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My Top 15 Favourite Australian Female Writers

Last week, the Aussie Women Writers group asked tweeps (Twitter users) for their Top 10 favourite Australian women writers across all genres.

Of course, I couldn’t keep it to 10, so here are my Top 15 (note: in no particular order).

Non-Fiction (mid­–20th century to now) 

  • Leigh Sales — her book on David Hicks, Detainee 002 is, in my humble opinion, one of the best examples of Australian creative non-fiction around. It’s well-researched, fair and balanced, and well-written. You can’t ask for more than that.
  • Germaine Greer — I nearly listed Germaine in the Pioneer section below for, of course, her work The Female Eunuch is a seminal piece of work in the feminism movement. I also enjoyed her wit on the lawns of the NT Museum and Art Gallery at the NT Writers’ Festival in 2009.
  • Chloe Hooper — I think Chloe and Leigh are together the best creative non-fiction writers in Australia. Chloe presented in a clear and fair-mannered way, in her award-winning book The Tall Man, the story of Cameron Doomadgee’s death in custody on Palm Island.
  • Maria Hill — A professional female military historian in the Australian marketplace, yay! Maria is bubbly in person and has great drive to bring a woman’s perspective to a traditionally male category. Check out her book Diggers and Greeks about Australians in Greece in World War II.

 Pioneer Fiction (late 19th–early 20th century)

  • Katharine Susannah Prichard I was introduced to her novel Coonardoo during my undergraduate literary studies and loved the book. I can’t believe it’s not held in as high esteem as …
  • Stella Miles Franklin My Brilliant Career is clearly a stalwart of Australian literary studies. I’ve also thought of it as our version of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Henry Handel Richardson Maurice Guest is another work that looms large in the Australian canon and that all lovers of Australian literature should read.

Contemporary Fiction (mid-20th Century to now)

  • Kate Grenville — My favourite is Idea of Perfection. It’s a great romp through rural life and how romance changes throughout life. This isn’t to ignore her other work, but I think this book is often forgotten.
  • Libby Gleeson — When I was in my early teens, Eleanor, Elizabeth opened my eyes to the beauty of young adult literature. It’s one of the few books in that category I’ve ever read (no, I haven’t read Harry Potter or Twilight).
  • Hazel Edwards —this is a more personal favourite, as I met Hazel in Darwin in 2008 and she was very encouraging of my writing ambition and even helped to brainstorm some titles ideas for my book on Beersheba.
  • Andrea Goldsmith — again, another more personal favourite. I met Andrea through a novel-writing workshop series run by the Victorian Writers’ Centre in Melbourne. Her book Reunion is an daring work about friendships and relationships across life.
  • Leonie Norrington — yep, another personal one. Leonie was the President of the NT Writers’ Centre when I joined the committee in 2003. She’s an incredible person and writer. Her recent book The Devil You Know is another I’d recommend for young adults.
  • Jennifer Scoullar — a personal inspiration. She’s made anthropomorphic writing to a fine art — dare I say she’s even Kafka-esque. Jenny’s now part of the distinguished Penguin rural author stable and I encourage you to check out her latest book Brumby’s Run.

Poetry (late-20th century to now)

  • Dorothy Porter — another pioneer of genre with her verse novels, especially The Monkey’s Mask and Akhenaten. I also fondly remember her as being kind enough to respond to my email questions when I was a second-year undergraduate student writing an essay about books turning into movies — in her case, The Monkey’s Mask.

Short Stories (late-20th century to now)

  • Cate Kennedy — sure Cate’s now written novels (which I also highly recommend) but she managed to grow a public profile from her short stories first. That’s rare in today’s crowded literary marketplace. Her collection of short stories Dark Roots is a must for any writer and reader of short stories.

There are many more Australian female writers I’d like to list including — May Gibbs, Marion Halligan, Elizabeth Jolley, Anita Heiss, Alexis Wright, Delia Falconer, Susan Johnson, Jackie French, Patsy Adam-Smith, Helen Garner … and the list goes on!

Indeed, Wikipedia has some 442 Australian women writers, which is missing some of my top 15.

Who are your favourite Australian women writers, in any category?


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