I’m back from Varuna. After nine months of working toward the last seven days, it’s a little discombobulating to now find myself on the other side of them. Whilst I was there, it felt like time was in keeping with the rhythms of the place and the work we were all doing there, but now that I’m home, I’m thinking, “Surely not…”. But yes, it’s over, and I’m home.
Of course it was lovely, lovely, lovely being reunited with Llewie yesterday – we hadn’t spent that long apart in years. He arrived to pick me up bearing a beautiful bunch of Australian natives and a tiny card that still said it all. I’m so glad he got to see Varuna, including my room and its office with the great bay windows that everyone notices when they first glance at the front of the house. He also arrived just in time to meet Catherine, the second last to leave. I think they were proof to each other, and to me, I suppose, that these two worlds really do exist.
It was interesting being last out the door. It was like I could hear the house emptying. It made me sad, because we’d all felt so present and of its bones for the time we were there, but in the end, and this is the sentiment I left in the guest book, I think it’s right for the house to exhale. There will be a new intake of breath when the next group of writers arrives.
And now you’re wondering, I think, what happens next, and you are not alone there. Me too. I am having difficulty trusting that I didn’t just imagine this, but Peter told me on the last night – in front of the other girls, so perhaps it did happen – that he thinks I’m “ready to go,” as in ready to start approaching publishers with my manuscript, my hybrid, my book of creative non-fiction… And I do feel I managed to break the back of that last big problem whilst I was up there, thanks to the workshopping process with the other girls and the benefit of one-on-one consultations with Peter. That last big problem was the beginning’s failure to extend the right sort of ‘invitation to the reader’; this is Peter’s phrase and as a concept it really gripped us all. Up until last week, it was true of my MS that the opening failed to extend the invitation that best suited the event that followed. They were mismatched. But that problem was identified, critiqued, and hopefully corrected. At the very least I am much closer to sending out the right invitation to go along with my book’s party…
And I wrote a statement to go with it, which is what Peter thinks I should be sending out directly to publishers. It too is a hybrid, one part query, one part pitch, one part position statement. The girls gave it their rousing endorsement too – it and my new beginning – and receiving that kind of validation from them after my lead balloon false start is such a relief I keep wondering if I’m not locked in some extended dream sequence after far too much red wine.
So yes, this could be interesting. It’s just another beginning, really. Back to square one. Do not pass GO and do not collect $200. But it’s a different kind of starting line, and although I suspect that what comes next is a whole new round of frustration and rejection, and all sorts of unanticipated difficulties and disappointments, after Varuna I feel like I have to keep giving it my best shot. It’s all any of us can do.
Step off the ledge, step off the ledge,
or else we’ll never know.
So that’s it, then, friends, hold on tight,
Because it’s life, and here we go.