Wrapping up 2017 and starting the 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge (@AusWomenWriters)

There is a well-known Chinese saying that literally translates as “Dragon’s Head, Snake’s Tail”. It describes someone who started something grandly and full of ambition, only to end it sloppily, i.e. with nothing significant to show, nothing to write home about.

Somehow I consider my 2017 efforts to review books by Australian women writers to be like this, starting out happily and full of hope, yet ending miserably with hardly any steam left. Burned out, I guess.

When I signed up the Australian Women Writers Challenge for the second year on January 4, 2017, I pledged to read and review 10 books by Australian women writers, but to increase the number of written book reviews to 15. (Looking back now, I find this not making much sense. How can I read a book without writing a review afterwards? That would be missing half the fun!)

Well, I have indeed reached this goal, having read and provided written reviews for a total of 18 books in 2017:

  1. Yong: The Journey of an Unworthy Son by Janeen Brian
  2. Little Paradise by Gabrielle Wang
  3. City Girl, Country Girl by Liz Harfull
  4. Letter to My Teenage Self edited by Grace Halphen
  5. Out of the Ice by Ann Turner
  6. The Media and the Massacre: Port Arthur 1996-2016 by Sonya Voumard
  7. An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire
  8. The Beast of Hushing Wood by Gabrielle Wang
  9. Say Yes: A story of friendship, fairness and a vote for hope by Jennifer Castles, with illustration by Paul Seden
  10. Secret Girls’ Business by Fay Angelo, Heather Anderson and Rose Stewart, with illustrations by Julie Davey
  11. From the Wreck by Jane Rawson
  12. A Most Magical Girl by Karen Foxlee
  13. Ida by Alison Evans
  14. The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon
  15. Freedom Swimmer by Wai Chim
  16. Becoming Aurora by Elizabeth Kasmer
  17. Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland
  18. When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-Fattah

The list looks great, but if you take into consideration the fact that all these books were read and reviewed during the first eight months of 2017, with me having produced no book reviews between September and December, you see why I feel disappointed and even depressed.

Indeed, during those four months, I hardly blogged at all, except for some mild reflections and minor announcements of things that I planned to do but did not finish. A book that I translated was published half a year late. A literary journal that selected my poem is yet to post a contributor’s copy to me. On my desk and in my computer’s hard drive are piles of books that I need to review, yet time is running out. They constantly remind me that I have nothing to show. I have failed to deliver.

Then, you would ask, what about the voluntary work I have done and will keep doing for the Australian Women Writers Challenge? I posted six round-ups of general fiction in 2017, and have been guest-tweeting for the campaign since September. Starting in 2018, as general fiction editor, I will be posting one round-up each month. That is to read and digest an average of 72 book reviews every 30 days!

Please do not get me wrong, as I am more than happy to do the work. I just wish that I have more time and energy, more “drive” to complete everything I have promised to do. That is not too much to ask, is it?


Now that I have signed up the Australian Women Writers Challenge for the third year, I plan to read and provide written reviews for 15 books by Australian women writers in 2018. These will include several titles that I have finished reading but yet to review (such as The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood), as well as those that are half-read (such as Vigil by Angela Slatter, A Chinese Affair by Isabelle Li, and Neon Pilgrim by Lisa Dempster). I have promised to read and review some other Australian and international authors, both male and female, both traditionally and independently published, and will endeavour to do so. Not to mention those awesome horror novels and novellas already entered into the 2017 Aurealis Awards

It is funny that until recently, these words by John Lennon had been ringing in my head: “And so this is Christmas / And what have we/I done / Another year over / A new one just begun.” Now, strangely, they are replaced by Jean Valjean’s response to his daughter at the end of Les Misérables (musical): “I’ll obey. I will try.”

I will try my best.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lizzy
    Jan 11, 2018 @ 14:05:52

    Christine, thanks so much for your ongoing contributions to the AWW challenge – they are much appreciated – and do look after yourself! I know some volunteers for AWW skim read reviews when it gets overhwelming. Not ideal – and we run the risk of missing something really worthwhile – but whatever it takes to conserve and preserve energy. It’s still an amazing contribution.


  2. Christine Sun
    Jan 11, 2018 @ 21:28:10

    Hello Lizzy, Thank you so much for your kind words. I guess my frustration is more about my lack of capacity to do more, that is all. I am very happy about my work for the AWW Challenge and would only wish I could do more, but there are other things in life that we often have to deal with, some of which happen unexpectedly and unjustly. Still, reading and reviewing good books is great fun and comforts me when the tide is low. It is also comforting to know that I am contributing to something nice. Thanks again for your support. Cheers, Christine Sun.


    • Lizzy
      Jan 12, 2018 @ 06:39:22

      I’m so glad you find the work for AWW rewarding and that it helps to sustain you. And I know exactly the feeling of wishing one could do more! I’ve had to pace myself and, on reflection, my contribution this past year appears to have been negligible, but I have to remember that each little bit counts. It’s such a great community effort to belong to. Happy reading, reviewing and rounding up for 2018!


  3. Christine Sun
    Jan 12, 2018 @ 15:28:06

    Hello Lizzy, I absolutely agree with you – “every little bit counts”, and it is indeed “a great community effort to belong to”. Thank you for your support again and I will strive to remain happy and inspired this year. 🙂 Cheers, Christine Sun.


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