The Stella Count 2014

The Stella Count for 2014 is in!

This wonderful little study, conducted by the same people behind the Stella Prize, looks at gender (im)balance in book reviews across Australia. You can see the full results here.

What’s the take-home message? Most of the regionals seem to be getting things right. There are fairly equal numbers of male and female reviewers, ditto for the gender of authors reviewed.

The nationals – the Australian, the Financial Review and the Monthly – all have significantly higher numbers of male reviewers, and significantly higher numbers of male authors reviewed.

AND there’s a bias towards men reviewing men and women reviewing women across the board, with men showing this preference more strongly.

So, what to do? Well, on a personal level, if you tend to reach for books by men, maybe it’s time to try something by a woman. We at Wakefield Press have suggestions (of course!).

<em>Hunger Town<em> by Wendy Scarfe

1. Hunger Town by Wendy Scarfe

Shortlisted for one of Australia’s premier writing prizes, lauded by reviewer after reviewer (of all genders), this ripping tale of a political cartoonist caught between idealism and reality is a great read.

<em>Nature's Line<em> by Janis Sheldrick

2. Nature’s Line by Janis Sheldrick

This is the definitive biography of George Goyder, whose understanding of rainfall and arability was miles ahead of many in his time. Sheldrick’s biography is meticulously researched and well written, making it a real pleasure to read.

<em>Silver Lies, Golden Truths<em> by Christine Ellis

3. Silver Lies, Golden Truths by Christine Ellis

The tale of an illegal German immigrant caught between two world wars and part of the only enemy attack to take place on Australian soil in World War I – at Broken Hill.

<em>Sweet Boy Dear Wife<em> by Heather Rossiter

4. Sweet Boy Dear Wife by Heather Rossiter

Hot off the press! A fascinating story about Jane Dieulafoy, an archaeologist who worked on sites throughout the Middle East in the nineteenth century, often dressing as a boy to work unhindered. Rossiter makes Jane’s world come alive.

<em>Fables Queer and Familiar<em> by Margaret Merrilees

5. Fables Queer and Familiar by Margaret Merrilees

Yes, it’s about lesbian grandmas, no, that doesn’t mean you have to be a lesbian grandma to enjoy it. In fact, every single person I’ve met who’s picked up this book has loved it. Hilarious, is the word that comes up over and over again.


Oh me oh my

Nature's LineLet the awards for Nature’s Line begin.

The shortlist for the very highly respected Ernest Scott Prize was announced today, and Janis Sheldrick’s amazing George Goyder biography is top of the list! With some spot on judges’ comments, too.

We’re incredibly proud of this book, and the mammoth amount of work, love and dedication put into by Janis.

We’re definitely expecting more from where this came from. Congratulations Janis!

New Wakefieldians and Thursday links

Thanks to an awesome Oz Co grant, we now have an ebook expert in residence for the next three months. Or, as we like to say: Simon is in the house!

We like this one. As well as being a general ebook Grand Master, he’s also an avid reader and reviewer, and an on-the-side Brow Lifter (online editor).

He also finds the best articles on interesting book-related things.

Which brings me to today’s links!

We have an awesome, awesome article on the struggle to read from the New York Review of Books. It’s a great piece on the way that we read today, and how it affects the way we write. Cheers for this Simon!

Second up is associated: an article from the New Yorker, on the proposed trigger warnings for students of literature, and the kind of impact that could have on readers. Another fascinating piece on the act of reading – something we’re pretty keen on exploring over here.

Third up is not a link, but an apology from me. Two New York-centric articles in one blog post? Not good enough!

Fourth, to localise things a bit, we have the interactive timeline for Golden North Ice Cream’s history. Just to continue with the Laura theme from yesterday. Also because it’s damn cool. Also also because I think we need more ice cream in this office. Whatever the weather.

Also also ALSO — this one‘s back in stock guys!

Nature's Line















Better be quick!

New books, and three sleeps til the fair!

Almost an IslandThings are ripping along over here at Wakefield Press HQ. We all know that the lead up to Christmas is the busiest time of the year, but this year we decided to challenge ourselves by bringing out a bunch of new books at the same time. Johnny in the warehouse is getting a workout!

First things first: you’ve all had a peek at Janis Sheldrick’s superb Nature’s Line: George Goyder, Surveyor, Environmentalist, Visionary by now, and bought a few copies for Christmas presents (not yet? Don’t worry, let us help you out with that). This one has been flying off the shelves since it arrived late last month.

Then, of course, you’ve all seen Rodney Fox’s joy at the final version of Sharks, the Sea and Me, an extraordinary autobiography about his extraordinary life. This one will be launched at our book fair extravaganza, which is only three sleeps from now.

In the last few days, we’ve also welcomed in stock of Liz Harfull’s Almost an Island: The Story of Robe, which details the history of the Limestone Coast town alongside beautiful images (see the gorgeous cover to the left). There have been a lot of people eagerly awaiting the arrival of this title, with Harfull’s Blue Ribbon Cookbook one of Wakefield’s most popular titles from the last few years, and Australian winner of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, in the Best Easy Recipes category.

Last but certainly not least, there’s also Don Loffler’s Holden Days, the hardback reprint of the latest Holden title from Loffler’s extremely popular series. Something to flick through and think about while the productivity commission rolls on.

Author Profiles – Janis Sheldrick

Janis Sheldrick is a lifelong resident of Melbourne who has always been strongly attracted to the landscapes of South Australia. She studied philosophy at the University of Melbourne, has a Graduate Diploma in Librarianship, and was awarded a PhD by Deakin University in 2000 for work on George Goyder and Goyder’s Line. Working as an independent scholar, she completed the rest of Goyder’s biography in the years that followed. Nature’s Line: George Goyder, surveyor, environmentalist, visionary is due for release from Wakefield Press this month.

We asked Janis a few questions about Goyder and the process of writing the book.

Janis SheldrickCan you tell us a little known fact about George Goyder?

Just about everyone who knows of him would be aware of his reputation for hard work, determination, and mental and physical toughness, but few would now know that according to those who knew him, in private life he was a different person. He had a wide circle of friends and was described as charming and as entertaining company – the ideal person to have as a companion on a long and tiresome journey – and as possessing a ‘magnetic’ personality. He also had a pleasant speaking voice and liked to sing Italian arias (when travelling), so he probably had a better than average singing voice as well. This large personal presence must have been a useful compensation for a diminutive physical one – he was only about 160 centimetres tall (a bit less than five feet four inches, according to a descendant).

What prompted you to write Nature’s Line?
I’ve been an intermittent visitor to South Australia from childhood and the ruined houses beyond the Mid-North made a powerful early impression on me, but I had no idea of the story behind them. When I finally heard about Goyder’s Line I was literally enthralled – I was full of questions and couldn’t wait to learn more. At the outset it struck me as an important story, and the more I investigated, the more certain of this I became. It was clearly not just about where not to grow wheat in South Australia, but about European settlers encountering a climate, the key characteristic of which – rainfall variability – they were entirely unprepared even to recognise and name, let alone to adapt to. What impressed me so much about Goyder was his unblinkered ability to see what was going on around him in the natural environment, to pay close attention to the natural world and to learn.

Do you know what project you would like to take on next?
At the moment I am working on something very different, although it is still about human awareness and perception of the natural world (among other things), with the working title Here and Hereabouts.

There are also two small things that I am working on. One of the characters in Goyder’s story is Eustace Reveley Mitford, a great-grand uncle of the Mitford sisters. The family resemblances, in literary style, social and political outlook, and physical appearance, are startling, especially given that the relationship is not that close, and I think he merits making a tiny contribution to the Mitford Industry. I have also been investigating Victoria’s Chinese dragons, the oldest of which go back to the nineteenth century.

After that, I’d like to return to a bigger project.

What’s your favourite type of ice cream?
Green tea – but I haven’t had any since the Japanese store that sold it closed. Perhaps Christmas pudding ice cream (my sister’s or from Fritz Gelato) is a more realistic choice – at least there’s an opportunity to enjoy it once a year.

What are your favourite Wakefield Press titles, aside from your own, and why?
Philip Jones’s Ochre and Rust: Artefacts and encounters on Australian frontiers is the first that comes to mind. Its approach to the telling of history, working from particular objects, sidesteps the usual frameworks. And the book is a lovely object itself: good to look at and to handle.

The other two are about the work of Australian painters and both are connected to exhibitions at Tarrawarra Museum of Art (in Victoria). The first is Master of Stillness: Jeffrey Smart paintings 1940-2011 by Barry Pearce. I particularly liked the inclusion of his early work in Adelaide.

The second, Russell Drysdale: defining the modern Australian landscape, by Christopher Heathcote, isn’t a favourite – I haven’t read it yet – but I am looking forward to doing so. The exhibition started as Tarrawarra in October and will be on until February 2014. I haven’t been yet, and I want to see the paintings before I read the book.