Friday, December 23, 2016


Well, my darlings, that's me for the year. I'm outta here, to spend the next 10 days in a drunken stupor relaxing with my family, my hobbies, my air-conditioning, and my platter of Christmas nibblies.

What do I plan in 2017? A return to writing, with a vengeance. 2016 was a lost year in too many ways, and the loss of my writing was amongst the most painful difficulties I went through. No more, I say.

The battle with my weight will continue. I lost-- and kept off-- several kilograms this year, but not as many as I'd hoped for, and after getting under 100kgs I slipped and have ended the year at about 105. A little bit of dedication is in order.

A little bit of dedication is in order in most things: one of the reasons 2016 became such a slippery slope of depression and difficulty was my own lack of internal fortitude. 2017 will be a return to my more manned-up self: there was a time I was a model of focus and determination. Time to get back to those days, methinks.

But, there's some positives, too: if you're of a mind, you'll be able to see me taking advantage of two wonderful opportunities throughout the year, on the back of the continued respect that Magrit is according me in my little corner of the industry.

In May, I'll be speaking, and running an all-day Masterclass, at the 2017 Asian Festival of Children's Content in Singapore. It's my first visit to the island nation, so I'll be combining my official duties with running round like some sort of insane, gaping tourist child, which means I'll be available for shenanigans and japery as well as dispensing my usual brand of hard-won wisdom, blasphemy and outright effrontery.

And closer to home, I've been recently announced as the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre's 2017 Established Writer in Residence. I'll be staying at the Centre for 2 weeks in July, working on a new project as well as mentoring, attending groups, and generally being available to be cool and wise and elder-statesmanly and the like. I'm yet to receive confirmation on the requirement for nakedness and loin cloths....

So here's to 2017: let it be the year we ride dragons and vanquish virgins! Wait.......


Back in the long-distant past, my best friend Seanie and I bought each other a second-hand book for Christmas each year, because we were skint and it was a fun way to do it. The idea was to find a book that the other party would never buy for himself, but open opening the gift would say "Oh, yes. perfect!"

When Luscious rejoined Christmas a couple of years back, we revived the tradition. It was a nice way to do something individual, and thoughtful, and bought into our mutual bibliophilia. Last year, we included Ms 15 and Master 12, and made it a Secret Santa.

And this year, we expanded, drawing in our adult children and their partners, and organising things so that each couple contributed something for our two grandchildren, so that they ended up with the biggest swag of all. I assigned a name to each family member. We stuck to a $20 limit. Every book had to be second hand, and conform to the gift-giving "perfect!" philosophy that Seanie and I set 25 years ago. 

Last night, we gathered at our house. I make a bucket of eggnog, Luscious made a bucket of macaroni cheese, everyone added to a bucket of chips and dip and nibblies and chocolate. And we settled in to receive our books. 

So here we are: three generations of Triffbatts, with our Secret Santa books. This is how traditions start.

Saturday, December 17, 2016


After delays, cancellations, and general faffing about, I finally received my birthday present yesterday.

I think it looks rather natty myself.

It's my first tattoo, at the age of 46, and as I can't afford a sports car, and I have no intention of having an affair with my secretary, this is about as mid-life crisisish as I'm likely to get. Of course, if you're going to permanently scar yourself, the image should have some meaning, and this is no different.

I've always been a huge fan of The Prisoner, the TV show from which the image and quote are taken. The show is a meditation in individuality, personal choice, and the right to privacy in a world where the compromises you make in order to survive threaten the very notion of your right to exist as a discrete being. After most of an adult life spent trying to balance some sort of artistic career with the soul-destroying conformity of various Governmental jobs, the quote speaks for itself: it's a reminder to me of the need to constantly assert my individuality in the face of overwhelming conformity. It's cost me a great deal over the years: happiness, job satisfaction, advancement, and stress. But it's the message that I cling to, because I'm more than another faceless bureaucrat, and my worth to the Universe is greater.

The penny farthing is, to me, a bumblebee: the least efficient, most nonsensical design for achieving its primary goal, but one that works outside of all logic and reason. It's the physical manifestation of a wonderful Doctor Who line, spoken many years ago by the Third Doctor-- A straight line may be the shortest distance between two points, but it is by no means the most interesting.

So, there we have it: thanks to my darling Luscious, the kids, and our good friends Kris and Kim, I'm a marked man. My physical nature is changed forever. And I'm rather pleased.

Sunday, December 11, 2016


Can anyone explain what the hell just happened? I mean, I know we had a year, and all, but what the actual fuck? Who gave 2016 red cordial and fizzy lifesavers the moment it woke up?

Anyway, if I can dodge the rain of dropping celebrities long enough, here's a quick attempt to sum up my year in a slightly longer form than just shouting "dumpster fire!" while pouring liquid lava up my orifices.

1. What did you do in 2016 that you'd never done before?

Had a children's book published. It's called Magrit, and if you've not heard me mention it before, it's doing quite well. I accepted an invitation to present at the 2017 Asian Festival of Children's Content in Singapore, the first time this writing gig has sent me overseas as the educator, rather than the student. And, though it hasn't been announced, I've been offered a 2-week residency in 2017-- again, the first time I've received one as a pro rather than emerging writer. Exhibited at the interstate Lego show Brickvention. Attended the Brisbane Writers Festival, and what's more, did it as an invited guest presenter. (Oh, and also sold out a Writers Festival. Baby.)

See what I mean? None of these were frigging goals. None. And yet, when you say them like that......

2. Did you achieve your goals for the year, and will you make more for next year?

 I didn't achieve a single one, but the shape of my year changed so prodigiously that they became irrelevant around about May and simply didn't appear on the radar after that. For 2017, we'll be setting some goals as a family and any personal goals I set will be in service to them.

Other than writing. Man, I have to get back to writing. 

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

My first-cousin-once-removed-in-law (she let's me call her Jessie) had her second. 

4. Did anyone close to you die?

My cousin Amanda took her own life in July. I've never been overly close to my cousins, but Amanda and I had reconnected over Facebook over the last 3 years or so, and had chatted happily enough. I didn't know it was coming, but then, isn't that the nature of such things?

And, of course, every single celebrity in the Western world died, including several who played important roles in my cultural upbringing, not least among them David Bowie, Prince, Gene Wilder, Muhammad Ali and Leonard Cohen. It was that kind of year.  

5. What countries did you visit?

Melbourne. Which, admittedly, is just a different part of Australia, but may as well be a different country. A different country filled with hipsters and deconstructed vegan air-fried health cafes on stilts. And late-night bookstores. And cool things. 

Also Brisbane, which is also not another country, but seems to be where I keep an awful lot of my friends, so it's nicer to call it that than a friendcloset. 

6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?

Adequate meds. 

7. What dates from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? 

27 February. The day Magrit was launched upon an unsuspecting, and somewhat distracted, world.
25 November. The last day of Lyn's degree. She's fought so hard, and overcome so much, for so long.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Honestly? Despite all the good things that happened, it might just be surviving the damn thing. 

Keen-eyed readers will notice I've said nothing about my day job. Keen-eyed readers would be right. While my writing world has had a lot of momentary ups (although no real, actual writing)-- and my family continue to be my strength, my support, and my happiness-- my professional life has been the kind of dumpster fire other dumpster fires dream of being when they grow up. The smoke is slowly clearing at the moment, but from October last year until a few weeks ago it was a spiralling descent into despair and depression that I genuinely saw no way to escape. It coloured every aspect of my life, killed my creativity, and came very close to derailing me permanently. 

Thankfully, some things have changed, some people have moved on, and I'm slowly clearing away the accretions, but 2016 will still be the year I look back on as the one where it all came crashing down and I had to claw my way back out of the rubble.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Not recognising the signs and looking for the exit sign.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

A vicious and hard-fought 12 round split decision victory over depression. 

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Our super-comfy bendy relaxation zone. Other people call it a recliner couch. I call it a horizontal puffy heavenpod.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

As always, my family amaze and inspire me.

Ms 15 glided her way to a report card that I might be able to equal if I cut up all of the report cards I ever received and glued the best bits back together again.

Luscious finished her University degree with a grade point average that resulted in her being invited to study (it seemed) every post-graduate course her University has ever offered, and saw her awarded a paid internship for the graduate diploma she'll be completing next year.

Master 12 fought and scratched and pushed his way past illness, extreme bullying, and an incompetent and weak school administration to make his way back into the school system and graduate primary school surrounded by school friends, teachers who backed him, and a school that understood his situation.

My bonus daughter Cassie stayed strong like a mother bear in the face of a toxic and dangerous partner, and managed to extricate herself and her children in such a way that her kids remained safe and protected the whole way through. The war continues, but she wins battle after battle, and her strength is amazing to watch.

And my nephew, who came out at age 15 with grace, dignity and maturity, secure in the knowledge that his identity is strong. He's a hell of a kid, and I'm proud of him. 

Honestly, as far as this family goes, I really am just the fat one who follows at the back and hope the cool kids let him hang out with them. 

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

Holy Jeebus, where do we start? 

The filth that make up the Government of this country. America: I mean, just all of them. If you don't know why, come back from space and pick up an internet. Vladimir Putin and the warmongering, evil, fascists who prop him up. The troglodyte State Government we suffer under, and their mindless slashing of arts finances and illegal acts on the Roe Highway extensions. Lionel Shriver, who came to Brisbane and betrayed the organisation she represented by spouting a tirade of such ignorance and racism that it still makes me angry and ashamed to be part of the same industry.

Also, a puppy shat on my lawn at some stage and never came back to pick it up. 

14. Where did most of your money go?

Credit card debt, mortgage refinancing, and as I made the mistake of letting Luscious come with me, Christmas decorations.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?


16. What song will always remind you of 2016?

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: i. happier or sadder? ii. thinner or fatter? iii. richer or poorer?

Definitely happier, all things considered, and more content. I'm thinner, just-- at one stage I did dip below 100kg, but I've wavered back up to 104kg at the moment, which is still better than the 112kg I was at my heaviest, so I'm calling it a small win. And, thanks to various refinancing efforts and redistribution of debt, the decision to move to smaller, lower-mortgage house is finally beginning to pay real dividends. which means that we may not be richer, but we're far more comfortable on a pay-to-pay basis.

Overall, it feels like we're in a good space, and ready to add the final pieces to make sure 2017 works its arse off for us.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Writing. Happiness.Making the most of my time away from the workplace.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Stress, depression, fear, worry. Fighting for the right of my family members to simply be. 

20. How will you spend Christmas?

Tradition is for us to wake up with the kids and do presents at breakfast, before the grandparents take them for the rest of the day to do big-family-gathering things, and Lyn and I settle in with a platter, some wine, and a few good movies. I see no reason to change this arrangement. 

21. Who did you meet for the first time?

About one hundred million billion jillion gazillion Queensland schoolkids. Several very cool writers including Carole Wilkinson, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, and the super-lovely Katherine Battersby, who I met when we checked into the Brisbane hotel at the same time and completely messed up the programming of the poor staff trying to check us in simultaneously.

Also, a whole bunch of very cool Lego people (IT'S A THING!), including the incomparable Shannon Sproule, Damien Saunders, and Paulius Stepanas, the last of whom helped me laugh my arse off through the most ridiculous game of Dirty Brickster I've ever witnessed

22. Did you fall in love in 2016?

Stayed in love. Guess with who. Go on. Guess.

Hint: she's graceful, and dignified, and looks like this:

23. What was your favourite TV program?

Longmire was excellent, right up to the point where it wasn't. That might say more about me than the show-- I have a low tolerance for serial TV, and get bored once I perceive the characters turning into templates of themselves or the plots beginning to waver away from a strong central theme. The Flash had a great first season and a slightly-less great second season. True Detective Season 2 was an odd come-down from the brilliant first season: not bad per se, but just.... less good, relying on some fantastic performances to keep it going, instead of fantastic performances over a scintillating plot.

Stranger Things was delightfully wonderful, packed tight with fantastic performances from a collection of young actors who absolutely nailed every aspect of every moment they were given. The plot was pure fantasy brilliance: by turn delightful, creepy, outright terrifying and emotionally gripping. It was a tour-de-force on every level.

But just pipping it, for me, was Netflix's let's-fuck-up-the-superhero-template-and-see-how-they-like-it Jessica Jones. Incredibly bleak, powerful, fraught, and unmissable. I was hooked from the beginning and had to carefully ration it lest I run out of season before I ran out of messed-up feels.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

I have a deep and dark dislike and mistrust of a work colleague who proved herself untrustworthy, malicious, and altogether the kind of person I would happily emigrate to avoid. Not outright hatred, but I'll be glad to tell her exactly what I think of her, in  minute detail, on the day I leave.

Outright hatred? Let's mention my daughter Cassie's former partner Ashley: an abusive coward who threatened the safety and welfare of her and their two children under the age of five. Room 101 is too good for him-- he should be expunged.

25. What was the best book you read?

I gave 5-star ratings to a couple of old masters this year: I revisited Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange for the first time in 20 years, and was blown away by it all over again; and Elmore Leonard's Fire in the Hole was more of his typical brutal brilliance.

I didn't read anything that was truly atrocious this year, largely because I stuck mainly to graphic novels. But Brian Michael Bendis' run on Guardians of the Galaxy was the last word in blandification, turning Dan Abnett's wonderfully screwy and charming collection of lunatics into just another pale B-Grade Avengers clone. 

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?

It was a good year for music. A whole bunch of songs found their way down the tube to the iTunes account. Leonard Cohen's You Want it Darker and Nevermind were stunning, as was Montaigne's Clip My Wings. Bowie's final album produced three songs I keep coming back to: Blackstar, Lazarus and 'Tis Pity She's a Whore. Say My Name by Peking Duk. Jen Cloher's cover of The Slits' Typical Girls. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard's wonderfully odd People Vultures.

But my number 1 pick, when Hottest 100 time comes around, is Illy's joyful Catch 22. I'm not the hugest hip-hop fan, but this balances all the right components perfectly. It's tuneful, catchy, with a great turn of phrase, and compulsively singable. It is, quite simply,  my favourite song of the year.

27. What was your favourite film of this year?

It was a wonderful year for movies, or maybe I just didn't have the money to fling on too many outrageous dogs.

Honestly, three weeks ago, when I watched Doctor Strange twice within 24 hours, I'd have said it was the most enjoyable film of the year by the length of the straight, At the time of writing, having watched Arrival last night, for the second time in just over a week, I'd say toss a coin. Either or. Or, to quote Chris Hemsworth's hilarious Kevin from first runner-up and Fuck-You-Whiny-Fanboy delight, Ghostbusters: Potato, tomato.

Doctor Strange. Arrival. Go watch Ghostbusters, too.  Whichever one, I don't care. You'll thank me.

And this year, I'm adding a new award to my filmic list. The Those Who Can Do-y Award, which I'm awarding to the much-maligned Suicide Squad. It might be because I've been a fan of the Squad since I was knee high to something that isn't quite knee high, but damn it, I bloody well enjoyed this movie, despite every critic in Christendom parping on about what a despicable piece of shite it was. Well I enjoyed it, and I pre-ordered it on Blu-Ray, and I enjoyed the extended cut even more than the theatrical cut, and I'm giving it an award, so fuck you, headless ghost of Roger Ebert!

I may be working through a few issues at the moment.

The Shut Up And Die Already Will Ferrell Award for 2016? I can't remember if I saw the terminally tedious and overblown snoozefest The Martian this year or last: either way, I'd rather get the 19 hours I spent watching the damned thing back than talk about it, so I'm giving a great big bear trap to the filmic gonads of Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice. Not even naming this film's mother Martha would have made me like it. And if you get that gag, you know.

You. Just. Know.

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

46, and I worked. Yay. But Lyn did make me my favourite meal, and I was showered in money for a most unusual present-- my very first tattoo, which I'll be having inked next week-- by friends and family, so it was pretty symptomatic of my year: not the way I expected it to go down, but pretty bloody good nonetheless.

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Financial independence.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?


31. What kept you sane?

Lyn. Always Lyn.

32. What political issue stirred you the most?

Heh. Heheheheheheheheheh....... Whadda ya got?

American elections. Australian elections. The rise of fascism (Fuck you with your 'alt-right'. If it marches like a Nazi, and salutes like a Nazi...) in my own country and across the Western world. The Henna Nazi's return to the Australian senate like some zombie boil that refuses to be lanced. The destruction of arts funding in Australia. The rise and rise of Donnie Drumpf. Having to listen to that freaky little piss-stain Malcolm Roberts talk. Ever. The climate of fear, bigotry and outright terror that friends, peers, and people I admire are living through simply because they do not conform to the outdated and ignorant world view of people who wear suits on Sunday or tie a flag around their shoulders like a cape when they get pissed on National Nationalism Day of Your Choice.

Take your goddamn pick.

33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016.

Change is inevitable. The rate of change should be in my hands, and nobody else's.

34. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

They're lining up the prisoners
And the guards are taking aim
I struggled with some demons
They were middle class and tame
I didn't know I had permission to murder and to maim.

      -- You Want It Darker, Leonard Cohen.

Monday, September 26, 2016


It's almost upon us again: Saturday 8 and 9 October marks the third annual -- and my second appearance at -- Bricktober, Perth's premier Lego display and exhibition.

The Blue Meanie. One of the ships I'll be displaying.

Who doesn't love the Classics?

This year, I'll be part of two displays-- my own, individual display is a six-foot long depiction of a spaceship race, with nine large ships racing across a rocky moon surface; and I've organised a group exhibit in the building style known as Micropolis, where everything is at a scale of one stud per three feet: in short, everything is teeeeeeensy tiny. 

The baseplates for my spaceship display,
set against the bloated corpse of a beach whale
for comparison.

Micropolis. Where trees are trees, and
fire trucks are adoooorable.

Roooaaarrrr. I is tewwifying!

Bricktober takes place at the Canning Showgrounds from 9am-4.30pm, 8 and 9 October. Apart from 2 halls of displays by 40 exhibitors, there are Build-In-The Bag, Rapid MOC and Speed Build competitions; a brick pit for free play; stop-motion brick films; Lego vehicles to drive; costumed characters; and a host of other activities.

The Silas Greenback.

The Toadstool.

You can pre-book tickets for timed entry slots online. Tickets are $8.30 each, or $26.20 for a family of four: a plate of Chinese and a drink would cost more. Full details can be found on the Bricktober website, or visit the Facebook page.

Comin' at ya this October.

Monday, September 19, 2016


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. 

Monday, August 29, 2016


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.


Bricktober is six weeks away, and I'm slowly getting my act in place and piecing together my display for this year.

Will it be big? What do you think? (Hint: I'm 5ft 10)

This year's promising to be even bigger and better than 2015, so come on down to the Canning Showground and have a fun day for the price of... well, something not very expensive at all.

You'll find all the details under the poster:


Last week, Luscious, the kids, and I met up with our good friends Kris and Kim, and moseyed on up to the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre for their spooky night of ghost stories. Lyn and I had entered stories in their ghost competition, and had been informed that we had both been shortlisted and would we like to come along and read? Of course we would. The KSP is one of the loveliest and most atmospheric Writers Centres I've ever seen, and it's always a real pleasure to head up there. So we hooked up with Kris and Kim for dinner in Midland, paused to let Master 11 get into costume (prizes for dress-ups!), and toddled off, stories in hand.

Master 11 takes his zombies seriously. 

And, well, we did all right. A prize for Master 11 for his zombification, the announcement of Luscious' brilliant story Cross Words as the second prize winning story, and then -- after clearing the room of under 18s and telling everyone that the organisers had been forced to refine the running order of the evening specifically because of the graphic nature of the winning story-- my own tale, The House of Jack's Girls, a lyrical little thing about men bringing their sons to a haunted brothel specifically to have sex with Jack the Ripper's victims, was announced as the 1st prize winner.

Lyn silenced the room with her reading of her tragic and powerful story.

A good night for the ego, and a good night for the sense of fun. KSP organiser Tabetha was overwhelmed by the sheer weight of attendees, so here's hoping it makes a reappearance again next year. You can read all about the night, including judge's reports, from the KSP perspective here.

Not a bad night's work......

Friday, August 19, 2016


Tomorrow night, Luscious and I will be up at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre, scoffing curry puffs and drinking hot chocolate -- and incidentally, reading fresh new works -- as part of the KSP's Spooky Stories Night. It's a fundraiser for the KSPs residency program, and both Lyn and I have been shortlisted in their ghost story competition. I'll be reading my entry, The House of Jack's Girls, and I will say that it's one of the harder-edged horror stories I've written in a little while: if you've fond memories of my Aurealis-award winner Pater Familias from a few years back, well, it's in that sort of territory-- the kids will be sent to another room while I'm reading....

Winners of the competition will be announced, there' a dress-up competition, warm food, marshmallows for toasting over a fire, and if you've got a scary story to tell, a chance to scare the bejeebus out of everyone in the best possible setting.

Tickets are cheap as chips, and it's shaping up to be a fun old night, so come on down. You can find more details here.

Monday, August 01, 2016


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 (tm) 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.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016


It's not always about the writing, you know.

This Sunday, I'll be staffing a table at the annual AMRA Model Train Show at the Claremont Showgrounds. No, I haven't added model trains to my list of hobbies that wouldn't get me kissed by a girl if I was single. Rather, I'm volunteering on behalf of Bricktober, the Lego show I participate in each October, who have a display table at the event for the first time.

Normally, I head down there to see the display by the WA Brick Society, which I have a habit of reporting on each year, but this time, I'll be making with the niceness and the being nice shtick, nicely. Which is why I'm only doing one day instead of the whole three, because come on: who can keep that up for a whole three days?

So come on down, have a gander at the amazing displays on offer-- and even as a non-train-lover, they are amazing-- and say hi to the Bricktober table while you're down there!

Sunday, May 15, 2016


Spent last night watching the dramatised documentary Trumbo, which is based, to a large extent, upon letters written by Dalton Trumbo during the period of his blacklisting. One thing that really shone through was just how literate, wide-ranging and incisive those letters were, and it got me thinking: letters are verging upon being a dead art form, now. They've been replaced by emails, and to a certain extent, weblogs. We've replaced lyricism with functionality.

As for blogging, it's a form I've never used as a true record of my thoughts: I've dabbled with it, been flippant and irregular. As a journal-- as a snapshot of my thoughts, attitudes, and experiences-- it's not been up to scratch for a rather long time.

So, here's a chance to change that. Post a subject below that you'd like to see me discuss, address, or just generally rant about. Once a week, until the subjects run out, I'll dedicate a blog entry to it. I won't lie, or prevaricate, or treat it lightly. I'll give you utter and unalloyed honesty and truth.

What would you like me to talk about?


Thanks to the lovely Kylie Ding, here's the full text of The Times' review of Magrit.

It's as spoileriffic as all buggery, but how's about that last line?

Saturday, May 14, 2016


Maybe it's the English-Boy upbringing, but there are some images and icons that stand above others as some sort of acknowledgment of hasn't-he-done-well?-ishness.

Running out onto Wembley for the FA Cup final.
Playing the London Palladium.
Doing Hamlet at the Globe.
Appearing in The Times.

The Freaking TIMES.

You know, say, like this:

The Times Children's Book of the Week: Magrit, by Lee Battersby.

The Times, people! The freaking TIMES!

Okay, the majority of the review is hidden by a paywall, but I think the bit you can read gives a fairly decent accounting of what they think of the book.

Did I mention the freaking TIMES? LIKES MY BOOK!


The Times.