Hello again. I’ve been home from Varuna for several weeks now and, as always, the transition back to the ‘real world’ hasn’t been easy. Varuna was full of its usual charm, of course – fireside chats over glasses of wine, long walks to Echo Point and surrounds, Sheila’s fabulous dinners – but for various reasons, it was a fairly challenging retreat. During the two-week residency, I began work on two new fictional projects, but it’s a huge leap into the unknown to start something fresh, especially now I fully understand how most writing projects take years to complete. I was amazed when one of the other writers at Varuna told me that he’d been working on his memoir for twelve years. Twelve years! That’s a long time to stick with one project, but as my friend Edwina often says: “Successful writers are the ones who don’t give up.”
My house-mates at Varuna were a wonderfully diverse group – Sophie Torney, Gabrielle Wang, Rosalie Fishman, Peggy Frew, Andrew Kwang and Chris Barker – and I learnt a great deal from them over the residency. In particular, Sophie and Gabrielle, who shared the house (and ghost visits) with me for the entire two weeks, were very generous with their knowledge about all matters related to writing memoir and young adult fiction and what computers were best for writers and, most importantly, what essential wardrobe items to take on holidays and writing retreats. I miss them both and wish I lived in Melbourne so we could meet up for coffee and book launches. Huge thanks to Jansis, Vera, Sheila, Mick, Rod and all the other people who make Varuna possible – it’s always magic, even when it gets tough.
Since I’ve returned home to Armidale, a little voice inside my head keeps suggesting: Let’s write a young adult novel! or Let’s write a screenplay! or Let’s travel to Spain and write about Spanish Jewish music! or, after seeing Deborah Conway at the Armidale Club the other night, Let’s learn the guitar! So many exciting possibilities to pursue, but I have to be firm and tell that little voice: No, let’s write an exegesis! The time has come to complete my PhD – I’m not the sort of person to have unfinished business hanging over me, and I feel I’m ready now to face this final part of the process.
As for the status of the memoir? Well, I need to learn to be more patient and trust in the process. In the writing world, four months is actually not that long to wait for a publisher to read a manuscript. Sometimes it can even take as long as twelve months to hear news. Keep your fingers crossed. Until next time.