It’s my last night at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre, and it’s time to round up what I’ve achieved over the last 2 weeks.
First and foremost, this residency has been about the writing.
It’s my last night at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre, and it’s time to round up what I’ve achieved over the last 2 weeks.
First and foremost, this residency has been about the writing.
Just a quick reminder that the KSP Christmas in July Literary Dinner, featuring readings by me, is on tonight. More details, including booking information, at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre webpage.
Day three of my residency, and apart from taking my work past a couple of notable milestones– Song of the Water passing 2000 words and Ghost Tracks cresting 20,000– today was notable for the appearance of a surprise guest.
There’s long been a rumour of a ghost here at the Centre, and sitting alone in a perfectly silent chalet in the depths of the rolling gardens is a perfect situation for a lonely ghost to come silently through the walls and hang in the space between the door and the desk, staring through you into the depths of a million alternative realities.
It is upon us: this morning, I packed myself up, hugged Luscious and the kids goodbye, and hied me to the other end of Perth to commence my 2-week live-in residency at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre.
I’ll be working on 2 projects while I’m here: Ghost Tracks, the children’s novel wherein the protagonist derails a ghost train and is forced to travel to the otherworldly dimension to make amends; and the collection of short stories about supernatural incursions into historical events in Western Australia. In addition, I’ll be attending some writers groups, conducting a workshop, and being a part of some events throughout my stay.
The Asian Festival of Children’s Content approacheth, and here’s my itinerary for what Luscious continues to mockingly call my ‘Singapore holiday’.
16 May, 7pm – 9pm
Opening Ceremony and Award Presentation
17 May, 4.45pm – 6pm
First Pages: Writing Critique
Lee Battersby, Susan Long, Cynthea Liu, Kathleen Ahrens
17 May, 7pm – 9pm
Celebrating Our Stars
18 May, 9am – 10am
Not So Happily Ever After: Strange and Spooky Tales
Lee Battersby, Heidi Shamsuddin, Marc Checkley
18 May, 3.15pm – 4.15pm
Authors Debate: Who Writes Better Books– Introverts or Extroverts?
Cynthea Liu, Don Bosco, Lee Battersby, Angela Cerrito, Nury Vittachi
18 May, 6.30pm – 7.30pm
Children’s Literature Lecture: Books from the Island of Story Tellers
19 May, 7pm – 9pm
20 May, 10am – 6pm
MASTERCLASS: Writing the Weird with Lee Battersby
Another upcoming appearance for your diaries: March 2nd, I’ll be appearing on stage with a fantastic lineup of childrens’ authors as part of the Children’s Book Council of Australia– WA’s A Night With Our Stars event. Alongside the likes of James Foldy, Kylie Howarth, Norman Jorgensen, Teena Raffa-Mulligan and Meg Caddy, I’ll be talking about Magrit, writing, and all things froody and writerly. Here’s a poster, even, saying exactly that:
I’ve been amused to note that promotion for the event has referred to me as a “new talent” (although at least they say ‘talent’). It’s a risk you take when you hop genres: not every reader will come with you, and not everybody in the new field will know your track history. Still, after 16 years, it raises a smile, particularly as I’ve just been interviewed by a fellow speculative fiction author for a paper she’s writing on the subject of writing time.
So, for those of you who may be meeting me for the first time due to Magrit, or came in late, or just have some sort of vague slightly-less-than-indifferent interest in how I came to this place, here’ the potted history I provided to my academic friend: Continue reading “HOW TO BE A NEW TALENT: EXTENDED MIX”
Well, my darlings, that’s me for the year. I’m outta here, to spend the next 10 days in a drunken stupor relaxing with my family, my hobbies, my air-conditioning, and my platter of Christmas nibblies.
What do I plan in 2017? A return to writing, with a vengeance. 2016 was a lost year in too many ways, and the loss of my writing was amongst the most painful difficulties I went through. No more, I say.
Last weekend was that most wonderful reminder of why I got into this writing gig: the guest appearance at a Writers Festival. In this instance, I was flown across the country and put up in a hotel in my favourite City of them all, the beautiful city of Brisbane.
I’ve always loved Brisbane, especially the South Bank, where the Festival was located. It’s superbly picturesque, and a thousand blessings to the person who had the imagination and foresight to place so many cultural and artistic nodes within such proximity to each other. The Gallery of Modern Art, State Library, Museum, State Theatre, Griffith Music Observatory, performance bowl and others stand shoulder to shoulder along the sculpted lawns, so that every morning I walked an 800 metre corridor of art between the hotel and the Festival. No surprise that I arrived each day in an uplifted, happy mood, ready to work.
Mind you, the fun had started almost from the moment my heels hit dirt. Checking into the hotel was going swimmingly, until the man serving the couple next to me looked at his screen and went “Oh.” See, the screen had changed colour, without him touching it, and it should’na oughta done that. He pressed a key. It did the same thing. The woman serving me said, “Oh.” The man came over. They looked at her screen. Then they looked at his. I smiled at the nice couple. They smiled at me. The hotel staff pressed buttons. They came back to my screen. The man looked at me, then at the couple, then at me.
“Um,” he said. “You’re not married, are you…..?”
See, when you’re talking literary Battersbys in this country, there’s me, and then there’s the stupendously lovely and talented Katherine Battersby. And we’d never met. Until that moment. And then we discovered that we share the signing tactic of offering kids a choice of coloured pen to sign with. And then I managed to sneak a graffiti note into her pencil case that she didn’t notice for a day and a half, and well, frankly, meeting her would have been reason alone to love the Festival, if I hadn’t also caught up, and had such joyous and happy responses to my lurking presence, with a series of old friends, each of whom treated me like some sort of lost prodigal: meeting Trent Jamieson, Angela Slatter and Kim Wilkins again was like an extended gathering of the clan, and getting to see Kate Eltham– someone Luscious and I genuinely hold very close to our hearts– was like catching up with family.
To have that, and to meet new friends like Katherine and Yassmin Abdel-Magied; and work with delightful and warm-hearted peers like David Burton, Amie Kaufman and Jaclyn Moriarty, was a visceral and wondrous reminder that my community is a lot wider than I think of it, and that my horizon is a lot broader. But the Festival was about more than just hanging out being a writah-dahling (although I can do that like a fiend). It was about work.
And work I did. 5 presentations, a panel and a Masterclass across 4 days — which is exactly what I love to do at these events: I’m not one for propping up the bar when I could be geeking. And the volunteers, particularly Green Room co-ordinator Kristy, were some of the loveliest people I’ve ever worked with (to give you an idea, one of them– the entirely-too-sweet Olivia– realised one of my signings was going so long it was beginning to impact upon my arrival time at my next presentation, so ran up to the Green Room and filled a box with lunch so I’d get something to eat).
And the kids I worked with were incredible. Kids are usually pretty damn fearless when it comes to art, much more so than adults, but even so, I was blown away by how many had actually read the book, and how many had taken the time to formulate intelligent and critical questions about the text. Every session began with an introduction speech given by a student, and taking the time to chat to them helped me realise just how much some of these kids were prepared to work just to get there. In my very first session, I was chatting to Michaela, my MC, who came from a school called ‘Chinchilla’. (No spoiling it for the others, those who know where that is).
“Cool school name,” I said. “Where is that?”
“Four hours away,” she replied.
Four hours. To attend a 9.45am session. Turns out, thee kids had boarded a bus at 5am, just to get to Brisbane in time for my session. They were seeing me, and one other 45-minute session, then trooping back on the bus for another 4 hour journey home.
Yeah. I’d come from Perth and it had only taken me 90 minutes longer. Faced with that, how can you do anything but work yourself into the ground to try and give these kid something worthwhile for their dedication? It seemed to work: by Friday morning, the Festival’s stock of Magrit had sold out, I was the 3rd highest-selling author for the day, and I’d resorted to signing school hats, casts, programmes and water bottles– frankly, anything the kids pushed across the table at me. What else can you do?
After spending so much time entertaining kids, I finished the festival with a 3-hour Masterclass on the subject of short fiction, in which I managed to pack about 4 hours of theory-based ranting and half a dozen writing exercises, and a panel on YA Survivalist fiction for which I was eminently under-qualified, but managed to survive through a combination of smart-arsery and monkey-boy dancing– which, incidentally, is pretty much how I intend to survive the actual apocalypse.
And then it was over. Like a cheesy Hollywood movie– think of me as a fat, hairy Renee Zellweger– my last act was to walk alone through a deserted library, nod goodbye to a single, uninterested security guard, and step out into the failing light and pouring rain of an evening thunderstorm. Seriously, even I could hear the rising strings. I did not, however, break out into song, Brisbane did not need that. Nobody needs that.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: a Festival invites a famous author to deliver the keynote speech. The author represents the Festival. There words are the distillation of everything the Festival stands for; every prism through which the public, the media, and the other authors will view each other. Even if that author has a personality so large, so iconic and even inconoclastic, that their personality is a large part of their delivery– still, even then– they will take the audience on a journey of discovery that will leave all present examining their own points of view through the filter of the Festival and the artistic aims for which it stands. Picture Lenny Bruce’s “Nigger, Nigger, Spic” routine. Picture Graham Chapman’s carrot-clad non-speech to the graduation class at Cambridge.
Picture me at the back of Lionel Shriver’s Festival keynote speech, watching Yassmin Abdel-Magied leave in tears, seeing Alexei Sayle’s face turn a peculiar shade of thunder, waiting for this speech of derision, and contempt, and utter entitlement to turn, to twist, to get to Bruce’s self-turned finger and single word, “Yid”.
Picture me walking out, between the doffing of the sombrero and the Q&A, not able to be in the same room anymore, feeling diminished by the act of witnessing a speech that was not only the antithesis of the artistic creed of enlightenment and community, but was a sweeping dismissal of any notion of those concepts.
The internet has since lit up with argument and counter-argument. Yassmin was the first, her blog post subsequently picked up by the Guardian and other markets (Don’t read the comments. Never read the comments). Since then it’s gone viral, with both sides throwing mud, shit, sputum and ancestry at each other in the hope that something will stain.
I am not so affected as others. I can get up any day, any place, and write whatever I like, comforted by the fact that I’m white, male, prosperous, politically unhindered, sexually validated, and my fucking voice doesn’t have to fight anybody because it’ already won. So, this:
There’s appropriation, and then there’s exchange. There’s riding in like Vasquez, and then there’s approaching a culture with respect. Shriver not only claimed that it was not necessary to approach another culture with respect, she claimed it was our right as artists to strip-mine anything we set out eyes on, and if we did a bad job, well, too bad so sad, because at least we had a go. It was unapologetically imperialist thinking at its worst.
Lionel Shriver betrayed the BWF, who asked her to speak on a specific topic, by agreeing to do so, then wilfully and gleefully going off-topic from her first word and leaving the organisation looking complicit with her views.
She betrayed her fellow artists by using a high-profile moment to throw us under the bus by portraying any who didn’t conform to her extreme views as ignorant weaklings.
Tomorrow night, Luscious and I will be up at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre, scoffing curry puffs and drinking hot chocolate — and incidentally, reading fresh new works — as part of the KSP’s Spooky Stories Night. It’s a fundraiser for the KSPs residency program, and both Lyn and I have been shortlisted in their ghost story competition. I’ll be reading my entry, The House of Jack’s Girls, and I will say that it’s one of the harder-edged horror stories I’ve written in a little while: if you’ve fond memories of my Aurealis-award winner Pater Familias from a few years back, well, it’s in that sort of territory– the kids will be sent to another room while I’m reading….
Winners of the competition will be announced, there’ a dress-up competition, warm food, marshmallows for toasting over a fire, and if you’ve got a scary story to tell, a chance to scare the bejeebus out of everyone in the best possible setting.
Tickets are cheap as chips, and it’s shaping up to be a fun old night, so come on down. You can find more details here.
How’s this for pretty? It’s a brag sheet developed by Walker Books to remind you all that all the cool kids in town like Magrit and you should definitely get yourself a copy so everyone will think you’re cool, too.
I mean, really, you really should.
In other news, I’ve been interviewed by the delightful Meri Fatin for writingWA’s online program Cover to Cover. It’ll be available on their YouTube channel from the 20th April, and here’s me looking all grown up and respectable while I pimp it:
Here’s the official poster:
Tune in from the 20th for half an hour of me talking all things Magrit, children’s writing, and how difficult it is getting through an entire novel without dropping an F-bomb…
I don’t know what you’ll be doing this weekend, but I will be enjoying myself strangling, poisoning, murderlising and generally getting up to no good with an absolute plethora of like-minded ne’er-do-wells at the annual CrimeScene WA crime writing convention, held at the Rydges Hotel in sunny Perff.
Apart from presentations by myself and Luscious, guest speakers include the likes of Stephen Dedman, Simon Lewis, Tony Cavanaugh, Hadyn Green and this year’s guests of honour, Michael Robotham and Tansy Rayner Roberts, dressed up in her why-does-she-even-bother-when-we-all-know-it’s-Tansy-anyaway-and-love-her-for-who-she-is,-pet alter ego pants, Livia Day.
If you haven’t got yourself a ticket already then you’re a fool of a Took, so get your arse into gear and buy one at the website. If you’re mad keen to hear what I have to say on any given subject, I’ll be up front being famous at the following sessions:
Supporting Luscious as she presents her panel Women in Crime
All on my todd for a writing workshop, On Writing Settings
In company with Stephen Dedman, as we discuss The Writing Process and What You Should be Doing Once You are Published
You can view the full programme here. Get it up ya!
Okay, let’s catch up:
It’s been a mad period for both appearances and writing recently. Having parted company with my previous agent over concerns regards a lack of communication, I’ve spent the last couple of week editing Father Muerte & the Divine in order to send it to an agent who caught me on the hop by requesting to see the full manuscript earlier than expected: a good sign, I hope, but let’s never line-edit and input 200+ pages of a manuscript in such short order again….
Working so hard on that project threw my timing out for September, which meant that I’ve spent this weekend blasting my way through The Daughters of John Anglicus, a 5000 word short story I need to deliver by the end of the month. I’ve always enjoyed writing short stories in compressed time frame: there’s something about an impending deadline that’s good for stoking the crucible of creation, but it’s no damn good for family time: I own Luscious and the kids some serious attention over the coming weekends to repay their indulgence. This week will be taken up with editing and getting it to the market, and then I’ll finally have a chance to draw breath and look at what to do next: with Nanowrimo looming in November I may consider revisiting the 15 000 words I’ve completed on Cirque and pushing that towards the 50K I think it’ll take to visit that YA project.
I’ve also been oot and aboot doing the talking-head-type thing: in August I revisited my old stomping grounds at Curtin University to deliver my annual guest lecture, and Book Week saw me taking to the stage at Churchlands Senior High School to talk about my work, idea generation and the art of entering short story competitions. And when I say ‘take to the stage’ I wasn’t kidding: have a gander at the theatre the school boasts.
One of the loveliest side-effects of reaching a certain credibility as an author (and clearly, as I seem to have reached it, the level ain’t that high) is the occasional opportunity to be sally forth and speak to groups of people without requiring your beloved partner-for-life having to follow along two steps behind you apologising to everyone.
Luscious, for those who have not met her, occasionally introduces us at social gathering with the phrase “This is my husband, Lee, and I’m the person who apologises for him”. She also occasionally waits until we’re in a shopping centre aisle full of old women before shouting “What do you mean I’m fat?” with no fucking provocation whatsoever.
Luscious is occasionally a sick sod 🙂
For the last 4 years I’ve been drawn back to my old stomping grounds at Curtin University to give a guest lecture on social media at the School of Internet Studies, an exercise designed to make me feel old, as not only was there no School of Internet Studies when I studied at Curtin there was no actual sodding internet. I made my annual pilgrimage there again this past week, and as always, absolutely loved it: it’s a chance to combine day job and writing career expertise as well as expose students to a free form way of thinking they may not get from a structured curriculum– I can’t imagine many courses compare social media to Russian tampon adverts, for a start– and you know you’re doing well when you receive Facebook friends requests halfway through the lecture from people in the room.
I’m also off to Churchlands Senior High School next week to talk about writing competitions and ideas generation. I’ve done a couple of school gigs in recent years, and they’re generally a lot of fun. It’s incredibly easy to see which students are there by choice and which are there because they have no other choice, and once you call them out on it you can function in a room full of good will and laughter. Teenagers may be moody buggers but those moods swing both ways: get them laughing and they’ll be your friend for life, at least as long as the workshop lasts, and story generation is genuinely the most enjoyable part of the process for me, so we get a lot of writing done, look at a lot of funny photographs, and generally have a fab and groovy time.
And, lastly, I’ll be heading along to Write Along the Highway twice in November as part of this year’s Nanowrimo: I’ll be the subject of an author talk and workshop at Mundijong Library on the 18th and a panellist at the big Write Night! event at the South Perth Community Hall on the evening of the 26th. Details are being finalised, and I’ll remind you as they’re released to the general public, but spaces for these types of events are limited, so if they sound like your thing, it might be worth contacting the organisation soon.
Only 4 days now until Universal Law, my workshop on creating believable fantasy worlds, is presented at this year’s Perth Writers Festival.
I’ll be talking about why unicorns are crap, how the law of conservation of energy banjaxes magic, and the proper etiquette when meeting an alien in your backyard, as well as conducting a bunch of writing exercises and throwing sweeties to the crowd by the handful.
Spaces are limited, so book now if you want to
ensure avoid disappointment. All the gory details are here.
I’ve finagled myself some time off work, so Luscious and I will be wandering the grounds every day of the festival. If you see us, come over and say hi. Bring cola.
Now that the programme has been released, I can finally announce that I will be appearing at this year’s Perth Writers Festival, to be held at the University of WA from Thursday 20 to Sunday 23 February.
I’ll be running a workshop from 10am-1pm on Saturday 22nd, on how to create a believable fantasy universe. Here’s the full blurb:
Award-winning speculative fiction author Lee Battersby shows you the rules of building a believable fantasy universe. Learn what works, what doesn’t and just how much you can get away with before the reader starts to notice.
So if you want to learn about concepts like unicorn physics, world +1, and why writing what you know is for the weak, I’ll expect to see you there!
You can get a gander at the full program here. Luscious and I already have tickets for Lionel Shriver and she’ll also be seeing Margaret Drabble, and we’ll be wandering around the grounds for pretty much the entire three day festival, so anybody who’s interested in catching up, just drop me a line and we’ll organise some picnicky goodness like we did last year.
I have no idea what that heading is supposed to mean…
HOWEVER, here’s an exciting opportunity for aspiring authors in Western Australia who are looking to join a community of fellow professionals for the purposes of support, networking, and develop critiquing skills.
As part of the thoroughly awesome Crime Scene writing convention taking place in October, I will be joining the truly legendary Juliet Marillier and Twelfth Planet Press head honchette Alisa Krasnostein to present an open critiquing session: thass right, if you’d like your work critiqued by two of the most respected and talented writing industry professionals in the State and me, you can present your work to us and have it subjected to our professional eye!
How do you take advantage of this amazing opportunity I don’t hear you cry because I’m sitting at a computer at my place and you’re all miles away?
Head over to the Twelfth Planet Press website and read this bit here, then follow the instructions: Email Crime Scene coordinator Linda by 13 September with a brief description of your writing experience and a brief description of the piece you’ll be submitting. If you’re selected, you’ll need to send in your work by 20 September, at which point Juliet, Alisa and I will
rip it apart with joyful abandon as we destroy your most precious baby and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh critique it and present our observations at the Crime Scene panel. We’ll be taking both novel excerpts and short stories, so there’s really nothing stopping you, is there?
The chance to listen to, learn from, and argue with, three established pros who have read and enjoyed your work. What’s not to love?
Get yourself over to the Crime Scene website and check out the brilliant lineup of guests, panels, and general crime goodness on offer, then get your typing fingers over that precious WIP: we’re waiting.
Santa Maria Catholic College: a magnificent edifice in Attadale, looking out over the Swan River, where some of the nicest teachers I’ve ever met herded more than a hundred girls in to listen to me bang on about my writing habits, how I get my ideas, why collecting photos is a writer’s dream hobby, and how nothing they learn from algebra teachers will ever help them. I read from two of my stories, forced the girls to complete writing exercises, and generally had the time of my life performing like a monkey in front of three groups of the friendliest, most respectful and downright invested kids I’ve ever worked with.
Frankly, I could do that sort of thing for a living if they’d let me.
There are rewards to being an author that I never expected when I first started out. I’ve flown internationally and to four other states of Australia; taught at Clarion South; mentored on behalf of the Australian Horror Writers Association; attended conventions; made friends; read to students in the library of my old High School; and participated in arts projects well beyond the realm of pure ‘writing’. It’s days like the ones above where I feel connected to a much larger artistic community than just the small circle of writers who make up the Western Australian SF community, and passing that connection on to a circle of new faces is a delight every single time. Some days the bear gets you, but some days the bear is called Pooh and you get to lie in a meadow eating honey sandwiches.
Oh, and, you know: catholic school girls. Gives me an excuse to embed this. Have a laugh on me: