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A year-long literary challenge hopes to cut the stereotyping of contemporary female authors.

The Australian Women Writers Reading and Reviewing Challenge aims to have the work of female writers read and reviewed by both professional authors and members of the public.

The challenge was created by Elizabeth Lhuede in response to last year’s gender bias debates which discussed the under representation of women in literary journals and book reviews.

Ms Lhuede said gender bias can be acceptable, since male and female choices of subject matter and style of writing can be different.

The problem with gender bias arises when there are preferences regarding a human topic.

“Some gender bias is perfectly okay. It’s normal, even natural for people,” she said.

“It’s the middle ground of literature, where the problem with genre is. Literary writing which is relatively gender neutral should attract both male and female
readers as it’s about being a human being.”

The challenge began on New Year’s Day and runs for the whole year, coinciding with the National Year of Reading.

“Some of these bookbloggers, I discovered, are dedicated – some might say, obsessive – bibliophiles who read and review hundreds of books a year.

If these readers extraordinaire were starting to sign up and commit to a year’s worth of reading in 2012, I wanted Australian women writers to feature on those reading lists,” Ms Lhuede said.

The challenge has succeeded in broadening the reading choices of the Australian award winning novelist and poet Jennifer Mills.

“I’ve been surprised by how many conversations this initiative has prompted online and off, with other readers and writers,” she said.

“It’s a great pro-active way of challenging the low visibility of women writers, and I’ve certainly picked up a few books I wouldn’t have otherwise discovered.”

The challenge also aims to raise awareness for the Stella Prize – an annual literary prize for Australian Women’s Writing.

Board member on the Stella Prize, Monica Dux said the response to the challenge has been impressive.

“It is a fantastic initiative and it is important for Stella that there are reviews for women’s work as much as there are for men’s.

“It is really encouraging to see how many people have taken part.

Reading across genres is highly important for stretching initiatives.

The Stella Prize obviously supports the challenge.”

On May 18, Waterfront Restaurant, will host a lunch in which The Stella Prize and The Hoopla come together and celebrate Australian Women’s writing, tickets are available online.

By Priyal Dadhania