The HNSA community has been rocked and deeply saddened this year by the untimely deaths of three of our HNSA family. Over the coming weeks, we will be honouring their memories by releasing episodes featuring recorded live sessions with Jesse Blackadder, Julian Leatherdale and Elizabeth Jane Corbett from the HNSA 2019 conference program.
Today, our episode is dedicated to the late, great, Jesse Blackadder, an incredibly gifted author with a huge sense of fun as well as gravitas. Her historical novels included The Raven’s Heart (about her Blackadder ancestors in 16th century Scotland) and Chasing the Light (about the first women to reach Antarctica). She won the Benjamin Franklin Prize for Historical Fiction (USA), and twice won the coveted Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship. HNSA stalwarts will never forget her narration of the Sizzling Sex Scenes panel at the end of our 2015 conference! It’s a tragedy to have lost her talent and wit.
Our host, Greg Johnston, presents a panel discussion where Sara Knox talks to Jesse, Rachel le Rossignol and Josh Mostafa on the value of writing degrees. Jesse’s Doctor of Creative Arts thesis explored using real historical characters in fiction. I hope you enjoy the podcast, and don’t forget to subscribe to Imagining the Past so you don’t miss out on future episodes.
Elisabeth Storrs, Chair, HNSA
It’s Academic: the value of writing degrees
Creative writing postgraduate degrees have become increasingly popular in the last decade. Associate Professor Sara Knox (WSU) talks to Dr Jesse Blackadder, Dr Rachel le Rossignol and PhD candidate, Joshua Mostafa, about the benefits of combining the process of completing a novel with a deeper examination of the genre’s purpose, themes, and interpretation of research.
About our speakers
Associate Professor Sara Knox is a member of the Writing and Society Research Centre at WSU, our host university for the 2019 conference. Her novel, The Orphan Gunner, was short-listed for the regional Commonwealth Writer’s Prize and won the Asher Prize for the best novel by a woman about war. She’s been a poet, and an essayist, and is the author of a non-fiction study of America’s long love affair with true crime. She teaches (and does research in) contemporary attitudes to death and the representation of violence, and has written about Hilary Mantel and her historical novels.
Dr Jesse Blackadder is the author of critically acclaimed fiction for adults and children, including the historical novels The Raven’s Heart (about her Blackadder ancestors in 16th century Scotland) and Chasing the Light (about the first women to reach Antarctica). She has won literary awards including the Benjamin Franklin Prize for Historical Fiction (USA), and has twice won the coveted Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship. Jesse has been a writer-in-residence in Alaska, Antarctica, outback NSW, Varuna The Writers’ House, and Byron Bay. Her Doctor of Creative Arts thesis explored using real historical characters in fiction.
Dr Rachel Le Rossignol is the author of an historical fantasy trilogy published by Odyssey Books (under the name Rachel Nightingale). It begins with Harlequin’s Riddle and continues with Columbine’s Tale. Rachel co-wrote and acted in Murder on the Puffing Billy Express, a 1920s murder mystery show still performed regularly on the iconic Puffing Billy steam train (Melbourne). She holds a Masters degree and PhD in creative writing and is a regular speaker at writing events. In 2019 she will be running a creative writing workshop in beautiful Ubud, Bali. Her plays have been performed in Australia, New Zealand and Manila.
Joshua Mostafa is a doctoral candidate at the Writing and Society Centre, Western Sydney University. He is interested in the spaces between things: between prose and metrical poetry, between narrative and the lyric, and between the written and the spoken word. He lives in the Blue Mountains.
G.S. Johnston is the author of three historical novels – Sweet Bitter Cane (2019), The Cast of a Hand (2015), and The Skin of Water (2012), and a fourth novel set in contemporary Hong Kong, Consumption (2011). The novels are noted for their complex characters and well-researched settings. After completing a degree in pharmacy, a year in Italy re-ignited his passion for writing and he completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature. Feeling the need for a broader canvas, he started writing short stories and novels. Originally from Hobart, Tasmania, Johnston currently lives in Canberra, Australia.