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Varuna Writers’ Centre in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney is a very special place. Former owners Eleanor and Eric Dark made the house and gardens a haven that nurtured their writing, their politics, and their relationships. Their son Mick Dark bequeathed it to the writing community, an act of great generosity, which somehow imbues this place with a writerly alchemy that fosters not just creativity but collegiality. I have felt both comforted and inspired every time I stay here.


Varuna in the mist (photo: Varuna, the Writers' House)


I started the script for my radio series Marrying Out in Eleanor’s own studio, happily isolated in the garden for hours on end, trying to bring order to hours and hours of tape. When I got mired in the myriad possibilities of a chaotic narrative, I’d shut the laptop and head for the escarpment. That endless horizon would fire up the neurones and calm the fear –  fear of deadlines, of unmanageability, of failure. A drink around the fireplace with the four other resident  writers, and the stimulating conversation that ensued over  Sheila’s enticing dinners would round off the day, leaving me tired but hopeful, ready to try again next day. And lo and behold – whatever magic is in the Varuna air, I’d always leave at the end of a week with a sense of achievement. It might not be finished, but at least I now knew where it was going.


So I’m delighted to be invited to host the very first Writing for Radio workshop at Varuna, from Sept 24-October 1st this year. There are just four places, open to all kinds of radio makers. The cost is $1600, which covers food, accommodation, work space and mentoring by me. Whether you have a half-finished project, or just the germ of an idea, this is your chance to immerse yourself in the principles of writing for the ear, using sound as well as words to tell story, among kindred spirits. I have taught radio production for over 20 years, and with the help of Varuna’s very special atmosphere, I look forward to helping you develop your own writing/radio work.

Varuna blossom (photo: Varuna, the Writers' House)

Sound is a highly affective medium, operating at a sensory, emotional and cognitive level – just think of how music can conjure emotions and affect mood. Words achieve special force on radio; besides their literal meaning, there is a wealth of social, cultural and emotional content embedded in the sound: accent, tone, timbre, delivery, create a unique auditory impact. This residency will allow writers to harness the power of voice and the intimacy of radio to create a work that can simultaneously engage heart and mind.

Residency information and application HERE.


Participants can submit a sample of their proposed project in audio or print form. Audio should be not more than 15 minutes long, delivered via CD as good quality MP3 or WAV recording; script to be not more than 50 pages.

All projects should contain a summary of theme, approach and anticipated outcome (genre, length of final audio piece), a rationale for why the project is suited to radio, and a short statement of your objectives in taking this residency.

Please include a CV with relevant writing and radio background and interests.


June 1: Applications due.
         Aug 1: Successful writers notified.


Day One: 5-7pm: Introductory Workshop where participants outline projects and aims, and receive feedback from Siobhan and peers. Dinner as a group. After dinner, we listen to a radio feature for inspiration and diversion.

Day Two: 5-7pm: Group critique of individual work done today. Each writer receives practical feedback and mentoring from Siobhan. Dinner as a group. After-dinner radio feature.

Day Three-Five: as Day Two.

Day Six: 5-7pm and After Dinner: Presentation of Work and Critique by group.

Day Seven: Final 30’ individual session with Siobhan.

NOTE: Siobhan will also accept audio excerpts to listen to during the day: up to 30’ per person per day. These would be drafts and redrafts of the work in progress.

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