The challenge is on!

awwbadge_2013I’ve joined up! No, not the gym, although that would be nice one day, but I’ve joined the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2013.

I know I read more books written by women than by men – this is not a deliberate bias, it’s just that those are often the books that interest me more. And I know I read lots of books by Australian authors, so the challenge should be easy – right? Then I had a quick think about the books by Australian women that I read in 2012, which were:

  • All That I am by Anna Funder
  • Whisky Charlie Foxtrot by Annabel Smith
  • Shallow Breath by Sara Foster
  • Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood
  • Flying High by Kerry Greenwood
  • Dead Man’s Chest by Kerry Greenwood (yes, I was totally sucked in by the ABC series, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries)
  • The Mothers’ Group by Fiona Higgins
  • Reaching One Thousand by Rachel Robertson
  • Princesses and Pornstars by Emily Maguire
  • What’s Happening to Our Girls by Maggie Hamilton

So, that’s 10 in total – not too bad although I would like it to be more. But I’m setting myself the same goal for this year in an effort to be realistic and acknowledge that writing books, teaching writing courses, looking after three kids and publicising the books that are already published means I don’t always have as much time to read  as I would like. Although, I started thinking that if I included children’s books on my list, the total would be a lot higher. We probably read almost 10 books a month by Australian women writers of children’s fiction.

So I’m entering the challenge at the Franklin level – I need to read 10 books and review 6 of these.

I’m just about to start Toni Jordan’s Nine Days, which was reviewed so well by Lisa Hill over at ANZ LitLovers LitBlog, so that’ll be the first book of the challenge. I’ll keep you posted with how I’m going, not to mention putting up my own review of Jordan’s book when I’ve finished.

So, can I encourage anyone else to join me? After speaking to my agent before Christmas and hearing about the dire state of book sales in Australia, I think it’s very timely to get as many people as possible involved. Let me know if you have any suggestions of books by Australian women writers that I should add to my list for 2013.


  1. Hi Natasha, I just thought you might like to know that today one of the ladies in my online book group finished reading If I Should Lose You, and this is what she said in an email to our group:
    I’ve just finished reading If I Should Lose You by Natasha Lester, and think it will be one of my top books for 2013. I’ve read it fairly slowly and think it a gem. The story is about love and death and organ transplantation and art including sculpture; the writing is sparse but rang very true to me.

    • Thanks Lisa! I’ve been a bit glum about writing for the last month or so, after having had a fairly depressing conversation with my agent about the state of the book industry so that is just the kind of news I needed to hear. I really appreciate you sharing it with me. Thank you!

  2. Glen Hunting

    You’ve mentioned the ailing book industry a few times now. Here’s a happier (?) alternative viewpoint I read just today:

    Admittedly, this piece only cites slowing growth in e-reader sales, and says very little about tablet sales and book sales in the same period. But I thought it was interesting anyway.

    I’d be curious to hear a little of your agent’s Terrible Tales from the Trenches. At the moment I believe that literary narratives may lose some market share, but that they will continue to survive whether in electronic or print form. And I reckon books might become more of a boutique item, but won’t disappear altogether. Of course, certain kinds of books and certain kinds of literature might sustain more of a loss as print items than others. But as overall art forms or sources of entertainment, I think cinema and television once posed far greater threats to written narratives than the internet does now. And now we have audiovisual media which can augment and (dare I say it?) enhance the reading experience. Well, some readers might like them, anyway.

    The REAL trick is to find a way to convince both writers and publishers to embark on the same process of selecting, editing, producing and distributing quality work online as is still done with books. The good stuff will still win out with the readers in the end; it’s just that we only ever saw the (relatively) good stuff because only the good stuff justified the capital outlay of printing presses and the time spent by editors, designers et. al. Now that anyone can publish a book online for next to nothing, if the web really is the literary media of the future, then we have to find a way for the best literature to be selected, marketed, made available, and fairly remunerated within the online environment.

    As long as I can still choose to read good writing either on a computer screen or between bound covers, I’ll be happy. And I still believe we’ll be able to do that for a while yet. And failing that, those of us that remain may just have to be content with being a niche market with a very loud voice!

    • Hi Glen, you’re right, of course. And usually I strongly believe in the power of books and good writing to sustain themselves no matter what. Very occasionally, I lose a little faith but I think (hope!) I’m getting it back. The statistic that really depressed me was that my agent believed that new and emerging writers were really only selling around 500 copies of their books, whereas 5 years ago, this figure would be about 2000 books. I’ll be blogging about it soon – probably next week. Thanks for the link too.

  3. Rachael

    Hi Natasha,
    I think what you’re doing is great! Supporting Australian female writers is very important. We have a lot of local authors who are overlooked all too often. I can suggest Fiona Palmer, Rachael Johns, Sandra Wright and Rachael Treasure. They write outback romance whilst Sandra’s novel is set in New York. All very easy uplifting reads.

  4. Pingback: How not to cry when reading to your children « While the kids are sleeping

  5. Thanks for promoting the challenge, Natasha.

  6. Pingback: 3 Great Historical Novels by Australian Women Writers | While the kids are sleeping

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