Farewell, Jesse Blackadder
The sun set yesterday on the beautiful life of Jesse Blackadder. Although we’ve had weeks to process this inevitable thing, it still seems impossible to believe Jesse is no longer here.
It wasn’t long ago when Jesse, Tristan, Sarah, Sam, Sib and I sat around a cafe table, talking about going on a writers’ retreat together. The plan fell together – we would spend seven days riverside, writing all day, and brainstorming into the night. Maybe we’d organise guest speakers. Or run mini masterclasses. It was a writer’s dream.
A few months ago though, in a different world before fires, and COVID and protests broke the world into pieces, Jesse told us she couldn’t go on the writing retreat. She’d been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and she’d be in chemo then. But let’s look at a new date when this is all over.
When this is all over.
We hold onto these ideas – grasping, refusing to imagine the alternative.
If you’ve ever had a child who sat under a StoryBoard tee-pee, and discovered a love of writing, then your lives have been touched by Jesse. Jesse’s reach spread far – into tens of thousands of homes. Her own books were embraced by thousands – kids, adults, historical fiction fanatics. But Jesse also had a burning desire to unlock this passion for words for young people – to give regional kids the opportunity to fall in love with writing.
After years of voluntarily running a free writers group in Lismore for teens, Jesse explored the possibility of bringing the Story Factory and Valencia 826 model to the Northern Rivers. She would have spent countless hours developing programs and putting in funding applications. Only a person as bright and as dedicated as Jesse could pull off a feat like StoryBoard. Not only has the program inspired thousands of young people to love writing, it’s given regional authors like me gainful employment for the last few years, meaning I haven’t had to leave my family to put food on the table. Thank you, Jesse for that and a million other things.
If you listen to Jesse’s interviews about her time spent in Antarctica (on multiple occasions), or any of the other adventures she’d had, you’d imagine someone larger than life. Jesse was that. Her light was brighter than most. But she was also incredibly humble and down to earth. She’d read your rough manuscript with genuine pleasure, and give you the most honest and grounded feedback. She was never on a pedestal. She’d throw herself into the adventure of writing anything that gave her satisfaction. Jesse was talented enough to be high and mighty – but she just wasn’t.
In the last few weeks, Jesse’s friends, relatives and colleagues have had the opportunity to celebrate her magnificent life, and share stories of how Jesse touched their lives. I for one am immensely grateful I had the opportunity to not just say goodbye to Jesse, but to tell her how much she meant to me, and how much my life, and others, changed because of her.
I still cannot comprehend that Jesse’s not here in the physical realm. But if anyone lives on long, long after death, it’s Jesse.
My heart is big and swollen for all her knew her. But especially her beloved Andi, who will miss Jesse more than anyone.
If you haven’t already, listen to one of Jesse’s conversations with Richard Fidler, or read one of Jesse’s novels, and your life will be touched by Jesse too.
We’ll miss you Jesse. So much.