Thursday, July 27, 2017


I spent a long time working for the Tax Office. A long time. 
Possibly a day too long.
"He says it actually did buy him happiness, but now he just leases happiness back to himself through a wholly-owned subsidiary at a net loss and negative gears it to maximise the tax benefits."

Friday, July 21, 2017


Last week, I touched upon five people who have had a direct impact upon turning points in my career. This week, I thought it would be interesting to consider another five people who have had an impact: not on specific turning points, this time, but in a more general sense.

Here, then, are five people who are in my writing karass not because they intruded at a specific time or place, but because they diverted the course of my river gently, or persistently, or in ways that cannot be singularly identified.

Five for Friday: A Karass of Career Twists

Thursday, July 20, 2017


This one's more whimsical than funny, but I quite like it. After inheriting three teenagers, and growing one naturally (with one more to come), this thumbnail, done during my child-free years, feels rather prescient. 
Honestly, if I never have to remind another human being that they have to brush their teeth ever again......
Dr Jones-- Psychiatrist
"Crosses, garlic, running water... although we can't tell if the last one
is because he's a vampire or just because he's a teenager...

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


Just a quick reminder that the KSP Christmas in July Literary Dinner, featuring readings by me, is on tonight. More details, including booking information, at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre webpage.

Also, don't forget tomorrow night when, just like Billy Connolly or Ronnie Corbett, I have an Evening With!
An Evening with Lee Battersby takes place at Mundaring Library, and will feature me talking about writing as abstract art, the fearlessness of children readers, and possibly dishing out a little of Magrit or Ghost Tracks to prove my point. You can see more details on the Mundaring Library website or book through Eventbrite.

No stranger to a stage, me.

Monday, July 17, 2017


Well, I missed posting last night, because I was out gorging myself on a brilliant Indian dinner at a restaurant with the 2017 KSP Fellows and Residents Group-- the life of a writer is a hard and dismal one, no?-- so I missed posting an update.


They let me out in public, in the company of nice people. It's like they don't even know me.

Needless to say, I'm pushing on, and rediscovering some long-unused writing muscles into the bargain.

I've mentioned before that my day job has a habit of eating my life: it's high-stress, can require me to work extended hours and extended weeks (I have, in the past, worked 21-day weeks), and generally dominates so much of my time and thinking that personal tasks, hobbies, and sometimes the simply act of being just me (as opposed to the team leader, the City representative, the community punching bag...) gets discarded and forgotten.

This goes doubly for writing. By the time I've worked a long day, de-stressed, spent time with my family, and contributed my share to the domestic tasks required just to keep a family of four on the go, I'm in no shape to write. Or if I am, it is simply a damn sight easier to put it down when I reach a problem point than it is to subject myself to working at the task-- if writing isn't a joy, why am I doing it when I have such a short window for joy each day in the first place? As a result, I've slowly become a flabby writer, a lazy writer, a writer who would much rather be doing anything else than working out my skills and maintaining my authorial muscle tone.

Here, I don't have that luxury. I'm here solely for the purpose of writing, and rediscovering a sense of graft and discipline has been a priority.

These last couple of days, I've reached the end of my plot vision-- that small section of narrative that I can see beyond where I stand each morning-- where Ghost Tracks is concerned. The words have not flowed as easily, because I haven't had a clear vision of where they are heading, and I've lost trust in my ability to wing my forward and make everything work. I've had to sharpen my critical faculties, so that I could provide a mentoring session to an aspiring author and give meaningful and useful advice and critique.  And I've finished the one short story I had set up, and am having to rediscover how to crash research into a short period of time so that I can get back to the desk and get a word count down.

These are skills I'd let slip, and have had to push myself to rediscover. I've managed to maintain my self-appointed target of 2000 Ghost Tracks words, taking the overall total past 28,000, but it's been hard, and rewarding for that hardness.

I have a tendency to view myself, as a writer, the same way I viewed working as an improvisational comedian: spontaneously drawing upon my creativity and instinctively dipping into a well of material and references quickly enough to skate across any surface. What I had forgotten is that such an approach requires the most stringent, through, and extended preparation: what you see when I fling words out effortlessly is the quick flash of the moment, but it's the two decades of discipline and training that you don't see that enables me to do it.

It's the discipline and training I've let slip.

So this past week has been good for me. I've been forced to work, and then work beyond where lazy habit has taken me. And I have no excuses, no reason to turn away when things get difficult. I am serving an obligation, one I gave to the Centre, and to Luscious, and to myself: to be a writer, in the most professional, productive sense of the word. I'm in fight camp, and it's fantastic.

The next trick, of course, will be to maintain this discipline when I get back to the World, and that self-same stressful job that lurks just beyond next weekend with its smile full of sharp teeth. But for now the writing is the right type of work, the kind where you know the pain in your muscles is because you're building muscle mass, and you're going to come out of it the other side lean, and hard, and buff as fuck.


Id vuzz a dahk und stormeh nahht....


I could just watch this over, and over. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017


Anybody who thinks numbers aren't beautiful has never been a writer. As much as I have a love of mathematics (much like I have a love of boxing: I'm not much cop at anything beyond the basics, but by God, I love what the form can do), it's the rise in pure numbers that gets my authorial mind smiling.

Let me show you. As of the close of business today:
  • 6700 words on Ghost Tracks, taking the text from 17,500 to a shade over 24,100.
  • 3000 words on Song of the Water, equalling 1 complete short story, taking the proposed collection to, in a beautiful piece of symmetry, a shade over 24,100.
  • 300 words on The Ballad of Arthur Williams.
Equalling 10,000 words since I arrived here.

See? Isn't lovely? Doesn't that make you smile? Because it make me grin like a freaking loon.

The other thing that made me smile like a loon today was my family deciding I needed to be taken out for dinner, and driving all the way here to pick me up and take me out. I'm loving this small taste of the life I want to live-- writing full-time; advancing projects on a daily basis; drinking up the solitary, reflective life of an artist-- but it means nothing without the love and support of those I love, and I've been missing them terribly. Everything I do, everything I sacrifice, everything I undertake: without them, it's ashes.

It's a small thing: a meal together, some laughs and togetherness. But it gives me the motivation to keep going and do them proud.


They followed me home. Can I keep them?

Friday, July 14, 2017


A simple day, today. After the social butterflying and story completion of yesterday, it was time for a return to the word mines, and an attempt to get some serious traction on Ghost Tracks.

Having spent the last 4 days staring out at the same view, I decided to pack up my computer and head into the nearby town of Midland to write, just for the change of scenery. It worked: I managed 2500 words, and shaped up the next part of the narrative, so that the next day or two of writing should come as easily as today's.

That represents an important turning point for me: I'm not a plotter, which means that I rarely have more than a general sense of where I'm going in the short term. I usually know where I want to end up-- I have the ending of this novel all sewn up, for example-- but the details of the journey are often only discovered very shortly before the characters find out. In loose terms, my writing comes to me in three stages:
  1. The big picture: I've got a story to tell. I know how it begins ( A boy derails a ghost train, and has to travel to the ghost world to make amends). I know how it ends (Oh, it's so good. It's so great. You didn't think I'd actually tell you here, did you? ;)  ). I know the overarching reason behind the narrative (There's this [REDACTED] named [REDACTED] , and s/he wants to [REDACTED] by[REDACTED] a  [REDACTED]). And that's pretty much it.                                                                    
  2. The lilypads: like a frog trying to cross the Great Lakes, I know where I'm sitting. I can see maybe one, maybe two actions ahead. I know the lake is freaking enormous. I'm trusting that there are enough lilypads to get me across. before this morning, I'd written roughly a third of the novel. Paul, my protagonist, and Aoife, his sidekick, had escaped the first major set piece of the story, and had reached a surprise location. I know I want them to reach a completely different location by the time the novel turns towards the climax. How they get there, not so much.                                                                                                                                                 
  3. The details: all the fun bits to write, like dialogue, and new characters, and the bricks that make the wall that make the tower. Two days ago, did I know there would be a monster? And a family of abandoned children who lived in a cubby house they'd built from their memories? And that the monster would prove to be not a monster at all, but possibly the biggest victim in the whole book? Nope, nope, and uh-uh. But this is the fun thing, for me: the discoveries I make along the way. the surprises and magical moments where my subconscious tape me on the shoulder, and says "Hey, Rocky..." 

And as we all know, the fun lies in the fact that it's never a rabbit. 

Yesterday, one of my junior interrogators asked me whether I wrote books so that I could read exactly the kinds of books I wanted to read. And the answer is yes, because I experience the excitement and wonder that a reader does, at pretty much exactly the same time. If I planned everything out, I'd already know, and what would be the point of writing it out?

Today was a good day, with excitement, and danger, and really cool things. Tomorrow? Who knows? But half the fun is getting there.


As much as I'm a died-in-blood-on-the-wool-of-the-lamb-that-lay-down-with-the-lion atheist, I've always had a bit of a leaning towards the fictional cult of Bokononism that Kurt Vonnegut espoused in my favourite of his novels, Cat's Cradle. It's a harmless creed of self-gratification, based around the tenet that you should believe the lies that make you happiest, and discard those fabricated, societal lies-- say, for example, family, government, or honour-- that cause you misery or harm.

My birth family imploded badly during the 1980s -- and my own growth has shown me what a flawed, deeply unhappy accidental grouping it was -- so the novel struck a cord when I first read it. Of particular attraction, and something I've held to ever since, was the notion of the karass-- a group of people linked by common affect or circumstance, for good or ill, even if they do not know it. The girl to whom I lost my virginity: part of my karass. The doctor who killed my first wife: likewise. The teacher who first noted my talent for writing and helped turn me away from the military and towards a life in the arts: you get the idea.

It is not the link forged by societal expectation that counts. It is the link forged by the effect upon my journey that is the strongest.

So what does all this post-pop-psychology-posturing have to do with anything?

One of the main tasks associated with my current KSP writing residency is to provide a mentoring session to an aspiring artist. I don't mentor as often as I used to. As I get older and my career gets more complicated, I find myself less and less sure about what I have to offer others, outside of straight writing advice. I'm less of an example, and more of an example of mistakes to avoid......
However, it does strike me as a timely opportunity to acknowledge five people who have provided important turning points in my career. Whether they know it or not, and whether they want it or not, they are-- inextricably-- members of my writing karass

Five for Friday: Members of my Writing Karass.

Thursday, July 13, 2017


It was a day of achievement today: after kissing Luscious goodbye (there are advantages to undertaking a residency within driving distance of home- a visit from your wonderful wife is one of them), I embarked upon my first engagement of the fortnight-- a forty-five minute interview by the participants of the KSP Press Club, led by my old pal and fellow author Melinda Tognini.

Press Club table.jpg
My press desk. How cool is that?

For an hour I was grilled by a merciless team of flint-eyed investigate reporters about my literary influences, whether ideas drawn from real life or fiction are more worthy, and exactly which iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy was my favourite (What can I say? Two comic book geeks in a room: we bonded...)

Press Club.jpg

Don't let those adorable smiles fool you. Gimlet-eyed journalistic assassins, one and all!

One of my greatest joys as a writer is working with kids-- with so many other, easier forms of entertainment available to them, you know that any kids who takes the time and effort to become involved in literature is there because s/he absolutely loves the stuff. That passion is palpable, and the questions and interests they reveal are usually fearless, and incredibly insightful. This was no different, and in the end, I had to be gently reminded that everybody had other things to get on with today, or I'd still be there, now.  And still comparing Yondu Udonta to Charlie 27, and explaining how chicken's eyes work. It was that kind of session...

Once I'd reluctantly retreated to my cabin, I turned my attention to Song of the Water. There's a point in every story where you can feel that the narrative has reached the final turn, and is beginning to sniff out the end. I hit that point with this story late yesterday, and was able to bring it in to a conclusion at a slice over 3000 words. It was my only writing of the day, so to be able to conclude something was reward for not moving on to more Ghost Tracks words. Tomorrow. In the meantime, there was just enough time to get the first words down on the next story, and a character I've been fascinated with for years.


From pages recovered from a fire in the office of Colonel Bull, Governor, Melbourne Gaol, 24 May 1892.

They called me mad, and I called me mad, and damn us, we were all correct.

The Ballad of Albert Williams will focus on the compelling Frederick Bailey Deeming. One day I will write a biography of the man, but for now, tomorrow will involve furthering the action of Ghost Tracks, and diving into my research materials to thread out the narrative of this alluring lunatic.
Until then, a completed story means beery reward and boxing videos: time for me to explore the career of The Prince, Naseem Hamed.



Okay, so they're storming the castle, and the defenders are pouring hot.... oil?.... and there's a drunk guy.... and he wants a cold.... oil?......
You know, sometimes, I look back at these scratchings made ten or more years ago, and I think "Wow, I could have made something of myself, if I'd just pushed at it. I can see where it all could have fit together." And sometimes, well...... this.
No. I have no idea what I was thinking. I really, really don't.

" 'Ave you got a cold one?"

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Day three of my residency, and apart from taking my work past a couple of notable milestones-- Song of the Water passing 2000 words and Ghost Tracks cresting 20,000-- today was notable for the appearance of a surprise guest.

There's long been a rumour of a ghost here at the Centre, and sitting alone in a perfectly silent chalet in the depths of the rolling gardens is a perfect situation for a lonely ghost to come silently through the walls and hang in the space between the door and the desk, staring through you into the depths of a million alternative realities.

Still, ghosts are utter bollocks that are only believed by tiny children and the utterly gullible, so it was a lovely surprise when Luscious rang me and asked if I fancied meeting up for lunch.

I might be up here by myself, but she is also flying solo this week, as the kids are at their grandmother's for the last week of the school holidays. She's happily having some me-time to get through some writing tasks, engage in some much-deserved self-indulgence, and generally make the most of some time to focus on herself rather than the needs of a noisy, scattermatter family. So lunch it was, and what are two authors with an afternoon and a writing chalet to do but spend the time writing? So, it was a dual effort this afternoon, resulting in my milestones and a couple of thousand words for Luscious on her new novel project.

Lyn chalet

The not-ghost of Luscious gets comfortable and writerly.

In other news, the details of my evening talk at Mundijong Library have finally been made public. Under the subtle title of An Evening with Lee Battersby, you can join me at the library next Wednesday, 19 July, from 5.45pm, as I discuss writing as abstract art, the fearlessness of children readers, and any other odd and humorous concept that enters my empty head on the night.

It's free, and includes light refreshments, and you can register here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


My first full day of Residency, and it was important to set in place a routine that I can follow for my full time here. To that end, I started by being woken up at 2.30am: Greenmount may be idyllic, but it is also right under the departing flight path for Perth airport, and the planes are only a few hundred metres overhead and working hard to climb. Back in the day, I lived in Huntingdale, which is under the approach path-- I got used to the sound of aircraft overhead, but that habit has not yet reasserted itself.

First act upon finally leaving my warm and comfortable bed-- experienced traveller me had bought an extra pillow from home and a sleeping bag to spread over my duvet, so no shivering in the sub-zero temperatures of a Hills night pour moi-- was to get out and walk. I'm old and I'm fat, but I've always been active: a forty-five minute walk through the hills is perfect for energising me ready for the day ahead. Good old Pokemon Go provides-- five gyms in the surrounding streets makes for a nice circuit.

Even so, for a fat old bloke like me, it's not particularly easy: Greenmount has a commonality with Sydney in that the suburb was designed my MC Escher. No matter what direction you face, you have to go uphill, even if you turn through 180 degrees and face the direction you've just climbed up. Fifteen years of soccer and basketball as a kid has left me with a mild case of osteochondritis (fuckupus kneesii): climbing hills (and cycling, factoid fans) is fucking murder on my knees.
Back in my warm chalet, and with a bowl of breakfast in my guttiwuts, I was turning my attention to the day's work by 8.30.

I've got three goals for the fortnight, which makes it easy to split the day into three sections. First up was progressing Song of the Water, a short story based on CY O'Connor's suicide, which I'm aiming to include in a collection of stories involving supernatural interference in Western Australia's colonial history. It's early days, the story is still crystallising as I write, and I've been out of practice for a longer time than I'd care to admit, so the words aren't coming easily. I managed 1000 today, to add to the 300 I got down after my arrival yesterday. The words will come more easily, and quicker, the longer I'm here, so I was pleased with the amount I managed. This story is not likely to be a long one: I'll be finished in a day or two.

After lunch, I picked up Ghost Tracks. I'm 17,000 words in on this one, but had come to a shuddering halt as something had gone wrong, but I didn't know quite what. After reading through the manuscript it became clear: a character that had left the narrative too soon, and needed to be re-entered into the action. It took me an hour to do so, and another hour to forward the action to where that reinsertion all made sense: another 1000 words, and I'm well set up to crest the 20,000 word mark tomorrow.

Finally, as the darkness fell and the rain came with it, I rugged up and turned my attention towards a bit of non-writing writing. I'm in the final throes of completing a Diploma of Project Management through work, and with the need to finish by the end of July or face having to pay to re-enrol in a prohibitive number of units, I can't afford to take a fortnight away. An hour of delving into quality management techniques to finalise some online essays was quite enough, thank you very much.
So, there's my routine established, and hopefully it'll bear significant wordage in the remaining 12 days here. Now it's time for a Skype call with Luscious, a bowl of warm soup, and bed with some licorice allsorts and Loki: Agent of Asgard.

And the aircraft can sod right off tonight......

Monday, July 10, 2017


It is upon us: this morning, I packed myself up, hugged Luscious and the kids goodbye, and hied me to the other end of Perth to commence my 2-week live-in residency at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre.

I'll be working on 2 projects while I'm here: Ghost Tracks, the children's novel wherein the protagonist derails a ghost train and is forced to travel to the otherworldly dimension to make amends; and the collection of short stories about supernatural incursions into historical events in Western Australia. In addition, I'll be attending some writers groups, conducting a workshop, and being a part of some events throughout my stay.

Research books

Oh yes, that's how a themed collection starts. Oooh, ahh, what a great idea.
But then there's research, and carrying a million freaking books, and screaming...

I arrived this morning at about 10am, and settled into my cabin after saying goodbye to Luscious. Residents are housed in one of three chalets in the back garden of the Centre, and there is very little suffering involved: they're gorgeous.


'Aldridge' the cabin where I'll be spending the next 2 weeks. 

Nicely appointed, clean and comfortable. A perfect nesting spot. 

That's my view. Hellish, I tells 'ee! Hellish!

Upon settling in, I was surprised to see that I'd be sharing my fortnight with an old friend: it seems someone had left behind an illustration by my friend Kathleen Jennings, the superbly talented Queensland artist. It was pinned to the corner of the noticeboard of the room, and will provide a friendly face during the writing hours.

A beautiful work by a truly wonderful artist.
So, here's my appearance itinerary while I'm here. If you want to come along and catch up with me at any of these, mention this blog post and you will receive 15% of all advice that I give you! (NB: that 15% will be the last 15% of each sentence, which may make things harder to understand.)

Thursday 13th, 10am - 12pm: Press Club. I'll be interviewed by a posse of aspiring writers aged between 10-17, who will then upload their interview onto Youtube as part of their day of writing activities with my old Curtin University pal and fellow author Melinda Tognini.

Tuesday 18th, 6pm - 9pm: Literary Dinner. I'll be the guest at a Christmas in July themed dinner here at the Centre. I'll be reading from Ghost Tracks and one of the stories I'll be working on. Combined with games and entertainment based on the evening's theme, this promises to be a fun night out, so book now.

Wednesday 19th, 5.45pm - 7pm: Meet the Author, Mundaring Library. I'll be spouting my usual ranty passion about writing as abstract art, comfort food versus guerilla warfare, and my journey from aspiring nobody to middle-aged eccentric. It'll be fun. More booking details in a day or so once it's all finalised.

Saturday, 22nd, 1-4pm: Workshop, World Building 101.  Learn tips and tricks to help you build a believable secondary world, complete with weather patterns, fantastical creatures that work, and methods of insinuating the weird into everyday settings. Plus a metric tonne of writing exercises to help you reach that special point of exhaustion enjoyed by practicing writers. Book now.

Sunday 23rd, 10am - 12pm: KSP Fantasy, SF & Horror Group. I'll be dropping in on this bi-monthly group, that used to be my own special stomping ground in my early writing days, to talk shop, listen to people's work, offer my own latest effort up for critique, and run and exercise or two into the bargain. It'll be just like old times. Only in colour.

But the main object of this residency is words. So, with a short break to meet Andrew Levett and Julie Twohig, two writers undertaking Fellowships at the same time I'm here, I got stuck in and hit up a quick 300 words on Song of the Water, a story centred around CY O'Connor's suicide, which will be my first work while I'm here.

It's alive, I tell you! Aliiiiive! 

So, that's it for today. Tomorrow: more wordage, a decent walk through the hills, and reheated lasagne for tea. It's a hard life.

Sunday, July 09, 2017


Andrew J McKiernan is a writer and Illustrator, living and working on the Central Coast of New South Wales. His stories have been everywhere since he first appeared in 2007, the length and breadth of his talent resulting in multiple Aurealis, Ditmar and Australian Shadows Awards nominations, and a metric fucktonne of Year's Best anthology appearances. He was Art Director for Aurealis Magazine for 8 years and his illustrations are as good as his stories, the talented bastard: you can see a bunch of them over on his website, as well as on covers and internals all over the shop. He even looks natty in a hat, a skill I envy with much greenness of the eyes.

Here then, is he, hat and all:

Precious Things: Andrew J McKiernan


 I thought that choosing a single Precious Thing from all my Literary Precious Things was going to be a difficult task. I have a personal library of over 2,500 books. When we bought our house, a major criteria was having enough library space to store and display them all. I'm not a hoarder, really. All of those books are important to me. They're mostly first editions and books that have had a lasting impact on me as a reader, a writer, and as a person. I thought choosing just one Precious Thing would be really hard... but it wasn't. As soon as I walked into the library, I knew exactly what I would choose.

When I was a little kid, my grandparents on my mother's side were a huge influence on my early development as a reader. My grandmother was the night-cleaner for our local Public Library, and she would often take me with her when she worked. While she cleaned, I would wander the eerie half-darkness of the library shelves, allowed to choose whatever books I wanted to reader... even from the Adult or Reference Sections! And, at their home, my grandfather had an old set of Charles Dickens books in hardcover that he had been given as a young boy in the 1920s. I would spend hours at my grandparent's house just leafing through those books; first, when I was too young to read them, just looking at the illustrations, but later on delving deep into the strange Victorian worlds of David Copperfield and Oliver Twist.


I adored those books. I coveted them.

Released sometime in the early 1920s (they have no dates on them), the Charles Dickens books were printed in London by Collins Clear-Type Press. The books are small, almost palm-sized. Cloth-bound. Burgundy in colour with gold text and decoration on the spine. Each one is illustrated by artists as wonderful and diverse in style as AA Dixon, J Eyre, AH Buckland and WHC Groome (did illustrators only have initials intead of first names back then?). Oliver Twist is 'Illustrated throughout' with 'Ten Photographs in Character', with photographs by FW Burford of young urchins and grizzled old men in period costume, each one meticulously staged. It is an amazing and beautiful collection.


Sadly, my grandmother passed away in the mid-1990s. My grandfather hung in there, despite his leukemia, living on his own until he too passed away only a couple of years ago. I miss them both.


These then, are my most Precious Literary Things: the love of books my grandparents and parents instilled in me; the hours I spent roaming the local library alone at night while my grandmother worked; and the set of beautiful 1920s Charles Dickens hardcovers that were passed on to me. A set of books that now hold pride of place on a top shelf in my own library.

Friday, July 07, 2017


As of Monday, I start a two-week residency at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre. I'll be away from my home and family, tucked up in a little cabin, where I'll be pounding away at Ghost Tracks and a bunch of stories for my untitled-horror-stories-set-throughout-Western-Australian-history thing I've been chipping away at for god knows how long. I'll also be delivering a public talk and a workshop, mentoring an aspiring novelist, and attending a literary dinner at the Centre-- I'll post an itinerary so you can join me in the general merry wassailing and biscuits.

For the moment, however, I thought it would be timely to visit some of the other writing destinations that have housed me over the last 16 years, and provided me with an opportunity to do something other than sit alone, in a room, crying tapping out silly things on my keyboard.

Five for Friday: Writing Homes

Thursday, July 06, 2017


Let's be honest. The Hulk is the comic book version of Paul Revere: anything you fit into that whole "Hulk SMASH!" vibe is going to be as funny as "Give me (insert here) or give me death."
Or, at least, funny to me.
This is the inside of my head. You all just live here.
"You know, that really is getting old..."

Sunday, July 02, 2017



I first met Claire Davenhall several years ago, as an entrant to the annual outdoor sculpture exhibition I coordinate for my day job. Claire made an impression on everyone at the exhibition: partly because she's quite physically small, and she had a habit of lugging things like 8 foot high, solid steel shark fins up and down the beach, but also because there was a time where she seemed to coincide the exhibition with the birth of her children-- giant shark fins are one thing; giant shark fins being lugged about by she-must-be-ready-any-moment pregnant women is a whole different class of funny!
I've had the very great pleasure of watching Claire's art practice grow over the intervening years, and frankly, I'm taking credit: she's my discovery, and now that she's exhibiting at things like Sculpture by the Sea and Swell Sculpture Festival on a regular basis, it's about time I got my finder's fee.....
You can see Claire's work on her website. She's a fantastic talent, a lovely person, and as you're about to read, a real weepy :)
Precious Things: Claire Davenhall

Most people who know me, know me as Claire Davenhall the Visual Artist or Miss D if you happen to be one of my students. But there is a side that most people don’t know about, its a quiet, hidden side which remains largely undiscovered, my love of mountains and climbing.
My most precious literary treasure was given to me by my climbing partner to read during my Art Degree Show in 2000. We both knew of its existence, long before it was even written and when I finally got a hard copy in my hands, it's the first book I read cover to cover in one sitting. It made me cry out loud.... And in the quietness of the gallery space, it seemed to amplify my cries and made people come over and ask me if I was okay???

This book still haunts me... I dream about this book at pivotal moments in my life... It’s the story of Joe Simpson and Simon Yates climbing the West Face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes, a true story of two climbers following their dreams and facing their demons. The climax of the book is after they reach the summit; Joe breaks his leg and is helped back down the mountain by Simon. Unable to hear Joe’s cries for help, Simon unknowingly lowers him into a crevasse. Faced with being dragged over the edge to his death, Simon makes the decision to cut the rope to save himself.


It’s a questionable act in climbing, whether to cut the rope to save yourself and leave your partner for dead. Many hope they never find themselves in this situation. But in this case, Joe survives the fall and believes Simon must still be on the other end. As he pulls on the rope, expecting to feel Simon, he discovers the rope has been cut… It’s gut wrenching and heart breaking, reading his account of how he pushed himself to the limit of human endurance to survive.
Joe never once blamed Simon for his actions, but simply dedicates the book: ‘To Simon Yates for a debt he can never pay.’
The book is so beautifully written. In 2003, Touching the Void was made into a film and I had the honour to watch a preview in the Lake District where they showed the film in Ambleside at the local Church. The reverence in the church by the climbing community was astounding and it was one of the most moving experiences of my life.
‘Its not just a book about mountaineering. Ultimately it is about the spirit of man and the lifeforce that drives us all.’ Magnus Magnusson
NB: I still sleep with my ropes safely under my bed… dreaming of the mountains I still have yet to climb!
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