Meet the team: Megan McCracken

We sat down with Stella’s newly appointed Chair, Megan McCracken, to talk about her new role, the organisation and her favourite books.

Megan McCracken

Why did you decide to join Stella?

I want to live in a world in which the work of women and non-binary writers, in all its breadth, is equally valued, recognised and read by all. I want to live in a world where being a woman isn’t the factor that determines how much you can earn from writing, or how much time you can devote to your craft. I want to live in a world where we value reading each other’s stories regardless of gender.

I’ve been a keen observer of Stella for many years. When I saw the Chair role advertised, I knew this would be the perfect combination of my two passions: gender balance in historically male-dominated fields and the promotion of reading in the community. Until now these passions have been largely separate, with Stella I am able to combine them, along with my experience as a board Chair. I’m so excited to be part of the team.

What do you see as Stella’s role in the cultural sector in Australia today?

Recent research by The Women’s Prize Trust in the UK confirms earlier work: while women read both male and female voices, men primarily read male voices.

Their research showed that the top 20 bestselling male writers in the UK in 2023 were purchased pretty evenly by men and women (44 per cent to 56 per cent). However, the top 20 bestselling women writers in the same year were predominantly purchased by women (81 per cent women, 19 per cent men).

This is the reading gender gap, and it has consequences on how we see ourselves as a society.

Society benefits greatly when we all read a wide range of voices and perspectives. I hope for a world in which an Australian is just as likely to read a woman or non-binary writer’s perspective as they are a men’s. Books of all genres are an important way in which perspectives are shared.

Stella is the organisation that can make this happen in Australia. We are the advocate for change in this space.

And because you may wonder what my reading stats are: in 2023, 40 per cent of the books I read were by male authors, 60 per cent by women authors.

What role have books played in your life?

I grew up on a farm in Western Australia’s Great Southern region in a house full of books. Each night I would take a large pile of books and magazines to bed with me. Before we got mains power to the farm, my parents rigged up a battery-powered light so I could read late into the evening. My parents role-modelled reading often and widely, and my grandmother had what seemed to me the most magical bookcase. Influenced by the archaeology books in that library, twelve-year-old me told people I wanted to be an Egyptologist (or a spy, journalist, or the first female prime minister).

To this day I read books more than I watch TV.  I read both physical books and audiobooks.

I’ve been in book clubs since my late 20s and co-host a social media channel, Festival Mavens, where my friend Ali and I review books, visit writers festivals and generally promote all the authors we are excited about.

In the last few years, I’ve hosted conversations with authors at festivals, bookshops and conferences; I’ve been a judge for a book award twice, and try to visit two or three book festivals a year.

I will read almost anything and have an eclectic collection of literary fiction, classics, mystery, fantasy, science fiction and YA books, and a large non-fiction collection too. As a book award judge, I’ve assessed children’s books and now stay relatively up to date in that genre as well.

“Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria is one of my favourite novels of all time and has the most post-it notes of any of my books. I’m quietly confident Praiseworthy will be added to my favourites list.”

Which are your top Stella Prize-nominated books?

I’ve loved so many, so I will pick a couple from this year and then a couple from recent years.

From this year’s longlist I absolutely loved Graft by Maggie MacKellar. It is such a stunning work of unvarnished beauty about living on the cusp of a natural life and this former farm-girl loved it.

I’m also a huge fan of Kate Mildenhall. I’ve enjoyed watching her grow as an author in skill and breadth. Her exciting third book The Hummingbird Effect draws on everything she’s learned from her historical fiction debut and adventurous near-future second novel.

From 2023 I was blown away by Every Version of You by Grace Chan. What an incredible examination of the behaviour of humans in a rapidly changing world. Fingers-crossed for a screen version.

And I can’t go past Anita Heiss’s Bila Yarrudhanggalanghuray. A beautiful ode to the mighty Murrumbidgee, and a smart observation of settler Australians and what could have been.

What are you reading now?

I’m reading Praiseworthy by Alexis Wright! Big books can seem a bit daunting so I’m telling myself it’s three short books instead of one big one. Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria is one of my favourite novels of all time and has the most post-it notes of any of my books. I’m quietly confident Praiseworthy will be added to my favourites list.

Who are you when you are not reading?

I live in Perth, Western Australia, with my husband who is a mad-keen cyclist and my two adult children. Rounding out the family are two dogs and an eighteen-year-old cat.

We lived for eight years in Melbourne (where our children were born) and eight years in Sydney before returning to Perth in 2012 and love all three cities.

When I’m not working with Stella or doing things in the book world I work as a leadership and team coach and serve on a few boards. I am the co-founder of the Extraordinary Women Network in Perth and regularly mentor through Women in Mining WA, NAWO and Mentor Walks.

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