Di Jenkins

Varuna Alumni Monthly Features 2011

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.

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Alumni Feature December 2011

The Trouble with Narrative Voice

by Diana Jenkins

There are many qualities distinguishing one writer from the next: vocabulary, command of syntax, a way with alliteration, an incurable addiction to puns (see Kathy Lette here), differences of wit, an obsession with a particular subject, and, in some cases, an idiosyncratic, unmistakable narrative voice.

Alumni Feature October 2011

Member Interview: Charlotte Wood, author of 'Animal People'

Acclaimed Australian author and ever-faithful Varuna Alumna Charlotte Wood takes time out from promoting her new novel Animal People to chat to Alumni News Editor Diana Jenkins.

Alumni Feature September 2011

Slinging hash: how do writers really earn a crust?

by Diana Jenkins

At the height of 2009’s renewed parallel importation debate, one of Australia’s broadsheet newspapers (I’ll leave you to guess which one) ran a cartoon I shall never forget. In it, two immaculately groomed glamour types zipped along a country road in a snazzy convertible, scarves flying as they laughed and they laughed and they laughed. The speech bubble said something along the lines of, “That would be the end of the second Porsche, darling,” and the caption beneath said, ‘Authors Discuss Lifting Parallel Import Restrictions.’

I’ll just leave that with you for a moment.

Alumni Feature August 2011

E-publishing: is the revolution upon us?

by Diana Jenkins

Notwithstanding a lifelong inability to see past my next mealtime, here’s a few humble predictions from the News Desk:

  1. Cheap, mass produced paperbacks are headed for extinction.
  2. They will be replaced by e-readers, but hardcover books will survive.
  3. Hardcover books will remain expensive, and may start embracing very high production values, moving past simply being the means of packaging stories. They will become beautiful in their own right – works of art – and more will become available in ‘collector’s item’ limited editions.
  4. People like you and me, people who need books, will continue lusting after, purchasing, and treasuring these volumes, though I suspect we’ll buy fewer, because we’ll be forced onto e-readers whether we like it or not, and we won’t be able to afford every hardback we desire. Nonetheless, the book as we know and love it shall not die; long live the book.

Alumni Feature July 2011

What’s Mine is Yours: do writers beg, borrow or steal?

by Diana Jenkins

One can just imagine W. Somerset Maugham grandly proclaiming, "Great writers create; writers of smaller gifts copy." Be that as it may, most writers accept that they are influenced by reality; real people, real conversations, real events all inform – to one degree or another – just about every mode of storytelling there is. Why is this so? Well, why wouldn’t it be? Writers are in the business of trying to communicate something true about existence – even if it’s that we aren’t constrained by its limits when we enter imaginary realms. But if there’s a difference between drawing on reality without disclosing the real, and drawing on a pre-existing source – like, say, a written one – then it’s worth considering why and how that difference is delineated, and how you as a writer may elect to tackle it.

Alumni Feature June 2011

Member Interview: Adrienne Ferreira, debut author of Watercolours

by Diana Jenkins

With her first novel verily whizzing off the shelves, Alumna Adrienne Ferreira graciously took time out from the demands of the modern day promotional trail to chat with us about the changing colours of her writing world.

Alumni Feature May 2011

Young Buds and Late Bloomers: writing stages at different ages

by Diana Jenkins

Though the fantasy survives, long gone are the days of a generous benefactor keeping a favoured writer in a permanent room at the country pile; just about all of us will maintain a series of jobs throughout our writing lives to stay solvent while the rejection letters and/or piddling royalties roll in. But there’s a difference between working to support one’s writing and having a whole other previous career, with some writers enjoying full employment in other fields before turning to the quill. It’s odd, really: so many scribes readily admit to ‘always wanting to be a writer,’ so why does it take some of us such a damned long time to sharpen our pencils?

Alumni Feature April 2011

My Synopsis Sucks: rising to the challenge of first impressions

by Diana Jenkins

The road to publication is as treacherous as the Pacific Highway, and by some measures, signing up for the writing life is even worse. For a start, there are no exits; writers are mostly lifers. Plus scarce few ever really “arrive,” meaning the vast majority of us are essentially on a road to nowhere (see the 7 Stages of Grief for help with this). At least the Pacific Highway is lined with lots of encouraging signs that you’re approaching some sort of final destination, and you get to stop at places like the Big Banana along the way, whereas for the average writer, most days it feels like no one is ever going to want your work, fiction or non-fiction, short or long, two doors or four, and you’re the glassy-eyed driver gripping the wheel of some smoking jalopy who feels as though they should have pulled over a long time ago – say, back at Taree. But here you are, foot to the floor, a potential hazard to yourself and others, and the whole question of your writing’s future feels like a car displaying P plates and veering across three lanes: best avoided. Finally, one of the deepest potholes – and I promise I’m going to abandon this comparison any second now – that most aspirants hit at speed is the synopsis. Talk about an accident waiting to happen.

Alumni Feature March 2011

Rub it for luck: rites and rituals of the spooky art

by Diana Jenkins

James Hogg’s 1824 novel, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, is regarded as a ‘philo-psychological mystery,’ a term that might easily be used to describe the writing life itself. Indeed, let’s borrow Hogg’s title and recast it as The Private Habits and Confessions of a Justified Procrastinator, for surely the single most prevalent ritual among writers is task avoidance. You may call it a ‘routine,’ the way you skirt the perimeter of your writing day as though trying to catch your manuscript in the act of writing itself, but really, let’s be honest. Your slavish devotion to your morning espresso (tamp, tamp – pause – tamp); your dedication to current affairs (“Oh yes, I always read Al Jazeera online first thing; it’s the only way to stay on top of the Middle East situation…”); your insistence on clearing the Inbox before settling in for the day; all those small, carefully observed daily duties are bound up in the writer’s peculiar ritual of evasion.

Alumni Feature February 2011

A Room of One’s Own: claiming space in a shrinking universe

by Diana Jenkins

So okay, yes, the early arrival of your News Editor’s first child plainly exposed the underlying, entirely selfish motives behind this belated feature. You see, I was trying to prepare myself for the imminent (and now actual) loss of my office. Dizzy with self-interest, I had hoped to receive a flood of responses from alumni – soothing tales of how others have coped with such radical domestic rezoning, heartwarming assurances that the writing life would go on all but unchanged, ingenious suggestions for maximising the untold utility of any room with a closing door… but no. By some unspoken cosmic law of initiation, it was almost as if you could smell my desperation, and collectively you averted your gaze with the wisdom that knows one must pass through this valley alone: kiss your office goodbye, sweetie, it’s gone and it ain’t coming back. Thank you. No, really. I think I’m up to speed now.