Graduation – the latest milestone

Picture by Kirstyn McDermottHere I am in my bonnet and gown, marking graduation from The University of Queensland with a doctorate in creative writing.

Thirty years ago, I was lining up about this time of year in Rockhampton to mark graduation from what is now the University of Central Queensland with a Bachelor of Arts. And in 2008 came a Masters in creative writing from QUT – no ceremony for that one.

My mum died in 1992 and we farewelled Dad at a service on July 18, but their spirits were very much with me at UQ on July 19. Farming folk with limited educations, they were determined I would have the opportunities they had not.

My doctoral thesis was entitled “Watermarks: Science Fiction, Mitigation and the Mosaic Novel Structure in Australian Climate Fiction” and this is the dedication from it:

In a letter published in 1981, my mother, Loma Nahrung, wrote, “I love the wet season—which should be around January through to March, but of late they have not been so predictable … the climate seems to be changing” (White and Nahrung 139). I often wonder what this farmer would have thought of our current state of affairs. This thesis is dedicated to my mother and father, Frank, neither of whom were able to celebrate this achievement, but without whose support, encouragement and sacrifice I would not have made it this far.

So here I am, without them, but they are very much with me.

The gathering of the clans for Dad’s service, and having three friends graduate alongside me with family members in the audience, and then the coming together of family and friends to celebrate afterwards — I am further reminded I am not alone in this journey. (I love you all.)

Where to from here, I wonder. Wherever, we go together, and that’s what matters.

Mum, Dad and me at graduation in 1989.

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A doctor in the house

Four years ago I headed up to Brisbane to start a creative writing doctorate at The University of Queensland, and now the journey is complete.

What a strange and wonderful process it has been. I’ll probably write more on that presently, but for now, it’s time to sit back and reflect on what was a lengthy and challenging endeavour, enriched and enabled by the support of friends, family and colleagues, and of course my supervisors and the staff at UQ. Thank you all!

Those spare beds for the initial three months I was required to be on campus? Invaluable. A wife prepared to hold the fort while I was away? Beloved.

watermarks in cosmos 57: art by joe whyte, story by jason nahrungThe final thesis title was “Watermarks: Science Fiction, Mitigation and the Mosaic Novel Structure in Australian Climate Fiction”. It grew from my short story “Watermarks”, bought by then Cosmos fiction editor Cat Sparks, who has recently been awarded a PhD in climate fiction studies too.

Graduation is in July and I’m looking forward to celebrating with friends from my cohort who have also ticked off their research higher degrees this year.

So what’s with the Canadian chocolate bar? Well, last year, we had our first holiday in a long time, to celebrate significant birthdays with dear Canadian friends. I submitted my thesis on the day before we flew out. It was Halloween while we were away, so I brought back this tasty morsel with the intention of signifying the conclusion of my doctorate by munching it! Coffin Crisp, your time is up!