We at Bywater Books are deeply saddened to share the passing of author and journalist Jesse Blackadder. She lived fiercely and authentically and touched thousands with her words and actions, and her work with StoryBoard through the Byron Writers Festival inspired an entire generation of young queer Australian writers and readers. She passed away in hospice care on June 10, 2020, after a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 56.
Dr. Jesse Blackadder was an award-winning author of nine novels for adults and children, an emerging screenwriter, an inspiring public speaker, and a creative writing teacher. She was a passionate youth literacy advocate, and volunteered with Room to Read, a non-profit working to transform the lives of millions of children by improving literacy and gender equality in education.
She studied creative writing (along with film and photography) on her way to a BA in Communication at the University of Technology in Sydney. She also received a Master of Applied Science in Social Ecology and a Doctor of Creative Arts from Western Sydney University. And she joyfully spent much time as a writer in residence in Alaska, outback Australia, Byron Bay, Charles Sturt University Wagga, and Varuna, The Writers’ House.
Jesse was an adventurer at heart and was the recipient of the Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship in 2011, which she used to research a historic novel titled Chasing the Light about Ingrid Christensen, the first woman to see Antarctica. The novel offers glimpses into the life of a woman on an Antarctic whaling ship in the 1930s, but it also explores the devastation wrought on the populations in the Southern Ocean by the whaling trade.
She was awarded a second Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship in 2018, which she used to spend a summer at Mawson Station where she collaborated with television writer, producer, and creator Jane Allen on an adventure novel about the first children’s expedition to Antarctica, and a contemporary television drama series about life on an Antarctic research station.
Jesse Blackadder was more than a fiction writer, and wrote extensively across a range of media, and shared the experiences of her Antarctic trips through social media and magazine articles and as the subject for her academic project, presentations and lectures. Her article “Heroines on the Ice” focused on female experiences of Antarctica and appeared in Australian Geographic in March 2013. Her essay ‘The first woman and the last dog in Antarctica’ won the 2012 Guy Morrison Prize for Literary Journalism.
In 2012, Bywater Books released the paperback and eBook versions of her stunning novel, The Raven’s Heart, a sweeping, imaginative and original tale of political intrigue, misplaced loyalty, secret passion and implacable revenge that is based on real characters and events from the reign of Mary Queen of Scots.
Jesse Blackadder was much more than a woman of words—she touched so many hearts and lives and seized each moment and every opportunity, spreading joy, and offering inspiration to all who crossed her path. She leaves behind a loving partner, a favorite aunt, and a world full of adoring friends.
“The Hume clan will live and die, babies will be born, men will grow old, women will dance and plough fields, the stars turn in the sky, the rocks crumble and fall and still that river will run, no matter who claims it.
Black running water, water with no history, water that does not know its name. I turn my face away from Scotland and into the wind.”
From THE RAVEN’S HEART (page 440)
In the Blink of an Eye (published in the USA by St Martins Press & in Australia as Sixty Seconds by HarperCollins)
Chasing the Light (HarperCollins, 2013)
The Raven’s Heart (HarperCollins 2011 & Bywater Books 2012)
After the Party (Hardie Grant Books 2005)
Dream Riders Book One: Frankie by Laura Bloom and Jesse Blackadder (Walker Books)
Dream Riders Book Two: Storm by Laura Bloom and Jesse Blackadder (Walker Books)
Stay the Last Dog in Antarctica (ABC Books)
Paruku the Desert Brumby (ABC Books)
Dexter the Courageous Koala (ABC Books)
The Raven’s Heart
Winner: 2013 Benjamin Franklin Award for Historical Fiction (USA)
Winner: 2013 Golden Crown Literary Society Award for Historical Fiction (USA)
Bronze Medal: 2013 Independent Publisher Book Awards Historical Fiction (USA)
Finalist: 2013 Lambda Foundation Literary Awards (USA)
Finalist: 2013 ForeWord Book of the Year Gay/Lesbian (USA)
Winner: Varuna HarperCollins Manuscript Development Award 2011 (AUS)
After the Party
Australian Book Review list of all-time favourite Australian novels (2010)
Chasing the Light
Winner: 2011/12 Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship
Winner: 2012 Guy Morrison Prize for Literary Journalism (for the essay ‘The first woman and the last dog in Antarctica’)
Winner: 2009 New Mardis Gras Short Story Award