Category Archives: HouseKeeping

AWW 2015

I signed up for the AWW challenge again this year.  I chose the Franklin level, which is to read ten books and review at least six of those.  That’s about what I ended up doing last year, although I didn’t sign up for that level officially.

My focus in 2014 was initially on creating Librivox recordings, but for various reasons (and none at all) I had a slow year with that. I’m going to do some more recordings this year, beginning, appropriately enough, with Miles Franklin’s Some Everyday Folk and Dawn.

I updated the ‘Books’ page to reflect this. Here’s a snippet pertaining to this year’s challenge:

I’m beginning 2015 with a renewed sense of purpose for this project, following some wonderful encouragement from Elizabeth Lheude, the founder of the AWW challenges.

I’d like to do a solo recording of Miles Franklin’s My Brilliant Career. At the moment there’s a collaborative recording available at Librivox, but given many listeners like a single voice–and an Australian one for Australian authors–then I want to make that available.

For now, I’m going to begin the year with the only other Franklin work available in the public domain in the US:

Some Everyday Folk and Dawn

Started: 19 January 2015

Progress: 0 of 30 sections

I’d like to complete at least one other recording this year, but I’m not sure what it might be yet. If anyone has a suggestion or request, I’m open to that. Of course, I have to comply with both Australian and US public domain restrictions, so that can be quite restrictive with what I can record.


Happy New Year!

I thought I’d begin the year with a round up of my reading so far and the announcement of a reading resolution or two.

In the first instance, I’ve signed up for the Australian Women Writers Challenge again in 2013. I was going to continue doing the Librivox recordings and writing about them here anyway, but what fun to do it in company!  A couple of people have expressed an interest in listening to the stories from ‘The Detective’s Album’ by Mary Fortune that I’m currently recording—unfinished business from AWW2012—for their own AWW2013 challenge, so there’s continued incentive to finish that sooner rather than later.

There has, however, been something of a pause in finishing that recording. Christmas, marking, and noisy garden machinery are some of the reasons for the delay, but now I’m working on reading Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies for my January book club, so that too has diverted my attention. At this point, I’m finding that having watched The Tudors has helped enormously with keeping track of all the characters and intrigue. I do think that The Tudors is quite an extraordinary television achievement, which is in accordance with the critical assessment of Mantel’s work. It’s certainly a hell of a story, irrespective of execution. (No, I didn’t mean that pun. Initially.)

Meanwhile, on other fronts, I’ve been listening to Australia Felix by Henry Handel Richardson aka Ethel Florence while I’ve been out walking. I thought I’d listen to this as a prelude to doing a recording of The Getting of Wisdom. I noted in a couple of tweets that one of the people from book club had nominated to read The Getting of Wisdom, irrespective of the AWW2013 challenge, which we’re not doing as a book club this year (if the Mantel choice didn’t give it away). In a desperate ploy to get someone I know to listen to one of my recordings, I thought I’d make a solo recording of it for the Librivox catalogue. I figure if there are six versions (and another forthcoming!) of Pride and Prejudice, then two of The Getting of Wisdom is downright restrained. Anyway, I’ll write a bit later about Australia Felixsince I’ll count that as one of my AWW2013 books.

I’ve also decided to count towards the challenge a series of poems that Penni Russon is writing over at her blog, Eglantine’s Cakefor  the month of January as part of her participation in the Month of Poetry 2013 challenge. I’ll just read them rather than reviewing them, however. Partly because I’m not qualified to review poetry—it seems to take a special kind of sensibility and knowledge that I’m not sure I have—but also because, as social media has enabled relationships that might otherwise not exist, we’ve followed one another on Twitter for some years now. Now, that’s not to say I would write a negative review–I think her poems are wonderful (‘exquisite’ I believe I tweeted)—but perhaps I’m not the most impartial judge. A-a-and I think I’m about to go down a rabbit hole of self-justification and embarrassing apologies, so I’ll stop.

The whole conundrum makes me wonder about people who review professionally. Can they avoid reviewing the work of someone they know? How do they distance themselves? Or isn’t that necessary?

Another thing that’s occurred to me while writing this is about the presence of poetry in the AWW challenge. I haven’t really thought about this before now. I’ll investigate.

Alright, that’s it from me. Here’s to a happy new year of reading ahead! *raises glass*

Tweeting Sheilas

This week I launched a Twitter account for Reading Sheilas.

I decided to create an account for a few reasons. First, I’d been using my personal Twitter account to publicise this blog, but that didn’t really make sense since I locked my personal account some time back, now. I’d like this blog to have a few more readers, but I don’t want to subject people who are interested only in Australian women’s writing to my daily MasterChef addiction or my odd angry bursts about LNP governments (I’m trying to minimise the latter, truly, if only for my own mental health).

Secondly, a dedicated Reading Sheilas Twitter account allows me to make fleeting observations, whether about the recording and editing process, or the novel itself that I’m reading. In the case of the recording and editing process, I wrote blog entries on the various issues I encountered during my first solo Librivox recording for the AWW2012 challenge. Some of these have been resolved, but others, such as when I trip over particular words, recur, and I think they’re worthy of a tweet, if not a whole blog post. (I do have some sympathy for Kevin Rudd tripping over prose composed for reading rather speaking.) For me tweeting is about the minutiae of the everyday and, so, that it took me four attempts to pronounce nostrils properly, in context,adds some texture to the experience of this project I’m undertaking.

In the case of observations about the books, these tweets will provide useful material to read back over for when I write my AWW2012 review. I’ve decided to just write one blog post per book–I think several for each novel was a bit difficult to maintain and I was forever worrying about spoilers. I wondered, too, whether the demands of reading several posts on just one book, wasn’t a bit much to expect from readers.

I’ve set up a Twitter widget in the sidebar to feed exclusive Reading Sheilas material to this blog (another sound reason for not mixing up this project with my private rantings). I hope you enjoy this initiative and I welcome any feedback, either here or on Twitter.

Two Sides To Every Question: 1-7

Oh dear, I’ve fallen behind schedule on only my second solo LibriVox recording.  I suppose I was flush with the success of finishing The Pioneers in so timely a fashion when I set the deadline for my next recording for the 30th of March–only a month from when I started it.

Well, you live and learn.  I’ll be more circumspect when I set the deadline for the third book. I’ll put aside three months as the standard period to record a work and if I finish earlier, I’ll consider that a bonus.  And if I finish the next three books in a couple of months each and happen to record a fifth book this year, well, that’s another bonus.

A-a-a-and, I’m getting ahead of myself again. Back to the current book I’m recording. (Don’t forget you can follow my progress, chapter by chapter (!), via the ‘Books‘ page.)


Two Sides to Every Question’: From a South Australian Standpoint begins with the story of the Alton family, following the death of their husband and father, and the unpleasant discovery of their dire financial situation. Brother and sister, Tom and Nettie, sell the family’s country homestead and property and relocate with their invalid mother to the back streets of colonial-era Adelaide.  Nettie turns to the ‘Wheeler and Wilson’, a sewing machine, to work from home while she tends to her mother’s needs, and Tom takes advantage of an opportunity extended to him through his old country neighbour’s influence, as a clerk in a stock supply business. Thus the scene is set for a meditation on the nature of poverty.

Before the reader can settle down to this rumination, however, another family enters the narrative. The Clintons are shepherded  by Robert, the owner of the stock supply business where Tom is employed.  Robert emigrated from England to Australia where his financial ability is likened to that of King Midas. In addition to his business, Robert speculates in stocks, most notably mining stocks, very successfully, and he has little patience for anyone who isn’t successful or who eschews the kind of success that he values. His attitude has resulted in his estrangement from the favourite sister of his youth, who chose marriage to a lowly curate over other more affluent prospects.  Nevertheless, Robert agrees, in his sister’s time of need, to take on her son, Arthur Delta, and provide a position for him in his Australian business. Soon after Arthur arrives in Australia, he falls in love with his cousin, Elsie, prompting Robert  to employ every method at his disposal to keep the two young lovers apart. Thus the scene is set for a meditation on the nature of wealth.

Arthur Delta, however, knows that in order to pursue Elsie’s affections he must be successful in her father’s eyes and, so, another thread in this story, which does not limit itself to the ‘two sides’ of its title, is that of social and financial aspiration, not only Arthur’s, but also that of those who co-habit with him in his lodgings –both his landlady and her family and three other boarders too.

Thus the scene is set for a meditation on wealth, poverty, social aspiration, and, it would seem, everything in between. Hold on!

International Women’s Day Round-Up (sort of)

International Women’s Day went by in a blur of my first day of tutorials for the academic year.  I’m teaching in media studies with a focus on the institutional aspects of media organisations, which is a very dynamic subject right now between the antics of Gina Rinehart and the Murdoch empire, while the Kony 2012 campaign offers a timely example of a trans-media campaign–as well as, of course, bringing much-needed attention to staggering, orchestrated abuses of human rights.

Well, as much as some might complain about a special day for women, I don’t feel obliged to confine my celebrations to so short a period.  And luckily neither do many others; take the AWW 2012 Challenge, for instance–my goodness, a whole year!

Another celebration of women and their achievements that I’m aware of is the American-based Women’s History Month running throughout March. I only became aware of it through dogpossum’s series of posts at her blog.  If  ‘Jass!’ and ‘Dancing!’ are your thing–or even just women working in male-dominated professions–then dogpossum’s profiles of the leading ladies of the jazz and other reflection will be of interest to  you.

(Oh, but wait, look! There’s an Australian chapter of the American organisation here.)

More directly related to the written word and the focus of this blog is James Tierney’s post where he does a gender audit of the books pages of two major Australian newspapers.  He provides a few great links too, most notably to an essay by Sophie Cunningham, one of the founders of the Stella Prize.

Finally, I also really enjoyed this summary of a discussion about whether women write differently to men, over at Bookish Girl.

Happy–if belated–International Women’s Day, to you!

Chercher les Livres

I noted when I began this project that I wasn’t especially versed in writing by  Australian women whose works have made it into the public domain, which they must be for inclusion in this hybrid AWW2012-LibriVox challenge I’ve fashioned for myself.

Initially, I relied on an article in Meanjin about women’s writing and literary value as a resource to identify writers whom I might read.  My thinking here was that even if I didn’t know–beyond two or three–who Australia’s classic female writers were then I would rely on those who did know and trust their judgement about their merit when making my selection.  Now that I’m recording, however, I’ve noticed concerns, other than those of authorship, about which books I might choose to read, coming to the fore.

In the first instance, it seems I’m interested in recording books that portray a range of settings.  After I finished The Pioneers and began looking for the next book to read, I noticed a preponderance of stories with bush settings. Given the time period I’m restricted to–works published before 1923–from a relatively small pool of writers, in a country whose national literature has traditionally lionised the bush, this discovery was perhaps not unexpected, but I didn’t want to read another one straight away.

For my next recording, then, I deliberately sought a book with an urban setting and one that was set in somewhere other than Victoria, which is where The Pioneers was set, even though its author, Katharine Susannah Prichard, is generally considered to be a Western Australian. Thus, as I searched for a novel with an urban setting, I stumbled across another criterion for my selections: I also hope to read a range of works that represent as many of Australia’s states and territories as possible.

I’ve been able to discover details–like the novels’ settings–of works I’ve hitherto been unaware of by using the AustLit database, which I’m fortunate enough to have access to through the library of the university where I’m writing my PhD.  Through a combination of key terms entered into various fields in that database, I’ve  been able to get some sense of the focus of each of the novels that are returned in my searches. Of course, normally, I’d rely on blurbs or synopses, but I’ve discovered throughout this challenge that it’s nigh on impossible to find a synopsis of any but the most well-known works by Australian women writers (at least on the Internet).  That might also be the case for works by Australian male writers of yore, I don’t know, but the lack of detail has been decidedly frustrating.

And so, I encounter yet another compelling reason for the AWW 2012 challenge.

Anyway, I won’t keep you in suspense any longer; the next novel I’m reading–indeed, have already begun–is the rather cumbersomely titled Two Sides to Every Question’: From a South Australian Standpoint by Maud Jean Franc (aka Matilda Jane Evans nėe Congreve).

You can follow the progress of my recording via the ‘Books‘ tab and I’ll post further on Two Sides shortly.

Technical Issues: User Clumsiness

Proceedings slowed down here for a week or so after I spilt a cup of tea on my already ailing laptop.

Some time ago now, I dropped my laptop when the strap of my bag broke as I was getting off the bus one day. My laptop hit the concrete curb and in the process managed to kill the  screen backlight. While I took it in to a registered repairer, they deemed they couldn’t fix it to a warrantable standard. Or at least not without embarking on a potentially expensive search and see mission. And they did that thing that people at the cutting edge of computing do when they look at your 3 1/2 year-old laptop.

I took my  maimed laptop home and with the help of some friends hooked it up to a monitor, which allowed me to continue using it in a desk-bound fashion.

Then, late one evening last week, I made myself a pot of tea to sit beside me as I prepared to work or, more likely (it’s a bad memory I’ve repressed), faff about on Facebook before retiring.  Well, I’d poured my cup of tea and prepared to set it down on the desk when, in slow motion, the cup tilted, and at some point I’m fairly sure it tilted again, so that my poor laptop was awash with hot, milky tea.  After that it worked for a day and a bit. After that it stopped responding to the power-on button.

Some trauma, tears, and a few sweary rants that would put Kevin Rudd to shame later, I asked Twitter if anyone had an old laptop they could give away. Well, it turns out that Catriona of Circulating Library, who I do know IRL, did.

So, the AWW/Librivox challenge will go on. Hooray!


On a house-keeping issue, I’ve been trying to figure out how to include links to some blogs by women who aren’t doing the AWW2012 challenge, but who are clearly prolific readers and interesting writers, without straying too much from the deliberately narrow focus of this blog project.  I think I’ve answered my own conundrum in my description of the bloggers: they’re women residing in Australia and they write, so a recommended blog reading list is in order.  I’ve created a separate blog roll in the sidebar.

May I recommend you start your reading with Wendy’s reflections on the National Year of Reading (NYR) at her blog, The Spiralling Shape?  When I read this, one of the things I was reminded of was that the AWW2012 challenge came about in response to the NYR, as a way of focussing people’s reading and reminding them of the richness of writing by women in Australia.

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