Anne Greenwood, winner of the 2022 Varuna-NEWC Fellowship, for "Torment's Mirror" shares her experience of spending a week at Varuna.
I kill people. Okay, let me rephrase that. I kill people ….. okay, third time lucky…. I kill fictional people and then send other fictional people off to solve the crime. . . and there’s no better place to do that than at Varuna, The National Writers’ House.
Or, as I like to call it, murder central.
It’s a rare and wonderful thing to have a space of quiet and calm and inspiration that allows thought to become words. And words to become stories. About murder. But that is the gift of Varuna, given to me by the New England Writers’ Centre as part of the NEWC Varuna Fellowship 2023.
For a week I sat and wrote about a small country town, a journalist and a large rock without interruption. Let me say that again. Without interruption. Look up the word magic (it’s not far from the word murder) in the dictionary and you’ll find the phrase “without interruption”. Well, if dictionaries were perfect you would.
Varuna itself is an art deco lump at the end of Cascade Street, Katoomba. It was once home to Australian author Eleanor Dark - The Timeless Land, Storm of Time, No Barrier - and her husband Dr Eric Dark. To cut a long story short, they Dark family gave the home to the Australian writing community to be used at a writing retreat. It is now run by the NSW Government, the Australian Council for the Arts and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
I was assigned the Bear Room because that’s where the crime books live.
Resident with me for the week were: Doona Waters working on her first manuscript - a memoir, Kristina Olsson author of Boy Lost, Shell, The China Garden, Nicole Baird working on her novel The Sea Under The Stars, Jane Tuttle author of Paris or Die and My Sweet Gullotine and Erin Sayers working on her first manuscript.
Talented, generous and beautiful inmates who inspired and entertained and cut loose as the Matildas won the shootout against France. We cheered. We yelled. We were very unwriterly as the Tillies fired shot after shot at the goal.
As part of the stay I was lucky enough to have a conversation with Dr Carol Major. A professional writer for more than 30 years and dubbed The Book Whisperer, she has a unique ability to see the bleeding heart of a story and the craft to get it to beat loudly. I can’t thank the New England Writers’ Center enough for the chance to stay at Varunn and talk to follow writers and professionals. Murder is hard. Let me rephrase that. Murder is very hard you need all the help you can get…. Damn, try again . . . writing about murder is hard but fun when you can do it at a place like Varuna. Thank you. The NEWC is now my accomplice. We are all going to jail together.