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In the golden Dark house — a week at Varuna

Earlier this year I wrote about the places in which we write – the feeling that a particular location would be the key to writing success and inspiration. This week I’ve been incredibly lucky to be given a residency at one of Australia’s most prestigious ‘places in which to write’ – the Varuna writers’ house in the Blue Mountains, the former home of novelist Eleanor Dark.

On Monday I took a winding train trip from Sydney to the bitingly cold Katoomba, and arrived at the famous canary coloured residence where I’m staying with three very talented writers – Rebecca Harkins-Cross, Bronwyn Lea and Lorin Clarke – as part of the ‘Critiquing Culture’ Writer in Residence Mentor Program, where we work under the mentorship of the wonderful and erudite Geordie Williamson.

I’m very honoured to be a recipient of the CAL Varuna Scholarship and I must extend my sincere thank-you to CAL for funding scholarships such as these to foster and encourage writers.

Each morning at 7am I rug up in gloves, boots, two scarves and about four woollen layers under my coat and walk with Rebecca along the quiet, hilly streets up to the main road for coffee. We then come back to the warmth of the house to workshop with Geordie for an hour, before each retiring to our studios to write all day.

My room looks down upon Eleanor Dark’s studio and the forest of treetops in the distance. I sit at the window writing, with black coffee and an old oil radiator as my constant companions. At night an open fire roars downstairs and our lovely chef Sheila brings us another amazing dinner. I could stay here for far longer than a week.

My days have been spent working on an extended essay, but I thought I’d share some photos of this beautiful, secluded, inspiring place.

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  • 1
    Posted July 6, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Varuna love! So glad you’re enjoying your time there, Beth. I think you’re in the room I was in way back in ’08! An inspiring place, for sure. Beautiful pics, thanks for sharing.

  • 2
    Bethanie Blanchard
    Posted July 6, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Angela! It really is so beautiful and I feel very lucky and inspired. Yes my studio is the Green Room and bedroom is the Sewing Room – I love to think of all the other writers who have worked in this place before me!

  • 3
    Posted July 9, 2012 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Looks like such a terrific place to write and reflect. I’m very jealous!

  • 4
    calyptorhynchus
    Posted July 9, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Is there actually any evidence that writers produce better work when they are staying in places like this?

  • 5
    wordwhore
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    I am reading about your experience on a sunny friday afternoon in Sydney . Your photos and the company you are keeping has me shunning a beautiful day in Sydney.
    Ridiculously you have me yearning for isolation and self flaggellation in the form of staring at an empty page without any excuses to travel away from it.
    Thanks Bethanie for transporting me immediatly with your description.

  • 6
    Margo
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    My son, in the midst of a History PhD at ANU, was lucky enough to get a scholarship to spend about 6 wks living (alone, except for the final 2 wks) in an 1830 ‘farmhouse’ (looks more like a small mansion) at Thomas Jefferson’s historic home, Monticello, outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. No radio, no tv, no bars. Will be interesting to see what impact this environment (complete with record-breaking temperatures and power failures) has on his writing.

  • 7
    Bethanie Blanchard
    Posted September 18, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    What a lovely comment, thank you for reading!

  • 8
    Bethanie Blanchard
    Posted September 18, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    Wow sounds incredible! The lack of distractions and being in a different place to where you normally write was certainly a great help to me, and I hope your son too – I understand (and can sympathise with!) the difficulties of a PhD.. Not sure the the power failures would be very welcome though! I wish him the best of luck with it.

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