Forgotten Dreams by Doris Leadbetter

ISBN 1-905175-051 Price £7.99

Available May 2005

Read an extract from the book here.

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"When they had cleared him completely, they looked at the dead man in silence. Helen traced with her finger the eyebrows, the closed lids, the nose, the full-lipped, gentle mouth. The dead man lay there, black as the peat around him, at one with it. Part of it."

Synopsis

Sixty year old Helen Lytton, a recently retired research scientist, travels to Australia determined to prove her theory right – that there had once been water in the far, arid north of Western Australia. Along with her husband and an Aboriginal schoolteacher who knew the area well, the expedition unearthed far more than they expected.

Helen could not have known that her adventure would coincide with one begun many years ago and many miles away. Perhaps, as a scientist and a mature woman, she should have foreseen the risks that lay ahead as well as the excitement that was about to happen; the threats arising from the ambition and pride, the secrecy and the greed of man.

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Author Profile : Doris Leadbetter

Author and Teacher
28 December 1927 – 27 November 2004


“When I die don’t let them keep the bones
to marvel at the load they bore;
nor the ashes to wonder at the quantity.”
from The Fat Lady’s Song.

Doris was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, on 28 December, 1927. Her enduring interest in Roman history probably came from living near Roman ruins in her home town.
She attended Bradford Girls’ Grammar School and then, just after the Second World War, studied at London University, attaining a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology.

She was a member of the Bradford's Playhouse and Theater School and participated in many productions, working both as a director and backstage. It was here that Doris received her theatre training that made her such a great poetry performer in later years. She worked with theatre luminaries such as Ken Russell, Dirk Bogarde and Dame Judy Dench. Ken Russell was godfather to Doris’s son, Dominic.

In 1963, she migrated to Australia with her mother and her children, Vicki and Dominic. She met her second husband, Richard Leadbetter, in Perth in 1968 and they were married in 1969.

From 1964 to 1984, Doris worked as CSIRO Librarian (Perth Labs) and Head Office Librarian (CSIRO Canberra). During her time in Perth, she went on several field trips out into the desert. She also met many scientists, engaging in long, lively discussions and developing an interest in a wide range of scientific subjects. This resulted in Doris joining the Australian Skeptics and the Australian Rationalists. It also provided the ideas and the background for her first, soon-to-be published novel Forgotten Dreams in which a woman scientist finds a bog body in north-west Australia.

Doris took early retirement, and she and Richard moved to Bendigo in 1984. She began to develop her writing skills and published a number of books, including educational materials and poetry. She also wrote a weekly humorous column for the Bendigo Advertiser for four years. Subjects came from her keen observations of life in a large country town, including Kamikaze Corner and trying to buy new shoes. Readers would often stop her in the street to tell her that her column was the first thing they read in the paper. She became involved in community writing and taught a number of workshops around Victoria, and became a highly sought-after after-dinner speaker.

In the late eighties Doris spent several months as Writer-in-Residence in Tasmania, travelling around giving readings and workshops. Doris loved meeting the people of Tasmania while completely ignoring the scenery. “I have no urge to watch/ I usually just buy postcards.” (from Looking at Scenery)

In 1994, Doris and Richard moved to Melbourne and she started teaching in the Diploma of Arts – Professional Writing & Editing at Chisholm TAFE in Berwick. From there, she moved to Victoria University TAFE and later also taught at NMIT and CAE in the same course. Doris always had a great impact on her students, whether they were 19 or 70. She made them laugh and cry as she shared her own experiences and encouraged them to write about their own. But above all, she encouraged them to be professional, to take themselves seriously and to take risks.

Her first collection of poetry The Fat Lady’s Song was published by Pariah Press in 1995 in a joint book with Kristin Henry’s What If the Plane Goes Down? Doris had written poetry and short stories for many years and was published in most of Australia’s literary journals and magazines. She was a memorable performer and twice won the Melbourne Poetry Cup. Her collected poems The Fat Lady Sings will be published in January 2005 by NMIT’s newly-created Flat Chat Press.

In July 2004 she attended a writers’ conference in Wales where the manuscript of her novel Forgotten Dreams was taken up by an editor from Transita, UK. It was accepted for publication shortly after, and Doris had the great pleasure of signing her first novel contract and seeing her advance cheque. Forgotten Dreams will be published in June 2005. On her return from the conference, she was too unwell to continue teaching, and was eventually diagnosed with terminal bone cancer. She died on 27 November 2004. She wrote her own death notice, which included the quote inspired by Spike Milligan: “She told you she wasn’t feeling well.”

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