Since 2011, the volunteer-led Australian Women Writers Challenge has sought to promote the writing of Australian women of all backgrounds and from all eras, as many participants read as many as they can over the course of twelve months, and several of us working in the background as coordinators and genre round up editors pull these reviews together each month into a post. Each genre has had various editors over the past ten years, and for the last two years, I have coordinated the kids and young adult books – and have also read a lot in this genre. I am still planning on doing my own personal challenge round up later this month, but this post is to wrap up the challenge.
Prior to being an editor, I was a participant, and the past three-four years have had me reading a lot – and I have read a lot of contemporary books, mostly due to what I was doing as a reviewer and what I had access to. It was not an easy job, as I could not include every review, and there were times I had multiple reviews of the same book or most or all the reviews were from one reviewer – so I often tried to do 2-4 reviews per category. But each month was very different in my approach.
I’d like to extend my thanks to the 2021 team – led by fellow blogger Theresa Smith, and previous editors, Nadia L King, Marie McLean, Mel from Subversive Reader, Shaheen, Judith Ridge and Amanda who took on various incarnations of the Kids and Young Adult round ups over the years prior to my involvement.
In 2021, we had 155 reviews for kids and younger readers, and 73 for young adult readers. I speculated over the past two years that the proliferation of books for kids aged 12-14 and under were more popular because they were lighter in some ways, and didn’t deal with as many hefty themes as young adult, or if they did, these books gave us a lot more hope than others during the pandemic, and I noticed my reading of these books picked up too, in part due to the challenge, what I enjoy and my work as a quiz writer with Scholastic.
Over my whole time as editor, we had 169 reviews for young adult books over 2020 and 2021, and 331 kids and younger reader books, which fits with my hypothesis of the comforting nature of reads for younger kids, and also, maybe what was more accessible over the past two years, but again, there could be many reasons for this (I know at least a third of these reviews were from me).
Theresa Smith Theresa Smith Writes – Historical Fiction round-up editor, Facebook groups administrator and team coordinator
Michelle Walker Mic Loves Books – Crime Fiction round-up editor
Jenny Mustey – General Fiction round-up editor
Claire Holderness – Speculative Fiction round-up editor
Sue T Whispering Gums – Literary and Classics round-up editor
Jess Fitzpatrick The Never Ending Bookshelf – Romance Fiction round-up editor
Tracey Gregory – Short Stories round-up editor
Ashleigh Meikle The Book Muse – Children and Young Adult Fiction round-up editor
Rebecca Bowyer Story Addict – Diversity round-up editor
Tegan Edwards – Nonfiction and Poetry round-up editor
Janine Rizetti – History, Memoir and Biography, formerly Nonfiction round-up editor
Brenda Telford – Goodreads Group Coordinator
I’m sad that this challenge is ending, but we are still able to participate in the groups and share our reviews there, so there’s still a community around it. I decided to do things a little differently in my last post and set the inclusion of reviews aside to allow for a more general overview. What this challenge has done is helped to highlight the work that Australian women of all kinds bring to Australian literature, and give them a space to be, where many spaces give a lot of air to the male authors – and to allow the voices of these women authors to be bolstered. I still plan to do that on my blog, as I am aiming to focus on as many Australian women authors as I can (recognising that I cannot read and review every single one but doing what I can do).
Being an editor as part of this challenge has allowed me to develop writing skills, working as a team, and working to deadlines, and gaining confidence in the different ways I can write and pull something together. Doing these round ups has also been a saving grace during the pandemic, as they have allowed me to focus on something and ensured that I have been kept busy and not spent as much time as I could have binge watching (though I did plenty of that as well). Looking to the future, where we focus on lesser-known women writers of the 19th and 20th Century, I’m not sure what I will do, but hope to contribute if I come across something. I will ultimately be focusing on what I have access to though and sharing in the group, where I hope to maintain the fabulous sense of community I have cultivated there over the past few years.
Thank you, and wishing you all the best and happy reading into the future.