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partners. She was very out there with
Hearing her mother fucking was too
much for the teenager, but it was the
1970s and sexual boundaries were not
fashionable. Barbara Blackadder, well-
known writer for the radical feminist
magazine Girls Own, thought it was her
daughter 's problem.
Barbara died tragically young of cancer,
about seven years later.
Jesse's first novel, Motherland, written
in a three-week moment of inspiration
during a mentorship at the Varuna
Writers Centre, explored the family
Former Women's Press publisher,
Stephanie Dowrick, then working at
Allen and Unwin, snapped it up. "They
were the first publishers I sent it to, so I
thought, 'that was easy,'" laughs Jesse.
When Dowrick discovered the gripping
yarn was actually true, she instructed the
talented 30-year-old to consult her
significant others about the exposure. "It
was less than five years since my mother
died. My youngest brother was 12. I
didn't want to cause my family, my
mother 's girlfriend more pain. I decided
not to go ahead. I thought to myself, 'I
will just write another one.'"
But her next work, triggered by a
relationship with a bloke, did not make
the grade. "Mark helped me make peace
with men," she explains. "He was a very
gentle man but I wondered 'where does
my lesbian self get an airing?'"
She didn't finish the book. Instead she
got chronic fatigue and impulsively
moved from Sydney to Byron Bay where
she began After the Party, then called
Leap of Faith.
"I was very in love with Byron Bay. I
wanted to write about its joyful parts, the
struggle of keeping it precious versus
how it changes and develops. The
magical things as well as the crappy
things like all the Internet cafes. I want to
observe it in an open-hearted way."
Her kind love peppered with sharp
perceptiveness created an affectionate and
accurate picture of the new-age Mecca.
Still, publication eluded her.
Weeks after Blackadder's 40th birthday
party last year, her agent told her it was
the end of the road for the book. Despite
two years of writing and two years of
hard sell to every publisher in Australia,
no one was buying. Meanwhile, the
Byron Bay Writers Festival was in full
swing, celebrating the first novels of
Sarah Armstrong and Lee Redhead --
Blackadder's writing buddies.
"I had started reworking Motherland. I
thought I'd just polish it up and I would
have my next book. It was tough, but a
lesson in letting go that I was also
learning in my personal life. I had to stop
going back to things that didn't work. It
was time for a fresh start."
Most of us would consider this to mean a
job with sick leave and superannuation,
but not Blackadder.
"The next morning I started work on a
completely new novel." A month later,
her agent visited Byron Bay again, this
time with an offer for Leap of Faith
from prestigious publishers Hardie
Grant, sweetened with an unusually
But they wanted the name changed to
After the Party. "They also wanted me to
take out one of the minor lesbian
characters in the story, because she
wasn't central to the plot and there were
already a lot of characters," said Jesse.
"I agreed at first, but it meant losing a
whole chapter where one of the main
characters goes to a dyke bar for the first
time, and I really wanted to keep it, so I
ended up putting her back in after all."
Jesse Blackadder's integrity as a writer
shines in her work. After the Party is
clearly foreplay to a momentous future.e
The Byron Bay Writers Festival, August
" When she
came out at
not as much
fun as you
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