A rare opportunity to visit Varuna Writers’ House in Katoomba

Varuna will be opening its doors for an open day on Sunday, September 23 from 10am – 4pm. Take a sneak peek at this precious place for Australian writers.

Mark Brandi: Author of the prize-winning Wimmera.

Mark Brandi: Author of the prize-winning Wimmera.

Suitable for all ages, there will be house and garden tours, music and poetry in the garden, author talks, a second-hand book sale and more. Visitors are welcome to explore the house and garden, have a cuppa, or chat with our volunteers, board and staff. Alternatively, aspiring writers may wish to book into a workshop or writing consultation.

“For the majority of the year Varuna is a very quiet, very focused retreat for writers to escape life’s distractions. But we are flipping the script on open day,” said Amy Sambrooke, creative director.

Events include a kids’ writing workshop with local poet Vanessa Kirkpatrick, a conversation with award-winning crime writer Mark Brandi, and the opportunity to discuss your own work in a one-on-one writing consultation with Varuna’s Dr Carol Major. Many sessions will book out, so you are encouraged to book tickets in advance.

Full program

10am – 11am Springtime Tales: a creative writing workshop for kids Join local poet Vanessa Kirkpatrick on a creative writing adventure for kids aged 8 to 12. We will enjoy the writerly atmosphere of Eleanor Dark’s studio and the delightful ambience of Varuna’s gardens, and let our imaginations journey to exciting places. In a nurturing small group, we will discover the seeds to new characters and stories. $15 per child. Places limited, bookings are advised.

10:30am – 11:15am Talent, inspiration, perseverance and a little magic: The writer’s journey Are you a keen reader who has wondered about the process of writing? Or perhaps you are in the midst of your own writing project and you are looking for advice or inspiration? Join Dr Carol Major — one of Varuna’s most experienced writing consultants — as she explores what a writing life means for different writers, and what the writing journey often looks like. Free.

11:30am – 12:00pm The early years: The establishment of Varuna How did a quiet family home turn into Australia’s most vibrant writers’ centre? Join historian Margo Beasley, Varuna librarian and archivist Barbara Palmer, and Varuna Executive Director Veechi Stuart as they talk about the early days of Varuna and the characters who came and went. This session will incorporate the launch of Margo Beasley’s The Early Years of Varuna. Free.

Me-Lee Hay

Me-Lee Hay

12:15am – 1:00pm What is it like to be an author? Meet Mark Brandi Mark Brandi’s bestselling novel, Wimmera, won the coveted British Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger, and was named Best Debut at the 2018 Australian Indie Book Awards. It was also shortlisted for the Australian Book Industry Awards Literary Fiction Book of the Year, and the Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year. Mark graduated with a criminal justice degree and worked extensively in the justice system, before changing direction and deciding to write. Originally from Italy, growing up in a rural Australian town continues to influence his creative focus. Mark now lives in Melbourne and is working on his next book. Mark is an alumnus of Varuna. Free.

1:15pm – 1:45pm The Varuna difference: How our programs support Australian writers In this session with Veechi Stuart, Executive Director and Amy Sambrooke, Creative Director, we’ll get down to the nitty gritty of the programs Varuna runs, and how we support writers at all stages of their careers. If you’re a writer or even if you’re just curious about what Varuna does then please join us for this session – all are welcome. Free.

2pm – 4pm Poetry and music in the garden Local poet Peter Minter will lead us in a relaxed afternoon of poetry and music in the Varuna garden. Bring your own poem to read, or simply sit, listen and enjoy the

Varuna, the National Writers House is a trading name of The Eleanor Dark Foundation Ltd

friendly ambience of the Writers’ House. Featuring a special performance by award- winning composer and cellist Me-Lee Hay in celebration of the poetry of the late Deb Westbury. Free


Writing consultations: Talk about your writing project with Dr Carol Major As a special Open Day event, Varuna offers the opportunity for you to have a one-on- one 30-minute consultation with Dr Carol Major, one of Varuna’s most experienced writing mentors.

A Varuna conversation can be useful if you have become tangled in content, lost confidence in your project, or you’re feeling doubtful about your ability to realise your vision. The process can also be useful if you’re in the early stages of exploring a concept, or to discuss the development of a pitch, a synopsis or other aspects of preparing a manuscript for publication.

Writers are asked to submit one A4 page in advance, which includes a brief description of the project they are working on, and the opening stanza of their manuscript. $50. Individual sessions will run at 9:30am, 11:30am, 12:10pm and 1pm. Bookings essential.


From a family home to a treasured space for all writers: guided tours of the Varuna house What is it like to be a writer staying at Varuna? This 20-minute guided tour of the Varuna house will provide you with a special insight into this unique and beloved place. Home to the Dark family for many years, and a dearly loved home away from home for many well-known Australian writers, a tour of the Varuna house is essential for any visitor. Free. House tours will run every half hour until 1:30pm.

​A classic mountains garden Join Jill Dark — wife of the late Mick Dark — for a very special 20-minute tour of the two-acre Varuna garden. Carefully tended by the Dark’s while they lived in the house, and now maintained by Jill and Mick’s son Rod, the garden has always held a very special place in the hearts of the Dark family and indeed for all visitors to Varuna. Free. Garden tours will run at 10:30am, 11:30am and 12:30pm

Varuna, the National Writers House is a trading name of The Eleanor Dark Foundation Ltd