Dunedin is beautiful. The sky at dusk is the deep blue they use to paint cathedral ceilings in Italy. The houses pile up across the hills and the horizon is rimmed with mountains. A man told us that Dunedin real estate agents are notorious for selling people “creepy old houses they can’t afford” and I immediately wanted to move there. 
I went to Dunedin for six days. I went with other staff from the National Young Writers Festival for the inaugural New Zealand Young Writers Festival. I’ve never been to New Zealand before and it was odd for my first trip to be this surreal flying visit.
We went to a hidden bar at the back of a building and worked our way through the NYWF schedule and also a bottle of wine. We ate dinner at a place just called “Asian” and it was better than you’d expect. We ate apples and bagels at the famers market, when the morning sun was still skimming across the mountains. I drank apple cider that tasted like apple juice. We went to this tiny, tucked away pub and played pool while a song about the pub we were in played on the jukebox. We walked through the streets at dusk and it was cool and the light was blue and I felt so calm. We caught a taxi to the waterfront and ate pasta and drank red wine in an Italian restaurant with an open fire. Our taxi driver told us about the boys he went to school with who were taken by great white sharks off the same waterfront in the 60s.
Almost everywhere we ate was recommend by locals. We found other places by exploring. We had the kind of long, rambling conversations that NYWF work rarely affords the time for. I met a lot of people. I realised that I don’t met new people so often lately – especially not at literary events. I felt inspired. Being in Dunedin made me want to write, in a way I haven’t wanted to for a long time. It made me want to meet people and see things and go places I haven’t been. More than anything though, I made me feel like a part of an international community. I’d never even considered that such a community existed, let alone that it was within reach. It’s ridiculous really because of course there are young writers in other countries, of course we have things in common, of course we can learn from each other. 
It was the kind of weekend that it very difficult to write about. The kind that is very, very full of things and the things are very, very full of details that you don’t want to forget. I could spend thousands of words and several blogs trying to capture those details. I don’t want to do that though. Memories like that feel so precious that the act of remembering them feels dangerous; writing about those moments means running the risk of tarnishing them. 

Thanks to the Melbourne City of Literature Office and the Dunedin City of Literature for supporting the staff of NYWF on this trip. Also thanks to the staff and volunteers of the New Zealand Young Writers Festival for making us feel so welcome.
Also thanks to all the people that I met and talked to. I want to list you all but I’m worried I’ll forget someone. You were really nice. Let’s be friends.

Further reading

December – home

I spent the first minutes of 2018 on the beach. I’ve never actually spent New Year