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Postcards from Byron series

This week’s Postcard from Byron comes with some sad news.

Many of you would know our much loved board member and local author Jesse Blackadder – a brilliant presence at every August Festival. It is with much grief that we let you know that Jesse died on 10 June following a brave battle with cancer. 

Jesse leaves an extraordinary legacy not the least of which is the wonderful StoryBoard program which has inspired so many young people to read and write. Jesse emanated joy and drew out the beauty and potential in everyone she met. We will miss her dearly.

This week, we are featuring a postcard and podcast conversation with two of her closest friends, fellow local authors Sarah Armstrong and Hayley Katzen; we have invited them to share a few words about Jesse here. 

Our love goes to her partner Andi and all who loved Jesse.

The Board and staff of Byron Writers Festival

 

A message from Sarah and Hayley

Jesse was loved by so many from all over the world and all walks of life, from her days working for Landcare, her travels, her teaching, and of course from Australia’s writing and publishing community.

We can see Jesse spotting the phosphorescence on a Byron beach, taking the polar plunge in Antarctica, gazing at wild brumbies in the outback and wandering the ruins of Blackadder Castle in Scotland. So many adventures and each she brought home to us in her beautiful books: After The PartyThe Raven’s HeartChasing the LightSixty Seconds and for younger readers: Dexter: The Courageous Koala, Stay: The Last Dog in Antarctica, Paraku: The Desert Brumby, and with Laura Bloom – Dream Riders: Frankie and Dream Riders: Storm.

Our friendship with Jesse had the particular intimacy that comes with a writing friendship. We were in a writing group with Jesse for many, many years and over countless cups of tea, we walked each other through our writing and life experiences. We read each other’s work, brainstormed plots, titles and back cover blurbs, commiserated and celebrated. Apart from her wit and wisdom, one of Jesse’s great gifts – and we know we are not alone in experiencing this – was an unwavering belief in other’s writing and delight in their publication. 

Jesse was thrilled by the recent publication of Hayley’s memoir Untethered – and in her last days, Jesse’s partner, Andi, read Untethered out loud to her. Jesse had hoped to interview Hayley at the Byron Writers Festival this year. Instead, we are in conversation here about Hayley’s memoir.

 

Postcard from Hayley Katzen

Hello to you all from the bush, 

Where the barbs of the brand new boundary fences are all aglitter as I climb the rocky hill. Fresh neon green leaves are cascading from grass trees and branches are sprouting willy-nilly from trunks that are still charcoaled from the October fires. 

I’m preoccupied with recovery, with timing – and with boundaries.

For all these years the landscape and work of this cattle farm have shaped my thoughts and feelings. For all these years I’ve railed against the isolation of rural life. Now, during iso, I feel so accompanied. You’re all living as we do and with the launch of my memoir Untethered connections are zooming in to the farm. 

How odd is this timing: we’re building new fences just as my memoir sends my internal landscape far and wide.

Idioms sing alongside my steps: what’s beyond the bounds, the setting of boundaries, the fences that are good for neighbours or restrain us.

Fifteen years ago I watched the house we’d pegged out change shape, growing as we hammered stumps and joists into place, shrinking when the stud walls rose. This boundary fence now also seems a shape-shifter. Every day I’ve walked a similar pathway through the bush but this new line, stretching for kilometres and free of thigh-high snaky grass, has carved out a new safe route. Borders. They circumscribe and contain – and invite us to change inside and out. 

I hope some good changes come for our planet and for you!

 

About Hayley Katzen

Hayley Katzen has worked in public law reform, written and produced a play shown at Byron Community Centre Theatre, and published essays and short stories in Australian, American and Asian journals and anthologies. Untethered is her debut memoir and is available from The Book Room at Byron here. Read more about Katzen here.

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