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We asked Elizabeth Lhuede, the founder of the AWW2012, abut her inspiration behind the challenge.

What is the Australian Women Writers 2012 Reading and Reviewing Challenge?

The Australian Women Writers 2012 Reading and Reviewing Challenge is an endeavour to help celebrate the National Year of Reading and promote awareness of Australian Women writers. Participants in the challenge are invited to read books by Australian women and post reviews on their blog, Facebook note or in GoodReads.

What was your inspiration for launching the Australian Women Writers Challenge in 2012?

It’s 2012 and librarians all around the country are promoting the National Year of Reading. The hunt is on for a book from each state which best represents “Our Story”. The entries come in. The only problem is… 7/8 of the books chosen as winners were written by men.

It’s a pattern of gender bias that this year’s Miles Franklin Award appears to have broken, but take a look back at the Miles Franklin short lists for 2009 and 2011. What? No women.

And the cause?

According to members of the committee that has worked to establish a women’s only award, The Stella Prize, it’s because there has been a lack of reviews of women’s writing in the pages of traditional print media: women aren’t receiving their fair attention.

And it’s all blokes’ fault, right? Wrong.

Men aren’t the only ones not reading enough books by Australian women. Take me. I grew up exposed to the traditional English canon: a long reading list of books written by men. That’s why, when I saw the question of gender bias raised on Tara Moss’s blog in October last year, I put up my hand as being part of the problem, not the solution.

Apart from books by writer friends, I didn’t read books by Australian women. Especially literary books. I’d already started a review blog, Devoted Eclectic with the intention of reading and reviewing more books by Australian women. But I was having trouble finding recommendations for what to read.

I began trawling the internet, looking for bookblogging sites, and noticed lots of the Aussie book bloggers were signing up for reading “challenges” for the following year. I thought, what better way to discover books by Australian women than to create a challenge of my own?

Thus, with the help of bookbloggers like Shelleyrae of Book’d Out and many more on Twitter, the Australian Women Writers website and challenge was born.

If readers and reviewers want to get involved in this challenge what do they need to do?

Visit the Australian Women Writers website. Check out the tabs, if you need inspiration for what to read – there are lists of prize-winning books in all genres, Literary, Women’s Fiction, Crime, Speculative, Romance, Nonfiction, Poetry, Young Adult/Children’s and Classics or you can scroll down to find links to reviews already posted. Create an introductory post on your blog or in the AWW GoodReads group. State which books you intend to read and review (it’s not set in stone), and enter your name with a link to your sign-up page in the first Mr Linky Magical Widget Box. (There are so many participants now, it’s a little hard to find: it’s below the 366 names already listed.)

You can sign up at any level. Originally, readers were asked to read between 3-10 books for the year, but some avid readers have set their personal challenges much higher. (Shelleyrae is well on target to read 100 and others aren’t so far behind!)

Write your reviews and post the links in the second Mr Linky box (follow the format of previous entries, not Mr Linky): Title by Author (rev You) Genre.

When you finish the challenge, enter your name and a link to a wrap-up post, if you wish in the 3rd Mr Linky. Then… celebrate! You’ll have done something towards raising the profile of Australian woman writers and - who knows? – publishers might even be inspired to offer book prizes as a reward for all your hard work/fun.

Why Devoted Eclectic?

Devoted Eclectic is the name of my review blog and I borrowed the name simply as a way of inviting people to read as many different genres as they could (including literary!).

You have mentored a number of award winning Australian authors. What advice would you give to emerging writers?

Me, mentored award-winning writers?

I’ve worked with award-winning writers as friends and colleagues, yes, and have been fortunate enough to have been acknowledged in their published novels, but I’d hesitate to claim that I’ve mentored them. These women are members of the “Turramurra Group”, one of the first-established and most successful groups of Romance Writers of Australia, which includes myself, Isolde Martyn (Rita Award winner), Kandy Shepherd (multiple ARRA award winner), Jaye Ford (Ned Kelly Award and Davitt Award nominee), Christine Stinson and Cathleen Ross, and formerly Anna Campbell (Rita shortlisted, ARRA award winner) and Felicity Pulman. I do mentor beginning writers, though, privately and through my work as a distance educator with TAFE, NSW (Oten).

As for advice, what can I say? Belonging to a group can be very rewarding. Our core group has been meeting for years, seeing each other through drafts and redrafts, successes and challenges. The friendship and support of these like-minded women have been the strength that has kept me writing through some very difficult times personally and professionally. When I do eventually get my novel published, a great part of my success will be due to the caring of these and other caring women in my life.

So, my advice to emerging writers?

Write. Rewrite. Acknowledge your strengths and get help from trusted others to strengthen your weak areas. Share your writing. Take special notice of feedback from avid readers who enjoy the kind of books you love to read. Be generous. From that, I hope, good things will flow to you. They have for me.

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