Category Archives: Writing

Varuna – the National Writer’s House

Happy Australia Day – as you celebrate today with your family and friends, please spare a thought for those whose lives were marginalised as a result of the actions carried out on this historic day – thank you.

Now many of you know that I am on annual leave, but I want to reassure you that I am not having a holiday, well not entirely.

At the end of last year, I was privileged to be awarded an Eleanor Dark Fellowship for Fiction at Varuna.

Varuna, the National Writer’s House is situated in the Blue Mountains, an hour and a half north of Sydney. Eleanor Dark was one of Australia’s finest writers of the 20th Century, and Varuna owes its existence today to Eleanor, her husband Dr Eric Dark and their family. Her best-known novel was the best-selling The Timeless Land (1941), the first part of a trilogy, with Storm of Time (1948) and No Barrier (1953).

Read more about Varuna here:

I arrived last Monday and the first thing that hits you when you get here is the peace. Not actual quiet, as a mob of sulphur-crested cockatoos act like court jesters and keep everyone entertained, but more a sense of tranquility.

I am here with four other writers, who between us are working on fiction, non-fiction and academic manuscripts, so a diverse range of genres and inevitably some varied dinner table conversations.

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to meet with Varuna elder, Peter Bishop, who was insightful about my work, but also about life.

Varuna House Sign.jpgVaruna Painting l-res.jpg

It would be remiss of me not to thank Jansis and her extraordinarily kind staff at Varuna, who have made me feel so welcome. A special shout out goes to Sheila, who prepares our divine home cooked meals each evening. I haven’t eaten as well since I was married to a chef!

On my arrival, the weather was foggy with drizzling rain, arguably a perfect environment for a budding writer. The next few days were bathed in glorious sunshine and much of my time was spent in the garden working on my laptop. I even indulged in a trip or two to the spa. Now, the rain is back and with it my productivity!

I am staying in the Bear Room, overlooking the garden. The house’s original veranda has been closed in giving each bedroom its own workspace. So, as I sit and write, amused and somewhat distracted by my screeching yellow and white friends, I can appreciate that just in front of the trees at the end of the garden is one of the most environmentally significant World Heritage sites on the planet.

It is impossible to stay at Varuna and not be aware of your surroundings. As a photographer and writer, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. A few early morning bush walks followed by half an hour of yoga have both pampered my soul. A reminder of what it means to be at one with nature, to be calm, and to have the capacity to be creative – that is Varuna. You cannot fail to be inspired by such surroundings.

My aim is to try to do justice to my story in recognition of the people I am writing for. In this instance, the people of Rwanda and Darfur, and two heinous crimes that the world should never forget, one of which still continues today.

Thank you – Maureen


Also posted in Dignity, Genocide, Marginalised People