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Australian author Jesse Blackadder dies, aged 56

7/08/2020 3:06 PM
Australian author Jesse Blackadder dies, aged 56

Australian author Jesse Blackadder passed away last Wednesday at age 56, six months after her diagnosis with pancreatic cancer. She is being fondly remembered by colleagues and friends from the writing community.

Based in Mullumbimby in NSW’s Northern Rivers, Blackadder served as a board member of the Byron Writers’ Festival.

‘Tirelessly adventurous, Jesse had a generosity of spirit that was unparalleled, a cheeky sense of humour, and a great love of the Northern Rivers, her writing community, her family and her partner Andi,’ the Festival board said in a tribute posted to Facebook.

Blackadder was also a significant contributor to the wider literary community, serving as peer assessor for the Australia Council and Create NSW. She also worked as founder of the StoryBoard program, which travelled to schools and encouraged children to write.

Fellow Northern Rivers author and close friend to Blackadder, Sarah Armstrong, gave a glowing tribute to The Sydney Morning Herald.

‘She was an incredibly kind, authentic and generous person.’

‘She supported emerging writers, she supported young writers, she engaged so completely with everyone who she encountered with a kind of warmth and easy kindness. I’ve been awed by the depth and breadth of love expressed for her, and I realised that even people who encountered her briefly were deeply touched by her,’ said Armstrong.

Blackadder had written a number of highly successful novels, and also worked as a freelance journalist and screenwriter, as well as writing five children’s books that focused on friendships between people and animals.

Her 2011 historical fiction novel, The Raven’s Heart, won the Benjamin Franklin award for historical fiction in the USA in 2013.

She wrote the 2013 novel Chasing the Light, the story of the first women to land on Antarctica, after being awarded the Antarctic Arts Fellowship in 2011. She was awarded the same fellowship in 2018 – and was the only person to win it twice.

Her most recent novel, Sixty Seconds, was released in 2017. It focused on a personal tragedy, the drowning of her two-year-old sister when Blackadder was only 12.

Blackadder’s publisher, HarperCollins, has also provided tributes.

‘She was admired for so many reasons, and one was that she was such a beautiful, polished writer who could tell a compelling story in the most lyrical way. But then there’s the generosity, the passion, the cheekiness, the support for other people; she was sort of just an exceptional package,’ said Mary Rennie, from the HarperCollins publishing team.

Blackadder will be greatly missed by the Australian writing community.