Di Jenkins

Varuna Alumni Monthly Features 2013

Varuna Alumni Association: the craft, the writing life


The Varuna Alumni Monthly Feature is prepared each month by Varuna's Alumni News Editor Diana Jenkins.

There are interviews and articles and we encourage you to express your views using the Comments form at the end of each Feature.
Please drop the News Desk a line if you’re so inclined – your feedback is ALWAYS welcome and very much appreciated.

An Invitation to Alumni: Contribute to the Alumni News & Monthly Features

If you have some news you wish to share with other alumni, or if you have a hankering to interview other writers, or have a great feature bubbling away in the back of your mind, the Varuna Alumni News welcomes member contributions. Please send no more than 1,000 words to the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for consideration. Contributions should be attached as a Word document, and include any JPG images relevant to the piece.

Update your Alumni Profile

If you’d like to update your profile in the Varuna Alumni Directory, please email 100 words or less, plus a JPG (150px wide) photo of yourself, to Vera at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
For details on what format to send download this pdf.

View Alumni Features from:   2018    2017    2016   2015    2014    2013    2012    2011    2010    INDEX

Alumni Feature December 2013

Authorship 20/20: the National Writers’ Congress

By Diana Jenkins

Well, team, we’ve reached the twilight of another lightning bolt year, and I thought I’d wrap up the Monthly Features for 2013 with some thoughts on the Australian Society of Authors’ (ASA) National Writers’ Congress. Held at Sydney’s National Maritime Museum over several days in October, it was an invaluable and thought-provoking opportunity to listen to and reflect upon issues affecting Australian authors across all areas of our industry.

Alumni Feature November 2013

Creative Correspondence: Peter Bishop Replies

Introduction by Diana Jenkins

Imagine my delight when Peter responded to last month’s open letter with an offer to write a public reply; what a delightful whole it makes, bringing together two halves of what is almost always commenced in the spirit of exchange.

A letter with no reply can leave the sender feeling painfully bereft – and I ought to know. I have a peculiar (some might even say perverse) talent for writing to people who never write back.

Alumni Feature October 2013

Creative Direction

By Diana Jenkins

A little word before we begin: I’ve just realised my own Alumni Profile is out of date – is yours? Some of you have won prizes and published novels – yes, plural – since you last updated your bio, so please send your latest, with a pic, to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Walking up Varuna’s curved, picturesque drive, the gravel crunching rudely beneath my boots, I knew I might cry. I was just so happy to be there again. It was twilight, the air cool but not cold, and anyway I was warm after the brisk downhill walk from Katoomba, where I’d kissed my son goodnight and farewelled my babysitting friends before charging purposefully into the nearest grog shop. Now I held two bottles of wine, awkward and uneven in a paper bag, and a heart fit to burst with anticipation and pleasure. I hadn’t even crossed the threshold yet; it was simply the Varuna Effect.

Alumni Feature September 2013

Alumni Interview: Catherine Lee

Interviewed by Varuna News Editor Diana Jenkins

Writers all around the world are watching the digital publishing space with interest – and if they’re not, they should be. We must keep abreast of this transformation. In my view, it’s imperative that writers cultivate their digital literacy. That doesn’t mean racing off to upload a shitty first draft as an e-book – the apparently unstoppable torrent of poor quality manuscripts flooding the digital marketplace does a disservice to writers, readers and publishers all – it only means we can’t la-la-la our way out of this one. Not this time.

Horse. Bolted. You know the drill.

Alumni Feature August 2013

The Anatomy of Effort

By Diana Jenkins

Lately I’ve been thinking about how hard writers work – in particular how hard and for how long so many of us must work without any success at all to sustain us. It’s a pleasurable sort of pain – writers set the gold standard in masochism – but in my experience it’s neither leisurely nor lofty. There’s too much struggle involved for that. Too much terror.

Alumni Feature July 2013

Alumni Interview: Fiona Wood

Interviewed by Varuna News Editor Diana Jenkins


Reading habits are often established early, the beloved books of child- and young adulthood remaining powerfully talismanic for many of us. I remember the peculiar intensity of my own reading as a teenager with wistfulness as well as untold affection. Coming across a treasured title (or even just a reference to it) still produces an electric bolt of psychic recognition: what is this feeling if not enduring love?

Alumni Feature June 2013

Oh Yes, They Had a Story For Us...

SWF logo
Sydney, for those of you living elsewhere, is currently in recovery. Every year, the Emerald City is transformed for a week in May during the Sydney Writers’ Festival, and this year’s was a storytelling spectacular.


Alumni Feature May 2013

Giving It Away

It’s no secret that most writers will struggle to earn a living wage from their labours; it’s a phenomenon with a lengthy history, one that we’ve previously explored here. But it’s come to your News Editor’s increasingly cash-strapped attention that the problem has metastasised to include traditional income streams, always so vital to a writer’s practical capacity to continue writing. I’m talking about journalism work, editing work, research work, copywriting work, work in publishing houses and so on. All these old, vocationally appropriate sources of potential income have to a greater or lesser degree verily embraced the trend that’s seen an entrenched culture of inadequate payment lurch right off Frankenstein’s table and become a different monster entirely: no payment at all.

Alumni Feature April 2013

Alumni Interview: Susanna Freymark


Susanna Freymark, author of Losing February – and the wonderfully candid subject of this month’s alumni interview – chose a different Hemingway quote as her favourite, but I’ll warrant she knows a thing or two about this one:

In order to write about life first you must live it.


Alumni Feature March 2013

Alumni Interview: Jesse Blackadder

Here at the News Desk on a baking Sydney summer’s day, I’m looking at images of Antarctica and feeling a mysterious, pounding longing for a continent I’ve never seen. I assume most people have this powerful if usually one-sided relationship to Antarctica; it’s not that she’s entirely indifferent to our attentions and intrusions – as the continent’s changing face sadly attests – but she’s still so mighty, so breathtaking, so glorious that she continues to render professional wordsmiths speechless. Varuna Alumna Jesse Blackadder is the latest Antarctic Arts Fellow to square up to the challenge of capturing the white-blue world way down south. The result is Chasing the Light, and it’s with great pleasure that I welcome Jesse to the Alumni Interview Suite to discuss her latest book.

Alumni Feature February 2013

Alumni Interview: Mark O’Flynn

I had the pleasure of spilling a cup of tea all over Alumnus Mark O’Flynn at the refreshment table during Varuna’s Strategy Day. Flinging hot beverages about the room is not how I ideally meet people for the first time, but it turns out the threat of third-degree burns is a great conversation starter.