewed short fiction more than you did non fiction.
But you want numbers, I get it. So here are numbers for you.
You gave us 28 reviews of 24 poetry titles by 23 authors and 99 reviews of 72 short story collections by 66 authors. If by chance, you read but did not review any of these titles, give us a shout in the comments so we have an idea of overall readership as well.
Maxine Beneba Clarke and Jude Aquilina share the accolade of most reviewed author for Poetry, each with two different titles reviewed: Clarke’s Gil Scott Heron Is On Parole and Nothing Here Needs Fixing and Aquilina’s On A Moon Spiced Night and Thread Me A Button (with Joan Fenney).
Clarke is fast becoming a favourite author among the readers and reviewers of the Australian Women Writers Challenge because between the language and the rapid fire delivery we are swept along with the tide of her words. You loved her enough to give her three reviews of one title Foreign Soil in the short fiction genre as well.
Angela Slatter left everyone else in the dust with her impressive record of 7 reviews and 5 different collections of short stories reviewed: three reviews of The Bitterwood Bible and one each of Home and Hearth, Sourdough and other stories, The Girl With No Hands and Midnight and Moonshine, co-authored with Lisa Hannet.
Cate Kennedy came in a close second with 6 reviews to her name as an editor and author: two for Like A House On Fire, one for Dark Roots and three for the collection Australian Love Stories. Angela Meyer was third with four reviews, two for The Great Unknown and two for Captives.
Why do we prefer the smaller, tinier parts of literature? Perhaps it is a question of fitting reading time in amongst everything else we have to do these days. Perhaps it is our desire not to be bored or a desire to feel like we have achieved something, finished reading something sooner. Perhaps because we thought it would be easier to finish the Australian Women Writers Challenge by reading shorter works? Perhaps we have less patience. Or perhaps we appreciate the effort gone into trying to tell us, entertain us, teach us, inform us, in less words than usual, in a form that gives us a literary earworm as phrases and words stay in our heads for days afterwards.
The lists are here for both poetry and short fiction. If you read any of them, tell us which ones were your favourites and why. Tell us which ones gave you literary headaches and which ones gave you phrases to parrott at others nonstop.
And if you haven’t read any of them, don’t fret. Use the list to get started and to find what might appeal to you. Try and join us in completing the 2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge by reading and if you do find time, by reviewing as well.
If you reviewed works in 2014, thank you, from the volunteers at the Challenge and the authors themselves. You are an important part of ensuring that they get their works promoted to make up for the gender bias inherent in the promotion of literature in the mainstream media. What you are doing is important.
In 2015, it would be fantastic if we could beat the numbers for 2014. So get out there and start reading and reviewing. Let the shorter works be your entree into the world of female Australian authors, into the world of Australian literature.
About me: Marisa Wikramanayake is a freelance journalist, writer and editor. She published her first book at 17, has lived on three different continents, been in ground zero of a bomb blast twice and is currently hibernating in Perth, Australia. She’s also been freaked out by the Scientologists, helped run a national publishing conference for the Society of Editors (WA) and currently sits on the WA Media Alliance committee. She is dangerous when bored, having terrorised educational institutions to finish an Honours thesis on Archaeology and a Masters thesis on Neuroscience and Science Communication. She penned book reviews for The West and science news and now writes and edits novels and dreams of fun cross platform media projects in the spare time that’s left over after painting, dancing, gaming and mentoring. She contributes her two cents as non-fiction editor at Australian Women Writers and lends her geek goddess expertise to the Guys Read Gals project. Feel free to badger her at her blog at marisa.com.au, onFacebook or tweet at her at @mwikramanayake