SheKilda 2011: Celebrating 20 years of sisters in Australian crime

Last weekend the Australian version of Sisters in Crime celebrated its 20th anniversary by hosting a convention featuring several dozen Australian women crime fiction, true crime and television writers as well as a smattering of international crime writing ladies. Several of the speakers and attendees have written about the conference and their experiences of it so I thought I’d wrap up the wrap ups here at Fair Dinkum.

The Wrap Ups

Angela Savage wrote eloquently about the value of the support and camaraderie engendered by the event for writers who by the nature of their jobs spend a lot of time doubting themselves and their work.

One of the international guests was Margie Orford from South African who was a little taken aback at our lack of real crime. I suspect that per head of population we’re almost as law abiding as Iceland which does make you wonder where all our fabulous crime writers get their ideas. I always find it fascinating to see what ‘outsiders’ make of us collectively and Margie certainly had some interesting experiences from the sounds of it.

P.D. Martin gives a great summary of the main sessions and events of the convention in her regular column at Muderati. Apparently there was crime writing discussion in between the consumption of chocolate chip cookies and other goodies (Melbourne is a foodie’s mecca I suppose).

Sydney author P.M. Newton was one of the speakers at the event and her excellent novel The Old School took out the Readers Choice Davitt Award for 2011. This is one of four awards for women’s crime writing that are awarded annually and their announcement was incorporated into the conference events this year.  Pam wrote a lovely piece reflecting on the conference and the need for a ‘women only’ event of this type.

Not enough? Visit the SheKilda website for some photos and more wrap ups or head to Narelle Harris’ in the thick of it blog post or check out Vanda Symon’s teaser (promising more to come).

In case you missed it we posted details of all the Davitt Award winners earlier this week with links to reviews were available. Congratulations once again to all the winners.

Is it biased?

The event, and people’s thoughts about it, has also generated another round of the seemingly endless debate about the virtue, value, purpose or need for ‘women only’ events of this type. I suspect some of the commentary is also fuelled by the creation this year of a new literary award, The Stella Prize, which will award prizes for Australian women’s writing from next year onwards. This is in direct response to the way women’s writing has fared in existing awards, especially the Miles Franklin Award which is this country’s best known literary award (though no longer the richest).

Author of the Mak Vanderwall series of novels Tara Moss‘s commentary on the subject sparked a small and relatively polite (by internet standards) storm of comments, many in support of Moss after a Melbourne-based literary critic accused her of ‘privileged whining’. I won’t even attempt to summarise the discussion which currently runs to 70 or so comments, lots of which are thought-provoking in their own right. If you have some time spare do take a look at the post and the responses: in combination they provide a pretty good picture of the spectrum of possible stances on the issue. Several people have also responded to Moss’s column in their own corner of the internet including Angela Savage and Elizabeth Lhuede.

Although not crime-writing related Sophie Cunningham’s lecture to the most recent Melbourne Writer’s Festival on the topic: Why We Still Need Feminism is also well worth a watch or listen (it runs to just under an hour). She provides some compelling statistics and case studies about unconscious bias in the arts sector in general. Cunningham is a journalist, author, former editor of Australia’s leading literary magazine and is chairing the Committee for the new Stella Prize.

If I’ve missed a blog post or other commentary about She Kilda that you think we should know about do let us know (via comments or the contact form in the sidebar) and I’ll update the post.

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