Spineless

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The tumbleweeds crossing

the broad, white space of this blog are, I assure you, temporary installations. I’m entering a three week crunch time, die-or-do (the former preferable) period in my thesis’ existence. Couple that with the insistent pull of the page in order to fulfil my obligations to the Subdate Challenge and it’s clear why I don’t have a huge amount of time to blog. Except of course, to mention two news items, both  related to competitions and women.

The first is the announcement of a new competition rising over the Australian literary landscape. The Carmel Bird Short Fiction Award has been announced over at Spineless Wonders, accompanied by an interview with the namesake of the competition herself, Carmel Bird. The competition will be judged by the inestimable Sophie Cunningham, most recently the former editor of Meanjin but also the editor/publisher of approximately three-point-six billion other things.  Submission details can be found here, but the main features are a tidy $500 for the winner, and $100 each for two runners-up, a piddling entry fee of $7, a maximum word count of 3,000 words, and a closing date of the 31st of July. Fairly standard rules apply, but be sure to check the submissions guide before sending in your piece!

Related to the competition by way of Ms. Cunningham is this piece in the New Yorker, regarding the formation of a new women-only prize in Australia in response to the under-representation of women in the Miles Franklin award. I’m all for more prizes, just as I’m all for anything that give more exposure to great writing, but I also think that Sarah Holland-Batt makes a good point when she says that:

“Really, these are two separate issues: whether there should be a new prize, which there probably should, and whether there is a problem with the Miles Franklin—and there is.”

To have no women on a short list that could quite easily have accommodated them has meant that this year, the implied gap between male and female writing of and in Australia has become glaringly obvious. And while I support the ‘positive discrimination’ that such a new prize would enforce, I would much rather see a concerted effort made to fix the underlying issues in the reluctance to hold up our female writers as being of literary merit. Obviously that’s much easier said than done; as with anything subjective and related to taste there are a million different tacks one can take to defend a selection that happens to favour male writers. But surely, with the quality of writing that we have coming from female writers in Australia there must be some basic selection bias that prevents them from being picked? In any case, I say bring on the ‘Australian Orange Prize’, I can’t wait to see the short list.

3 Comments

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  1. I don’t see how you solve a divide by opening up another right next to it. I agree with you Phill, fix the underlying issue.

  2. @Mark: It’s a toughy isn’t it? I’ve seen a lot of this kind of positive discrimination in the sciences, with post-doctoral positions being advertised as ‘encouraging females to apply’ or outright saying that only female scientists can apply for them.

    My knee-jerk reaction is to say that it isn’t fair that my choices for a career should have to suffer due to the bias of previous generations. But then something has to be done, and if it even increases exposure to the problem a little bit it’ll be better than nothing. After all, you can’t begin compensating for something until you are aware of it, much like balancing an invisible weight.

  3. Yeah I think that Sarah Holland Batt is quite right. If there’s an issue with recognition of female writers, then maybe an award is necessary.

    If it’s battling the perception that female writers aren’t on the same ‘literary level’ as males, then creating a seperate award seems a little counter productive.

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