Di Jenkins

Varuna Alumni Monthly Features 2010

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 2010

The places from where stories are told

by Carol Major

A few years back my sister attended a panel discussion in which Margaret Atwood was a member. In answering a writer’s question she replied that one of the fundamental starting points for any story (and this can apply to poetry and essays as well) is to be clear on who is telling this story to whom about what. This is a solid piece of advice and to which I would like to add ‘and why’. What is the compulsion to tell that story to that particular audience and at that particular time?

Alumni Feature November 2010

“Please no, not this again”: squaring up to the second draft

by Diana Jenkins

It’s hard to know with so much material to choose from, but perhaps the single most naïve, ignorant thing your News Editor has ever said is, “That’s it; I’m done.” I was talking about my first draft, and like a big fat lazy delusional dumb-dumb, I actually thought my novel was finished. Just to put the full extent of this embarrassing miscalculation in context for you, that first draft took five months to write, and next month marks our four-year anniversary together. A bruising recent rejection suggests there’s still a way to go before anyone calls, ‘Time.’ And even though some of us sure as hell aren’t in Second Draft Kansas anymore, Toto, let’s head back to those good old days now, back to when it was still possible to count drafts on both hands, and consider the crucial role of the second born.

Alumni Feature October 2010

Always the Bridesmaid: Managing Rejection While Peers are Publishing

by Diana Jenkins

reject stamp Almost every writer, no matter her or his critical standing or commercial success, will experience rejection at some point, and most of us will experience it time and time again. Rejection takes many different forms, and comes from an endless bounty of sources: other writers, loved ones, friends, mentors, literary agents, editors, publishers, readers, critics, scholars, and the occasional born arsehole. We should probably find a fun word for rejection, because it recurs so frequently in the average writer’s life that the one we’re stuck with can really start taking its toll. Rejection.


Alumni Feature September 2010

Curiouser and curiouser: managing influence in original work

by Diana Jenkins

At this year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival Afternoon Tea, back in May, moderator and veteran broadcaster Geraldine Doogue opened discussion following guest author Brian Castro’s reading – from his new, critically acclaimed novel The Bath Fugues – by declaring that the classical, literary and philosophical allusions across Castro’s oeuvre “…just aren’t us.”

Alumni Feature August 2010

The First Alumni News!

Each month the Alumni News page will feature a single, substantial feature on some aspect of the writing process – members of the Varuna Alumni Association are invited to contribute their thoughts to this piece. Alumni who have other news to submit are asked to send an entry of less than 100 words (it will no longer be edited) in the body of an email, and accompany it with a usable photograph in JPG format if you wish. In either case, please send an email to our News Editor, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Alumni Feature July 2010

It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it…

The perils & pitfalls of memoir writing

Memoir - a tricky subject by Diana Jenkins

memoir Recently joined Alumna Elisabeth Hanscombe kindly answered last month’s call out to Alumni for your thoughts on the tricky territory of memoir writing, saying she has an interest in “all things autobiographical” (and thank goodness someone does, or this piece would have been very short indeed! Who would have guessed that the memoirists among us would be such a shy and retiring lot?).

Elisabeth’s blog, Sixth in Line, includes regular posts on issues concerning the genre. In a post written back in April 2010 – Why I write autobiography – Elisabeth notes that the task of writing "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth" is an impossible one, saying, "there is no such thing as absolute truth, only multiple variations of it, and multiple perspectives."

Alumni Feature June 2010

Journey into the heartland of a novel

Alumna Gillian Turner was one of last year's Varuna visitors to the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig in Ireland. She sent us this stunning report of her time there.

The view from Gillian's room at AnnaghmakerrigThere were men on the road with guns when I set off for my last walk around Annaghmakerrig.

Kathleen Epelde

Learning to Read

by Kathleen Epelde, Winner, 2010 Northern Territory Literary Awards

Turning onto the Stuart Highway, I press down on the accelerator and don’t let up until the needle reaches 130, arriving at Erldunda in record time an hour and a half later. Tourists sit on picnic tables in front of the roadhouse, dazed by all the space. There are Indian women in bright pink saris, looking like exotic lotus flowers that got blown off course. There are Japanese couples in khaki outfits, regarding the world at arm’s length through cameras. There are Germans sporting brand new Akubras and grey nomads comparing mileage. A few people are clustered near a fence at the edge of the parking lot, looking at emus that turn their flat heads on long, skinny necks, first one way and then the other to stare back with each uncomprehending glassy brown eye.