The 2015 Stella Count: The new iteration

As an expansion of the Stella Count, this year we invited authors to answer four short questions about:

– Gender Identity
– Sexuality
– Race
– Disability

The survey has now concluded and results will be released in September 2016. We sought responses from female-identifying and gender diverse authors of books that were reviewed in 2015 by a major Australian newspaper or review publication.

All information collected will be used anonymously; no individual or identifying information will be released publicly. You can view the survey here.

Our aim was to distribute the survey to all female-identifying and gender diverse Australian authors whose books were reviewed in 2015 by a major Australian newspaper or review publication, and surveyed in the Stella Count. The success of this survey relies on our ability to gather as many responses as possible, across all backgrounds and identities. This will enable us to form a more complete picture of the diversity of Australian reviewing culture.

Rationale and Impact

We are aware that these surveys are imperfect tools, and they have to be because we are working within an imperfect system. This imperfection is evident in the literary canon, school text lists, book prizes and review culture. These forums have traditionally privileged writers who are white, heterosexual and male, and this in turn influences long-standing biases about who can speak and how. So while we know that surveys which seek statistical information, such as this one, must adhere to a similar set of narrow definitions about personhood which can hide our complexities, they are still important. A survey like this can actively demonstrate that those who are ‘othered’ within literature – women, people of colour, people of varied sexualities, those who identify as gender diverse, those with different access or communication requirements – are in fact, the majority of the population.

This is critically important: since 2012 the Stella Count has become a significant touchstone for discussions about gender equality in literature, and is widely referred to in essays, media, academic studies and other discussions around gender parity in literature. The Stella Prize recognises that there are additional barriers to publication and reviewing faced by women writers who belong to marginalised groups, and that these have not all been captured by the Stella Count in its previous incarnations to date.

It is our hope that this year’s Stella Count will add more information to conversations about the reviewing culture in Australia, and make more visible some of the systemic barriers to review coverage faced by women writers. We want this survey to open a dialogue about the many intersections of the woman writer, and the power this complex figure possesses.

Resources

This survey was compiled using standards, data and recommendations from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Australian Human Rights Commission, and National LGBTI Health Alliance. It adheres in many respects to the structure of the 2015 VIDA Count, which provides an established international model against which to compare the results of the Stella Count.

We particularly wish to thank the following individuals and groups who offered their feedback in the shaping of the survey:

The 2015 Stella Count Consultative Committee (Eleanor Jackson (Peril), Jessica Knight, Jasmeet Sahi and Yvette Walker); Tony Birch; Maxine Beneba Clarke; Kate Larsen and Fiona Tuomy (Writers Victoria); Lynn Melnick (VIDA); Amy Middleton (Archer); and everyone who attended the Stella Count Public Forum.

– Veronica Sullivan (Stella Prize Manager; 2015 Stella Count coordinator) and Dr Natalie Kon-yu (Victoria University; 2015 Stella Count coordinator)