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An introduction to the 2024 Season 2 Program

This is the last season I’ll be programming for Writers Victoria. I am finishing at the organisation this week.

“What are you doing next?” people ask. “Where are you going?”

I am going to read all the books piled up in the corners of my apartment. I am going to burrow underground. I am going to visit the moon.

There is no such thing as twilight on the moon. On earth, when the sun drops below the horizon, colours spread across the sky, diffused by our atmosphere. It’s abrupt, on the moon, because there’s no atmosphere at all. It’s light and then it’s suddenly dark.

I think we can take writing lessons from everything, and the lesson’s easy here: we need atmosphere to make events interesting, to create narrative, to separate six pm from midnight.

We worried, last year, when we chose this year’s theme, that ‘twilight’ might feel like an ending, like death.

“No,” I said, “night is as alive as day. It’s part of a cycle.”

It turns out, though, that twilight’s second season is an ending for me. I walk to work, on my last few mornings in this job, and see that the autumn leaves on the sidewalk have soaked through and are starting to disintegrate, become a sort of slime. I sigh, try to beat back the panic. I chose it, but still: I’m sad.

On the moon, each day lasts the equivalent of roughly twenty-nine days on earth

—— so much time in which to process things!

I’ve always been bad at endings, personally. It’s near-impossible, I guess, for me to see them as beginnings, as opportunities, even when they’ve been beginnings before, even when it’s rational to see them in this way, even as I’m writing of cyclical time, enthusing about creatures that wake up at sunset.

                                                                                                                (shout-out to the badger)

I feel a pressure to make everything seem wonderful, to suggest relentless and optimistic ongoingness. It doesn’t make for good writing, though, and we’re a writing organisation. We have to prioritise truth over toxic positivity. We know, after all, that many of the best books are painful, that some of the most powerful sentences are driven by their own sadness.

In the end, too, of course: every book that’s even passable, let alone good, has an ending.

I view almost everything as a writing lesson, and Pliny the Elder says the moon is “arguably the teacher of all that can be discerned in the sky.”

I don’t need an MFA, because I can look at the sky after sundown.

The moon is stabilising, as well as romantic; it stops the earth from spinning wildly, becoming nonsense. We all need something stabilising.

So, too, twilight: the sun sets every day, regardless of earth’s horrors.

We might see it as reassuring that everything ends.

After I leave, I’ll be able to do more of the things that Writers Victoria encourages: writing and teaching. I’ve attended workshops, sometimes, and thought: how do I make space in my life to put these ideas into practice? How do I become more like the writers and teachers that I admire?

One does need to believe in oneself, I think, and sometimes that means quitting one’s job.

It’s boring to say that, though.

It’s more interesting to pull out a photograph of the moon, point to a crater and say: our hotel is here.

There are so many different ways to reach the moon:

an ocean liner / a spring device, a kind of pogo stick / a chair with forty-seven rockets attached /
a tame bird with a custom harness / a large tornado, if you’re in the right geographic area / a hot air
balloon / a cardboard box / a postage stamp / two kites / extremely strong magnets

I’ve been thinking, lately, after a conversation I had with Melanie Saward for Express Media, that one of the delights of writing is that it offers freedom, the ability to remake the world, provide an element of hope. I thought, for a long time, that realist fiction needed realist endings, but that was a failure of my own imagination. We can play with our final chapters, last passages, create something surprising, slip from one world into another. I loved this in Melanie’s first book, Burn.  

We want to celebrate liminal spaces and see sunset as part of a cycle, as beginning rather than ending, I wrote, last year.

We were shoring up, perhaps, the idea that endings are bad things. We were trying to frame twilight as something positive, but in denying twilight as an ending we ended up saying something, accidentally, about our own fear of endings.

I’ll confess, writing this, that I have already finished at Writers Victoria, that I am already on the moon.

I settled on the ocean liner, because I saw those influencers’ TikToks.

On the moon, there are deserts, castles, erupting volcanoes, so many rocks. It reminds me of Iceland in that when I arrived I thought: just like New Zealand. I watch steam rise from streams, sulphur yellow and acid blue, and drive past hitchhikers, feeling guilty. There’s a crater named ‘Hell’ and another crater named for the man who arrived on that chair with forty-seven rockets. The shadiest craters are full of ferns.

I’d been afraid I’d find the moon covered in flags, but they’re all gone. The only signs of the space race are the dogs, descendants of Laika, Malyshka and Lisa-2, roaming the streets. These streets, when they converge into towns, are lined with terraces, balconies of iron lace. I’ve never been to New Orleans but I imagine it’s a little like this, crowds and music spilling out into the afternoon, waiting for that sudden switch.

There is a hotel, though it’s not in the crater where I expected it.

Tilda Swinton is here, and she’s really nice.

Does everything really end, anyway, or is that another failure of my imagination?

                                                                                                (shout-out to the Wheeler Centre ghost)

On the moon, people stand and gaze at the earth and wonder if it’s inhabited.

There’s no twilight on the moon, so we watch darkness curl around the earth and imagine sunset’s shifting colours. Twilight might be, perhaps, a little like writing an essay about endings as one is taking place.

Explore the 2024 Season 2 Program by downloading a PDF of the program here, or visiting our events calendar here.

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