2023 JASAL End-of-Year News and Thanks


As Robert Clarke is busily finalising the annual JASAL conference issue from the remarkable gathering of minds and hearts that was 'Coming to Terms, 30 Years On: The Mabo Legacy in Australian' at The University of Tasmania in nipaluna Hobart in July 2022, and as 2023 comes to a tumultuous close (with a cyclone bearning down on North Queensland), we are writing to report on some changes that have occured in JASAL this year. 

We have been really pleased that the three streams of sub-editorial roles we envisioned for the journal have been filled by Jessica White (creating Australian literature), Geoff Rodoreda (worlding Australian literature), and Claire Jones (teaching Australian literature). Without the steady work of Jess, Geoff, and Claire behind the scenes we could not have fulfilled some of the subtle but significant changes for the journal we envisioned when we stepped up to the editorial plate. 

We have also been truly grateful for the combined work of our reviews editors, without whom we would most certainly have lost our minds. Chasing reviewers is a thankless, unglamorous, and necessary task for a journal such as ours that depends on the goodwill of association members and academics who are overworked and often precariously employed. Helping good scholarship and writing find its readers is such an important part of the ecosystem of academia, especially as the market and guru-ism can often dominate readerships and threaten to drown out the voices of deeply considered, reflective, lesser-known scholars and writers.  In a time when good postgrads and ECRs struggle to find futures for themselves in academia, the kind of exposure and fair judgement that book reviewing can offer is even more important than before. 

For this reason we are very sorry to have lost our dear ECR book reviews editor Dr Lianda Burrows, who has departed from the role of  JASAL book reviews co-editor to take up a role in the research office at Monash.  Many of you will know Lianda as key member of the postgraduate and ECR community who played an imporant role as ASAL Postgraduate Rep, alongside Alice Bellete, in helping ASAL though a period of significant generational change.  Lianda  played an important role in connecting HDRs and ECRs into the journal and the association, and has worked enthusiastically and earnestly to ensure ASAL continues to offer hospitatlity to new postgraduates and promising new scholars.  While the demands of Lianda's new role have not permitted her to continue on in the role of book reviews co-editor, we sincerely hope Lianda and other ECRs in similar positions employed in 'alt-ac' or elsewhere will always feel they have a home at ASAL.  Lianda, we are grateful for the siginficant work you have done for the association and for the journal and extend our heartfelt best wishes to you.  We sincerely hope your future will include ongoing involvement with ASAL and the broader field of Australain Literature and Writing. 

In this period of transition, we are even more grateful for the ongoing expertise and steady work of our continuing book reviews co-editor, Cheryl Taylor.  While Cheryl is more than capable of serving in the book reviews role herself, Rob and I have truly valued our own co-editorship role, and felt at times (given the pressures of our own work profiles) that the role of editor seemed an impossible task for one person.  We've learned that a collegial co-editorship is cheering and much less lonely than going alone.  It is for these reasons, and also because we saw from the beginning how important our postgrad, ECR, and ASAL Vet communities are to keeping the book review stream going, that we felt an ideal situation was that the book reviews editorship at JASAL was best staffed by a team of two.

For this reason we are delighted to announce that Dr Elizabeth Smyth has stepped up to the task of co-editor of the book reviews section of ASAL, alongside Cheryl Taylor. Elizabeth Smyth is a writer and researcher at James Cook University’s Nguma-bada campus in Cairns. Her creative-practice research engages with regionalism, ecocriticism, and the georgic. Elizabeth is published in Meanjin, JASAL, TEXT, Georgic Literature and the Environment: Working Land, Reworking Genre edited by Sue Edney and Tess Somervell, and multiple Tropical Writers anthologies. In 2023, she worked as a research assistant on the ARC-funded National Newspaper Fiction Database. She is due to appear at the 2024 Tropical Writers Festival where she will talk about writing and the Wet Tropics: https://research.jcu.edu.au/portfolio/elizabeth.smyth/.  

Elizabeth has already begun reaching out to potential reviewers and publishers in her new role.

If you have a book that has been published in the last two years, and we haven't published it yet, please let us know.  And if you have some writing time up your sleeve, we are always looking for reviewers.  Please do not hesitate to reach out to [email protected] or [email protected] if you are in either (or perhaps both) of these categories and have something to offer us.

With that, thanks to everyone who has played a role in the peer reviewing or reviewing processes of JASAL this year. 

The December issue will soon hit your inbox. 

In the meantime, take care of yourselves and each other,

Victoria Kuttainen and Robert Clarke