Varuna Writers’ Centre Sydney Writers Festival 2011

Writing at Varuna Writers’ Centre Katoomba

I have been insanely fortunate enough to have spent the past five nights in Katoomba at Varuna Writers’ House for Sydney Writers Festival week and Varuna’s 20th anniversary. This place is an extraordinary oasis where writers come to create. Here is a pictorial diary of my week. 

The magical Carrington Hotel on arrival, Saturday night. I ran a children’s writing workshop here on Sunday morning.
Workshop participants were aged from 10 to their 60s. We played and read and did quizzes and wrote. It was an impressive bunch of 36 people in the glorious Carrington library.
After the workshop I signed some books, watched Morris Gleitzman and Catherine Jinks present and then was off to Varuna Writers House where many, many Australian novels have been born. The house was given to the NSW government as a writer’s retreat by Michael Dark, son of author Eleanor Dark who had the house built in the late 1930s.
I stayed in the room of writer, Eleanor Dark. In this room I write these words.
Each room has a place to stay and a place to write. The writing spaces are bright and light and words flow easily here.
I usually woke at 6 to work as the sun rose. I’m an early writer and aimed for 2000 words a day before taking care of business and email etc. in the afternoons.
The 1 cent exercise book from Big W that I write three crazy, uncensored pages in every morning at 6.00 a.m. before I start working on my manuscript. Without this book my other writing ends up being far less juicy.
Self-portrait while walking the grounds, looking for inspiration.
Beware: Writer at Work. Varuna has lots of sunny indoor spots for thinking about your story before you launch back into the manuscript.
On Tuesday night I was back at The Carrington for an inspirational and educational session with food writers Joanna Savill and John Newton, writer / restauranteur Pauline Nguyen and Varuna’s energetic Chief Executive Officer, Lis Bastian. We discussed ‘Cultivating Desire’ – food’s capacity to change the world. I spoke about freeganism and dumpster-diving, having researched and written a freegan character for my YA novel, it’s yr life. There was much post-panel dumpster discussion among the audience over slow food in the foyer and then a Chinese feast with the panellists.

After working all day there were excellent writerly discussions over good food downstairs with the other writers in residence, Judy Johnson, Caroline Van De Pol and Jesse Blackadder

Tomorrow I head to the city to be part of ‘Marketing in the Age of Twitter’ with US editor Alvina Ling, then to host Town Hall’s Primary School Days on Friday and, finally, to interview author, Cambridge graduate, lawyer, self-publisher and soccer-mom Shamini Flint on ‘Cross-Cultural Storytelling.’ More news from Sydney Writer’s Fest 2011 soon.



  1. May 19, 2011 / 12:39 am

    Love it Tristan. Looks like a great place to get away from the distractions of a normal day. Hope the words are flowing. Flow, flow, flow…

  2. May 20, 2011 / 9:37 am

    Thanks Gus. I hope that both the pictures and words are flowing for you. I already miss that Varuna calm but I think I'm carrying a small piece of it with me.

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