GETTING MY FESTIVAL ON!

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

GOT ME A FESTIVAL

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?


NUMBER THREE, BABY!

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 😦

AN ASIDE ON THE SUBJECT OF LIONEL SHRIVER

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. 

BRISBANE WRITERS FESTIVAL

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
9.45am
Wednesday 7 September
Online
2.00pm
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
9.45am
Thursday 8 September
Maiwar Green, State Library of Queensland
11.00am
Friday 9 September
Goma Cinema A, State Library of Queensland
12.45pm
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
10am
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
3pm
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 AWAY

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.

MAGRIT GOT REAL

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?………

LDB AT PWF

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
11:15am-12pm
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
2:45pm-3:45pm
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
9am-9:40am
Magrit
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
b) HERE! THE BOOK IS HERE! RIGHT HERE. WALKER BOOKS! HERE!

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.

BRING. IT. AWWWWWWNNNNNNN!

PERTH WRITERS FESTIVAL, HERE WE COME!

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!