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
Indonesia Night

20 May, 10am – 6pm
MASTERCLASS: Writing the Weird with Lee Battersby


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. 

It’s never real until the tag arrives.

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. 

Art. Just standing there, being all arty and stuff,
like it can just be all… arty. (Sigh) I love Brisbane.

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.

Slatter and Jamieson. Comics at large.

Sweet, pretty and talented. It’s a Battersby thing. 

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). 

Getting my work on.

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).

What’s the name of this thing, again?

“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.

Brisbane. Where even the seagulls are front-rowers…

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.

Short Fiction Masterclass: Work, you dogs!

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.

When it was sunny, South Bank was a riot of outdoor dance
floors, buskers, and music venues. I took this
picture when it was pissing down: ironically, not one person singing.
So, I miss it. I miss Brisbane. I’d forgotten just how much I loved the City– it’s been several long years since my last visit. And it all came back in such a rush of goodwill and graciousness that I’ve been in an extended funk ever since I returned to Perth and to the day-after-day dreariness of my long-soured day job. So, all I can do is recover my pen, get back to work, and try to make my next visit of the permanent variety.
Tally ho. 

Then there was this 😦


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.

And most disgustingly of all, she betrayed those that we artists should be standing beside– the weak, the disenfranchised and the voiceless– by openly telling them that their status was deserved and that their only value was as narrative grist for those better placed.

It was a loathsome piece of punching down by someone intelligent enough to be better. We should all be better.
So that was a shitty way to end a blog post.
Have a picture of the curve of the sky to cheer you up. 


Only 8 days until I jet off to Brisbane, and a bunch of appearances at this year’s Brisbane Writers Festival. I’ll be appearing across both open and kids’ ‘Word Play’ programs, as well as presenting a short fiction Masterclass, so I’ll be plenty busy. Catch me here, if you’re so inclined:

Let’s Get Spooky (Word Play)

Writing exercises for kids to explore the bumps in the night and get them down on the page. Book here.
Auditorium 1, State Library of Queensland
Wednesday 7 September
Wednesday 7 September
This is an online session: if you’re interested in registering, you can find more information here.
The Edge, State Library of Queensland
Thursday 8 September
Maiwar Green, State Library of Queensland
Friday 9 September
Goma Cinema A, State Library of Queensland
Friday 9 September

Short Fiction Masterclass

A three hour masterclass on the art of writing short fiction, featuring such necessities as Unicorn Physics, Reversing the Polarity, and Battersby’s One-Size-Fits-All Guide to Destroying a Made-Up Person’s Life. 
The Edge Lab
Saturday 10 September

Love YA! Survival Kits- A Writer’s Guide

with David Burton, Amie Kaufman and Jaclyn Moriarty. We talk apocalypses, survival, and just what we’d pack in our backpack on the day.
Brisbane Square Library
Saturday 10 September
And that’s it: I’m on the plane back to Perth first thing Sunday morning, so catch me as catch can.


Two months since my last post. All of June and July, and not a peep. 

Yeah, there’s a reason for that.
Suffice to say, things did not go well for a while. It’s a little vaguebooky, but I’ll talk more about it in later posts. 
For now, here I am, on the last day of a two week break away from the world, where all I’ve done is lie in bed, watch a lot of Top Gear, get addicted to Pokemon Go, and noodle about with a Powerpoint for my upcoming appearance at the Brisbane Writers Festival in September.
I’ll be playing about in the kids stream with a presentation called Let’s Get Spooky, all about how to write shivering stories for kids. And I’ll be knuckling 20 or so writers under my lash in a short fiction Masterclass as part of the main program, to boot. Head on over to the BWF website to see the full program. 
I’ve also managed to successfully apply for a writing residency in 2017. The organisation has not yet announced it, so I’ll stay schtum on the who, where and when for the moment, but expect some announcements semi-soon.
And I’ll also be crawling out from under my bed in early October to display some of my Lego creations at this year’s Bricktober. Once again, it will be at the Canning Showgrounds, and promises to be an absolutely fantastic day out. I’ll be displaying more of my spaceshippy goodness, as well as coordinating a table dedicated to a Micropolis group build. Once again, more details as we get closer.
So, for the moment, here I am: still swimming (just), still keeping my head above water (just), still getting involved (double just with chips). Luscious and I have had some big ™ conversations recently, and we will be making some enormous life changes over the next 18 months. I’ll be talking about them as they arrive, but for now, this much contact is just enough.


The dust has finally settled, I’ve gone back to the real world, and I can finally reflect on a mad fortnight of Magrit-related shenanigans.

First up was a surprise appearance at the Perth Writers Festival— a surprise to me as much as anybody else, as I was only added the roster 10 days out from the event when Emily Rodda pulled out, long after all the publicity material had been prepared and programmes printed. Even so, an invitation to appear is not one you turn down, so I duly rocked up to the Festival Schools Day on Thursday and spent a delightful 45 minutes talking all things writing with veteran YA author Carole Wilkinson and moderator Deb Fitzpatrick, as well as all the things you usually do on a panel for kids– pretending to eat the microphone, pulling stupid faces, impersonating Emily Rodda…… you know……

Talking all things kid books with Deb Fitzpatrick and Carole Wilkinson

Friday I rejoined Carol at a session for teachers on inspiring writing in the classroom, chaired by AJ Betts and in the presence of the all-powerful Andy Griffiths, who kindly consented to a selfie and a signed book for Master 11, who was filthy as could be that he was unable to meet his literary hero. Andy was an education– quiet and internalised off-stage, he came alive in front of an audience, mixing charm, performance and insight, then returning to his quiet, self-contained self at the end. While the session itself was enjoyable, and it was nice to talk about the teaching of writing for a change, exposure to other authors and the way they manage themselves is beyond valuable. Andy and Carole are very different people, and the insight into their working lives was incredible.

Andy Griffith: consummate professional, fantastic showman, and a guy who will turn it on anywhere, anyhow, if it means making a kid happy. An absolute education to work with. 

And then there was Sunday. A solo session, at 9 in the morning, (that’d be Sunday morning), for a pack of kids almost all of whom were expecting Emily Rodda. No pressure, then….. Stuck for ideas, Luscious and the kids jumped on and helped me stuff a bag full of random items from the garage, and while I read sections from the book, the kids used the parts to build a Master Puppet skeleton at my feet. I think they did quite well, too.

Haranguing children while they go into a feeding frenzy at my feet. 
Typical Sunday morning, really.
Pimp my Master Puppet.

The rest of the Festival was a joy, as it is is when you’ve got an artist lanyard in your hot little hand. Apart from access to the paid sessions for free, it entitles you to access the green room, whereby you can meet the other artists, and comes with an invitation to the opening night party. I bumped into the delightful Melinda Tognini, who I hadn’t seen since our first year of University in 1989, Luscious met Jack Heath, which was her entire reason for attending the festival, so much did she love his current novel, and Master 11 got an insight into the professional life of an author. It’s one of the reasons I attend every year: I get to breath in the essence of authorship, and realign my compass with the wider literary world beyond the cramped, and increasingly unsatisfying, speculative fiction borders I’ve inhabited until now.

Also, those big signs they have in the social centre of the Festival?
I may have got a little graffitti-y……

I’ve three books in my computer, all part-started and all clamouring for attention: another children’s novel, a crime novel, and a linked collection of supernatural historical stories. These are the works I need to complete, before I take on anything else. Being at the Festival, exposed to the full range of the literary spectrum, helps me realise how large that literary world is, and how much of it I still want to explore.

Then it was on to Stefen’s Books the following weekend, and the official Magrit launch. Stefen has always been good to me, and this occasion was no exception, with a window display, posters throughout the store, and a sell-out crowd that emptied the shop of stock. Some reading, a revival of some of my old stand-up skills (such as they are), and an awful lot of skeletons drawn in an awful lot of books — a once-only addition to my signature– and Magrit was officially launched into the world. As is a Stefen’s tradition, we then retired to the pub next door for lunch, a drink or two, and much laughter, which is part of what makes his launches so special.

Of course, what that also means, is that you can now get yourself down to Stefen’s to pick up a copy of the book, or order it from Walker, or find it at any one of a million billion trillion excellent, good, or utterly dodgy bookstores. Go on. What’s stopping you?

The set-up at Stefen’s. He knows how to treat an author well. 

I should have knicked this on the way out, I really should have……

Getting my signing on. Those worms weren’t all for me– we passed them through the crowd, just before I read the section where Magrit feeds the new baby by squishing worms through her toes and feeding him the paste. Because what’s a reading without sweeties and cruelty?

Let me tell you: a window display never, and I mean never, gets old. 

With Ms 14 and Master 11, who inspired the book and copped 
a dedication for their trouble.

So that’s it: Magrit is now out into the world, I’ve had my annual reminder of what it is to be a real writer, and now it’s back to the day-by-day crunch of day job, with a garnish of must-sit-down-and-write-something-today. I’ve made it know that my next work will be abut a boy who derails a ghost train, so I guess I’d better start adding to the 2500 words I’ve completed so far, right?………


You’re going to be at the Perth Writers Festival, surely.

Well, I am, and if you’re in the right place at the right time, you’ll get to see me blether in front of a mostly-live audience! Here’s my itinerary:

Schools Day
Thursday 18 February
World Building
with Deb Fitzpatrick (chair) and Carole Wilkinson
Romeo Tent

Carole Wilkinson and Lee Battersby know how to bring the extraordinary to life. In this session these two unique storytellers discuss how they combine elements of magic and fantasy to create their characters and worlds.

Friday 19 February
Writing Matters
with AJ Betts (chair), Andy Griffiths and Carole Wilkinson
Ross Lecture Theatre

In this panel discussion, authors talk about the art and craft of writing, firing up the imagination, supporting emerging writers and working to create a writing culture in the classroom

Sunday 21 February
Tropical Garden

Magrit lives in an abandoned cemetery with her friend and advisor, Master Puppet, whom she built from bones and bits of graveyard junk. She is as forgotten as the tiny graveyard world that surrounds her. Join Lee Battersby as he shares his wondrous new tale about a girl, a graveyard, and an unexpected guest (ages 9-12)

We’ll also be building our own skeleton out of random objects collected from around the house, including cricket stumps, a pogo stick, a basketball, and any other mad falderal I can find in the next few days, so you know you want to be a part of that!

For those of you who aren’t yet unfamiliar with my upcoming book:
a) Where the hell have you been? Do you even read this blog? and

Other than these sessions, I’ll be wandering the grounds with a stupid grin and loud Lego shirt, so make sure you say hi, grab a snap or two with me, and help to exploderate my Instagram account with stupid selfies.



So, here’s some good news: thanks to a withdrawal, I’m a late invitee to appear at this year’s Perth Writers Festival!

I’ll be doing a world-building panel on the schools day on Thursday, before hanging out with AJ Betts, Carole Wilkinson and Andy Griffiths on ‘Writing Matters’ at 2.45pm on Friday, then arseing about by myself at a solo session in the Tropical Grove at 9am on the Sunday, where my ideas so far begin and end with “maybe I can throw a bucket of tennis balls at the kids”, so it’s bound to be fun……
I’ll be at the event for the entire weekend, so if you see me, come and say hi! 


It’s no secret to anyone who has me as their Facebook friend, but I’ve been suffering from a fair bit of darkness and despair recently. My writing has been non-existent. The editorial process for the children’s book now known as Magrit has been a bizarre combination of slow-slow-NOW. My day job has somehow managed to increase its level of complexity while my organisation continues to make it clear how little my field of work is valued. My days were packed from beginning to end with obligations rather than pleasures, my health was up the shit, and my general gloominess and blackness of mood was affecting my wife, my kids, and pretty much anything I touched. I’d fired my agent, and couldn’t face the long, hard road ahead to try and find someone to represent the Father Muerte novel. When a higher-paying job in my field dropped into my inbox a week ago– one whose time commitment and travel commitment would have meant the death of my writing career without any shadow of a doubt– I read through the job criteria and, even though it was beyond me, went ahead with writing the application.

For the first time in over a decade, I faced the idea of ending my writing career and not only accepted it, I didn’t give a damn.

This is usually the sort of point where Luscious sits me down and gives a damn good talking-to. Only, this time, she didn’t. What she did do, was tell me three things:

  1. If I really wanted this new job, I had to apply for it for me, not because I felt I had an obligation to provide for my family. I already earn a decent wage. We do all right. What the family want from me is my time, not more money. If I had developed ambitions in arts administration, that was fine, but I needed to pursue this job for my own satisfaction, not theirs.
  2. If I really wanted to give up writing, that was fine, too. As long as I was giving it up because it no longer made me happy. If my unhappiness was coming from my inability to write, then perhaps I needed to examine that.
  3. The Perth Writers Festival was on this weekend, and I’d already booked leave to attend it. Why not do so, and see how I felt. If I still wanted to give it all away, then she’d support me in whatever I wanted to do. But I’d set myself up to attend, I’d highlighted a number of panels I wanted to see, and I had enjoyed last year. Why not go, anyway, and see what happened?

My wife, as you might have surmised, is much wiser than me. She also has better legs.

Suitably reinforced with love and support, I made my way to UWA, home of the world’s most expensive toilet paper, for the three days of this year’s Perth Writers Festival.

$33 a roll might seem expensive, but keep in mind that each roll
comes with an almost unlimited supply of its own shit.

What I saw ignited my passion to write, but not in the way I had expected. I had hoped for an epiphany, or at the very least, a sign that passion and the creative drive that had once seemed so important to me was a living thing; had hoped to be surrounded by a conglomeration of fiery wordsmiths, consumed by the desire to create dancing words of joy, to preach like tent show revivalists to a tub-thumping, arm-waving crowd of screaming true believers. Or, at least, you know, a sign of fucking life. What I got was an endless procession of carefully-preserved, cautious, prim middle-class white people navigating a series of carefully stage-managed questions about their book and only their books, over and over and over and……

With two exceptions. Maxine Beneba Clarke and Ellen van Neerven are women of colour, and when they spoke at a panel on short stories (a panel I attended with Luscious and Doctor Stephen Dedman, 250+ short stories between us, there to see what we could be taught by… I don’t know. That’s what a festival does to you. It’s that or sit in the heat of the quadrangle drinking $5 bottles of water and listening to fatuous self-congratulation on the ABC radio) they were as well-coached and self-preservation obsessed as anybody else, except, EXCEPT: Maxine talked about culture, and cultural difference, and pointed out that no, the writing family isn’t one big, happy wonderful ball of love. Sometimes it’s fucking hard, and sometimes it’s fucking hard not to fit the facial template. A black woman, saying this, in yet another panel populated by the whitest, primmest people in the world. And after all the talk of legacy, and authorial reputation, and buy my book, make me special, this, from Ellen:

I don’t care about my legacy. I just want to make a difference to the here and now.

And if you think I was the only person relieved to hear someone not speaking from carefully cultivated self-interest, explain the round of fucking applause that burst out.

And then there was Omar. Omar Musa. Poet. Rapper. Novelist. Clearly Not From Here. Malaysian-Australian and very aware of what that means, especially in the arts. Omar swears. He reads in rap rhythms. He quotes the line from his novel, “I’m not here to fuck the white girl out of you” while the rest of his panel— whitey white girls all– freeze in such sudden “OMGOMG” handwaving panic that it’s all I can do not to bark in mad laughter. He’s full of fire, full of passion. He sets the tent ablaze, and suddenly it’s like I’ve been poked in the back of the neck, hard. Fuck. This is what it’s like. This is what I have, only somewhere along the way I’d forgotten I had it. Who cares about respect? Who cares about money? Who cares about spending an extra ninety minutes a fucking day on the train going to a job I don’t even want to do in a town I don’t give a shit about? Just like that, the job application dies in my thumb drive. I’d forgotten: I’m not an arts administrator who writes. I’m a writer with a day job. That’s not wordplay. It means something.

Jesus. Of all the things to forget. I’m not a panellist. I’m not someone who makes appearances. I’m not interested in your approval. I’m a fucking writer, and I say things that other people can’t say because they don’t have the words, or the courage, or the torpedoes to damn. By the time Omar, in answer to a typically bland and innocuous question about reaching out to the mainstream demographic, answers with the beautifully atomic bomb-like “Fuck the Average Joe. I’m not here to create art by referendum.” I don’t know whether to have his babies, get it tattooed on my chest, or just run screaming for the nearest laptop.

Jesus. All that time spent banging on about fucking the demographic, about drowning the washed-out, diluted, pissant shadows of Tolkein down the toilet where they belong. All that chest-beating about vision, and voice, and forcing them to read what I write and not the other way round, and I forgot it all.

And after that, two days of the Festival was like a fucking purgatory I had to wade through to get that message beaten right back to the rear of my eyeballs so I don’t damn well forget it ever again, as wave after wave of lily-white AM radio voices paraded before us to beg for our approval.

Day three of the festival was spent at home courtesy of day two of the festival. Writing.

I was lost, and now I’m fucking well back.


Last weekend, Luscious and I braved the overpowering heat and made our way to the Perth Writers Festival. Lionel Shriver, Lyn’s favourite author, was the keynote speaker for the Festival and amongst the honour roll was Margaret Drabble, another author much admired by the Luscious One. And me, well, I’m just a massive writing geek and can find panels to go to like a weasel sniffing out trouser legs.

Plus, of course, I was running a workshop on the Saturday, so I had an artist pass that got me into paid sessions for nada. Which was nice.

Our first call was the opening address by Lionel Shriver on Thursday night. I’ve yet to read any of Shriver’s work, but Lyn has read 9 of her 11 novels– and picked the other 2 up at the Festival– so I was looking forward to witnessing the sort of author that could get inside her skin so heavily. She was due to speak on her relationship with religion and the relative absence of it in her work– a hot topic in our household, and one with enormous potential for discomfort for Lyn, especially if her literary hero started to spout the sort of anti-religion rhetoric she finds so hurtful.

Which, of course, she proceeded to do.

I found the lecture intensely uncomfortable– a strange experience, given that I am the staunchly atheistic one in our relationship. Shriver was everything we had hoped she would be: intelligent, articulate, passionate, and — eventually– reasonable. But she took the long path to get to the point where her speech levelled out and she showed any sort of empathy to what she acknowledged might be as much as 84% of her audience, and in the meantime she was so supercilious and patronising to anybody who might not share her views that I found her genuinely unlikeable, despite agreeing with her sentiments. Turns out I can’t stand the sight of rabid zealotry, not even when I agree with it. By the time she softened her argument, I’d stopped caring. It’s not often I can find someone entertaining and disappointing at the same time, but there it is.

After an artists party that was notable mainly for catching up with the lovely Satima Flavell Neist and Meg McKinlay, and he rare occurrence of being gobsmacked into silence by a McKinlay bon mot– much to the undying amusement of the Luscious One– we returned on Friday for the panels we had earmarked as the potential highlights of the Festival. For Lyn, it was a chance to hear Margaret Drabble speak. For me, after a panel that was advertised as a discussion of real ‘spy fiction’ jobs but turned out to be a conversation between self-published types about self publishing, it was a panel on art theft by author, broadcaster and rare book dealer Rick Gekoski.

Art theft is a current fascination of mine– I’ve got a novel idea that refuses to sink back into the morass of story goo inside my head and keeps bubbling back to the surface– and Gekoski turned out to be an erudite, entertaining speaker, combining a deep knowledge of his subject with a fine line in pithy quips: asked for his opinion of the Elgin marbles controversy, he responded with a plan to extract a thank you from the Greek government for rescuing them, and to transport the Acropolis to London and reassemble it in Hyde Park. Notes were taken, plot points considered, and on the basis of the talk I scurried over to the Festival bookstore and got me two Gekoski books signed before meeting Lyn for lunch. You can check out my review of the first of them, Tolkein’s Gown and Other Stories of Famous Authors and Rare Books here.

Saturday began with my writing workshop on building believable fantasy worlds, Universal Law. With 18 eager students at my beck and call, including familiar faces in Meg Caddy, Anthony Philips and Richard O’Brien, I had a fabulous time delivering my usual dancing monkey-puppet act and forcing total strangers to write ‘My mother-in-law is so fat…” jokes and unicorn v narwhal death matches. There may have even been learning involved. Three hours on stage was just the tonic I needed– I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable in panels, and had really not enjoyed my last experience, where I felt trapped into skewering the work of a person I like while he sat in the audience too mortified to squirm. Performing on stage where I can control the time, the flow of information, and the interactions with the audience, has always been more enjoyable to me than the awkward collaboration of a panel, and this was a fun workshop indeed. Perhaps it’s a measure of my ego, but the older I get, the more I feel like sharing the stage with others results only in me pissing them off. If I’m going to piss people off, I want to mean it.

Another Gekoski panel beckoned for me in the early afternoon, this time in partnership with author Chris Womersley, and it was as entertaining as the first. Gekoski proved to be the highlight of the Festival for me. Highly intelligent, articulate, funny, erudite and principled, he was the perfect panellist, bringing a deft yet telling touch to all he discussed. And, of course, he was new to me, so had the advantage of novelty as well.

My final stop for the day was a panel on the future of graphic novels with the crew from Gestalt Comics, including my buddy Emily K Smith, and a number of digital comics storytellers, followed by a screening of Comic Book Heroes, the documentary on Gestalt that I had managed to completely miss when it aired on the ABC due to my lack of terrestrial TV. The debate was lively, the documentary made for compulsive viewing, and apart from telling the audience in no uncertain terms that gestalt are not looking for new authors at the moment– thus scuppering my dreams of adapting The Claws of Native Ghosts for them– I was able to introduce myself to publisher Wolfgang Bylsma and briefly discuss some day job exhibition possibilities.

Sunday was Family Day, and Lyn and Miss 12 declined to attend. Lyn had not enjoyed the Festival– she discusses her reasons briefly in this blog post– it had been fiendishly hot, too many of the panels were ticketed to make for affordable attendance, and too many of the free panels had been of the “buy my book” variety, leaving her isolated and bored; and Miss 12 simply wasn’t interested. That left Master 9 and me to wander the grounds. It was a day of tree climbing, digital car racing, face painting, ice creams and balloon animals, as much as day out at the Fete as attendance at a writing event. But it was just what Master 9, so often a prisoner to his illness, needed. A day in the sun, running around the beautiful gardens of UWA, viewing what he wanted when he wanted to, with the bonus of a signed book and the opportunity to create his own 8 page novel.

The Castle of Death by Connor Battersby. Because of course.

It was exactly what he needed. And the Festival was, in many ways, exactly what I needed. My long, slow, disengagement with SF continues, and the opportunity to view a multi-disciplinary event like the Festival from the inside has certainly gelled a number of nebulous desires for my career, as well as reminding me that what I enjoy from working within that environment is the illusion of expertise, and the opportunity to outlines my artistic philosophies without feeling like half the room is waiting for the chance to deride or argue. I’ve come away from it thankful for the opportunity and with a crystallised view of what lies ahead. In career terms, the experience has been golden. Whether I spend the entire three day weekend in attendance next year will very much depend on Luscious, who had a very different experience than me, and whether that continued exposure has career benefits.

I’m inclined to think it will.


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:

(Because *my* title of “Unicorn Physics” wasn’t catchy enough….)
10am – 1pm Sat 22 Feb 2014

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.