Stella At Varuna
The Stella Prize with support from The Australian provided places for three women at Geordie Williamson’s workshop on “Critiquing Culture” at Varuna Writers’ Centre in the Blue Mountains on July 8, and one place for the entire week-long residency program that preceded the workshop. Bronwyn Lea, a Queensland-based poet, academic and critic, was the recipient of the full week residency scholarship.
The three Stella workshop places went to Kate Middleton, Rioma Aouf, and Danielle Clode. Kate Middleton currently holds the position of Sydney of Sydney Poet at UTS, and writes about books, television and other aspects of contemporary culture; Rima Aouf edits the Sydney website Concrete Playground, and reviews performing arts; Danielle Clode teaches creative science writing at Flinders University and is the author of a number of books on natural history. Author, critic and Stella Prize founder Kirsten Tranter spoke at the Sunday workshop about some of the issues facing women critics right now, including the marked gender imbalance in the literary pages both here and overseas, and the urgent necessity for women to pitch their ideas to editors.
From Geordie Williamson: “If the aim of the week long Varuna residency (and its concluding day-long workshop on the subject of ‘Critiquing Culture’) was to bring together a group of talented women writers to engage with the challenges and opportunities presented by the current critical landscape, then we can claim an enormous success. All but one of the twenty or so participants was female, and each of them was impressive in the humour, intelligence, sophistication or earnestness they bought to problems of craft and issues of access in relation to their criticism. Kudos to the Stella Commitee for providing the opportunity for a number of these women – including Kate Middleton, Danielle Clode and Rima Aouf – to meet and learn from one another. If they represent the future of Australian criticism, then we are in safe hands.
“We know that taking part in this country’s critical conversation is not just a question of talent, however, but one of equity. An arts criticism that remains firmly in the same hands over the decades is unlikely to offer the kind of freshness and surprise that alternative voices can provide. Most important of all was the acknowledgement by participants that only a communal push by women critics would see their various critical efforts given pride of place in newspapers, magazines, journals, on radio or tv, and in major online outlets. More than anything, I praise their esprit de corps.”
Many thanks to Geordie for his generous contribution, Stephen Romei and The Australian, and Varuna.