Di Jenkins

Varuna Alumni Monthly Features 2016

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.

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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..

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Alumni Feature December 2016

Message from Features Editor Diana Jenkins

Dian Jenkins I want to take the opportunity to wish everyone a very safe and sane end to 2016, a year that’s left many people reeling. I’m still queasy with grief and dismay about the US election – there’s a stubborn part of my brain that just won’t accept the result, as though denying it will somehow alter the terrible course of events that has brought us Donald Trump, President Elect. It’s still so implausible and hideous to me that I gag every time I try saying it out loud. I haven’t even begun to comprehend how he managed to sidestep his appalling, repugnant objectification of half the population (how was that tape not the ignominious end of his candidacy?), let alone the sad fact that the voting men and women of America enabled it.

Alumni Feature November 2016

Alumni Interview: Dr Ann Moyal, AM

Introduction and interview by Varuna Features Editor Diana Jenkins

Ann Moyal


The weather was uncharacteristically inclement when I visited Ann Moyal in her Canberra home: cold, wet and miserable. It didn’t matter. Once I was comfortably ensconced in Ann’s gracious lounge-room, with its soaring ceilings, judiciously displayed artworks and lovely natural light, the mood inside was in perfect contrast to the rain streaking the tall windows. It probably sounds odd to say it, but I’ve been missing Ann since we met. I revisit our conversation often and just the thought of her gladdens my heart. At 90, Ann remains a force to be reckoned with. The legacy of our conversation is that she’ll forever be one of my top go-to girls of women I admire; she’s simply made of the right stuff.

Alumni Feature September 2016

With Gratitude

By Guest Contributor Vanessa Kirkpatrick

Vanessa Kirkpatrick


Anyone who has attended an event facilitated by acclaimed poet Deborah Westbury knows that she creates an atmosphere of intimacy in which all present feel writing’s important place in human experience. Sadly, due to illness, Deb has retired from her position as Poet-in-Residence at Varuna, so it’s time to pay tribute to some of her many achievements.




Alumni Feature August 2016

There's Gold in Far North Queensland

By Alumni Guest Contributor Elizabeth Smyth

Elizabeth Smyth


Elizabeth is a Varuna Residential Fellow 2016 for her manuscript, ‘Higher Education,’ contemporary fiction set in the tropics. ‘Sundy Bldy Sunday', her memoir piece on the challenges of being a writer from the far north, appeared in Meanjin’s Autumn 2016 issue. Elizabeth’s short fiction was long-listed in this year’s ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize. She is appearing at the Cairns Tropical Writers’ Festival in the session entitled, ‘Challenges for Regional Writers,’ 3.30pm Saturday 13 August in the Machans Room.



Alumni Feature July 2016

Your Time Starts Now

By Varuna Features Editor Diana Jenkins

winter I don’t know how you’re all feeling, but between the Bastards of Brexit; the previously risible but now apparently genuine threat of Donald Trump as the next POTUS; the unspeakably revolting return of Pauline Hanson – not to mention the global body count of innocent lives lost, updated daily – it’s feeling like a long, bitter winter has descended and we’re not even halfway through the real one yet.


Alumni Feature June 2016

Alumni Interview: Suzanne Leal

Interviewed by Varuna Features Editor Diana Jenkins

Suzanne Leal Suzanne Leal is a woman of many talents. In demand on the literary circuit as a facilitator and presenter, she works as a lawyer and commentator in the areas of child protection, refugee law and criminal law, is the mother of 4 children and has somehow also managed to pen her hotly anticipated second novel, The Teacher’s Secret, while tending her insanely busy personal and professional life. Following up from an acclaimed debut – in Suzanne’s case, Border Street, commended in the Asher Literary Award – is no easy ask for any author, but The Teacher’s Secret is timely, disturbing, thought-provoking and ultimately very hopeful, despite throwing a clear, curious light across a fictional schoolyard. It’s a great pleasure to welcome Suzanne to the Varuna Alumni Interview Suite.

Alumni Feature May 2016

Reasons to Write and Cause to Celebrate

By Diana Jenkins

TNWOT cover Many of you will know by now that long-time Varuna Alumna Charlotte Wood recently took out the 2016 Stella Prize for her celebrated fifth novel, The Natural Way of Things.

I doubt nearly so many of you realise that it’s only thanks to Charlotte’s tireless efforts that the Alumni News/Monthly Feature even exists, and it’s a direct result of Charlotte’s involvement that, for better or ill, I’ve been producing these interviews and features for you ever since Charlotte handed over the reins. I owe her a great debt of thanks for this role and other things as well, some of which I’ve been reflecting upon since reading Charlotte’s, er, stellar acceptance speech.

Alumni Feature April 2016

Varuna Writers Set to Soar at the Sydney Writers’ Festival

By Alumni News Editor Diana Jenkins

SWF 2016 logo It’s been my custom in previous years to give Varuna Alumni and other visitors to this site a bit of a Sydney Writer’s Festival round-up at the start of May, when the festival invigorates and illuminates that city and numerous satellites – including Katoomba, thanks to Varuna’s partnership program. I realise now my timing has been deeply flawed. Under Artistic Director Jemma Birrell’s stewardship SWF (May 16-22) keeps posting record crowds, so that every year many ticketed sessions are selling out well in advance. Festival fever, in other words, is already upon us, though the program launched at Pier 2/3 a week ago. Ergo, I thought I’d wave the starter’s flag, because punters are off and racing; some events have already sold out.



Alumni Feature March 2016

Alumni Interview: Michelle Michau-Crawford

Interviewed by Diana Jenkins, Alumni Features Editor

Michaelle Michelle-Crawford Perth-based Alumna Michelle Michau-Crawford joins us in the Alumni Interview Suite this month, to share how one prize-winning short story became the basis of her debut collection. Talking to Michelle has been a wonderful reminder that Varuna’s community encompasses talented writers from all over this vast country of ours, so I’d like to extend a particularly warm welcome this month to all our Varuna Alumni and readers from Western Australia and other distant states and territories. It’s great having you with us.



Alumni Feature February 2016

A Writer’s Resolutions

by Diana Jenkins, Alumni Features Editor

New Year It’s the 2nd of February, so that’s one resolution already up in smoke: this first feature is a day late and counting, which is not how I planned to start the year. It’s not that I generally make a list of unrealistic New Year’s resolutions – I don’t – but each January, there is a mental reshuffle, professional and otherwise, and I do always start the year hoping to improve my performance and that certain things get done.