Reading and writing in 2018

2018 was another huge year of reading and writing… Thanks both to my looser, freelance lifestyle and judging of the Territory Reads Awards, I once again re-set my personal best record to 147 books read over the course of the year (averaging just under 3 books a week – not counting literary journals or children’s books).

I also spent some of 2018 back-cataloguing my reading spreadsheet from journal entries from the last decade. So I now have a better sense of how my reading habits have changed and grown since 2009 (when I read 30 books during my last full year in London). All up, I’ve read 656 books over the past 10 years, averaging just over 65/year or 1.3/week in that time.

Hello. My name is Kate. And I am a read-aholic.

Fave reads and recommendations

I don’t know why I continue to be surprised when non-fiction favourites continue to top my recommended-read lists, but it happened again in 2018, starting with No Way! Okay, Fine. by Brodie Lancaster: a pop-culture memoir that helped me drop the ‘guilty’ from my many ‘guilty pleasures’ and which continues to provide inspiration and affirmation about being vulnerable, thoughtful, feminist, body-positive and brave. I was also grateful for the articulate and powerful insights of Bri E Lee in Eggshell Skull (a must-read memoir for the #MeToo era), Anna Krien in Night Games (whose prose made it possible to read about both sexual assault and football), and the allies and activists who contributed to How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation (edited by Maureen Johnson).

My fiction recommendations were topped by a play script: the extraordinary Broken by Mary Anne Butler. And Kim Scott delivered with Taboo what I’d hoped for (but didn’t find) in That Deadman Dance: a complex but accessible First Nations story in which I could recognise the Wagyl Kaip/Southern Noongar lands of my home. Other favourites included Aussie fiction in the form of Dyschronia by Jennifer Mills and You Belong Here by Laurie Steed, and fiction from further afield including The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, Cantonese Love Stories by Dung Kai ChungNatural Histories by Guadalupe Nettel and Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie.

Australian Women Writers

My reading list included 77 books (52% of my reading total) by Australian women writers for the #AWW2018 challenge, which also included posting micro-reviews on Twitter and Instagram. Highlights for the year not already listed above included: Tin Heart by Shivaun Plozza (in which I was once again chuffed to get a credit), Australia Day by Melanie ChengStranger in the Dark by Krissy Kneen, and the entire Phryne Fisher series by Kerry Greenwood.

We Need Diverse Books

I recorded 39 books as part of the #weneeddiversebooks challenge (27% of my reading total): “books where people of color can be first-page HEROES rather than second-class citizens. Books in which LGBTQIA characters can represent social CHANGE rather than social problems. And books where people with disability can be just… people.” Highlights not already listed above included: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Swing by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess (which coincidentally both happened to be verse novels), Deaf/Black Pride middle grade fiction by Alex Gino in You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P!, and some Aussie mental health YA in the form of Beautiful Mess by Claire Christian and Ballad for a Mad Girl by Vikki Wakefield.

Love Oz YA

I also continued my love affair with Aussie YA (reading 37 #LoveOzYA books or 25% of my reading total), which continues to raise the bar for thoughtful, insightful and political writing for readers of any ages. Other highlights for the year not already listed above included: Words in Deep Blue by Cath CrowleyNeverland by Margo McGovernAmelia Westlake by Erin Gough and CS Pacat’s Captive Prince series.

2018 in Writing

2018 was ‘My Year of Being Forty and Freelance and Writing Lots of Stuff’ (I never did come up with a snappier title). During my year of working differently, I undertook a range of writing and editing projects for clients all over the country, wrote a play script that I got to see performed in Alice Springs, curated an online journal of ‘Poetry in the City of Literature’, ran a bunch of writing workshops, continued to publish at least a poem a day on Twitter and Instagram, and spent six weeks as a poet in Hong Kong.

I returned to Australia with 25,000 new words: social media memes, a new collection of longer-form poems and the draft of an essay written under the umbrella of ‘Public. Open. Space’ – thrilled that essay has been accepted for publication in a new journal focused on Creative Writing Online in Asia due to be printed next year. I also returned 15,000 words closer to the first full draft of my choose-your-own-erotic-romance novel, and with half a dozen other projects expanded or begun.

All in all, 2018 was an exciting and extraordinary reading and writing year. I end it giddy, grateful, and excited for the work that’s still to come.

#HappyNewYear #AmReading #AmWriting

Author: katelarsenkeys

Arts, Cultural & Non-Profit Consultant. Reader. Writer (Our Hybrid Future, The Relationship is the Project). Researching the art of arts governance. larsenkeys.com.au