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“I’m Jesse Blackadder and I’m going to read from my novel The Raven’s Heart which was published in 2011.
We come across the North Sea, bearing the face of heaven in our hold.
A fleet of ships brings such a treasure, our galley speeding ahead and the rest following slowly with her horses and fineries, her tapestries and clothes. She returns from thirteen years in the French court to take up the reins of power.
Does she remember that she returns to a city of stone? Stone is too old to care what human hands press against it, what blood spills in its crevices. Even the palace, with its French architecture, is made of stone, and looming above it, Edinburgh Castle hewn from the cliff so that none may attack it and none may escape. She sails to a stone city, an icy country and a cold people.
As we draw close to the coast, heavy fog envelopes us. Bass Rock materialises through the mist like something enchanted, its sides steep and forbidding, and the gulls scream and wrack and sweep around it in circles. The sea is brown and heaving, the outpour of the Firth River is a scum of Edinburgh’s rot slapping at the side of the boat. She waits on deck to set eyes on the land, but it stubbornly refuses to reveal itself through the mist. It is not a forgiving country and she has been gone since she was five.
August nineteenth, five of the morning and the ship lies becalmed in the mist. All I can hear is the sound of the gulls and Lord Bothwell calling orders to trim this sail, haul in that rope, edge the wheel around to catch whatever hint of breeze will come. Bothwell’s voice calling on the winds to bring our Queen home as charged.”
ABOUT JESSE BLACKADDER:
JESSE BLACKADDER really was born with that surname. When she finally had enough of people asking if she was related to Rowan Atkinson, she travelled to Scotland to find the origins of her name. Her resulting novel The Raven’s Heart (4th Estate, 2011) won the Varuna HarperCollins Manuscript Development Award in 2009. Jesse’s first novel After the Party (Hardie Grant 2005) made the Australian Book Review list of favourite Australian novels in 2010. She is working on a novel about the first woman to reach Antarctica and was awarded the 2011/12 Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship to travel there.
“My first Varuna fellowship dates back to pre-Peter Bishop days, in 1992, when I spent three weeks at Varuna writing my first novel and falling in love with the place. I’ve been back several times as a paying guest and had a Litlink fellowship in 2007. I was a winner of the Varuna HarperCollins Manuscript Development Award in 2009, which involved a ten day fellowship working with a HarperCollins editor, and in 2011 I spent a week at Varuna as part of the Blue Mountains program of the Sydney Writers’ Festival. Varuna has been part of my writing life from baby steps through to publication.” Jesse Blackadder
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