Thursday, May 27, 2010


There should be a word for how I feel right now, after my time last week, a word that would encompass after-glow, still high, coming down, sad it's over, trying to hang onto as much of the experience as I can.

I spent last week at Varuna, the Writers' House in Katoomba. I drove, flew, bussed and trained to get there the Sunday before last and then flew, bussed, drove and trained back last Sunday. In between I attended the Sydney Writers' Festival's Katoomba program, took part in a panel, and then wrote, read and ate for the rest of the time. Bliss. The festival was held at the Carrington Hotel, a super grande old dame of a country hotel. Its large rooms resounded with the excited chatter of lovers of books and ideas.

I got to swan around all day wearing a tag around my neck that proclaimed me to be an author. That was a new and thrilling experience in itself!

I sat in on all the sessions. I thought they were all particularly well run, especially my own, I have to say, which was chaired by Ed Campion, a Sydney priest and author in his own right. He made it all look so relaxed and casual as though the ideas were just popping into his head as he went along, but in reality he had prepared thoroughly and read the books very carefully.

The other author on my panel was David Carlin, whose memoir Our Father Who Wasn't There is beautifully and intelligently written. It's a complex and moving book that unfolds like a whodunnit.

David and I have had similar publishing experiences, with our books both being published by Scribe and edited by the same lovely but scrupulous editor, Nicola Redhouse. Ed managed to draw out many themes including the difficulties of telling personal stories as well as our paths to publication.

I thought our session went very well and so did the members of the audience who spoke to me afterwards.

After the intense time at the festival I put my head down at Varuna and worked. I should devote a whole blog post one day to Varuna and again there should be a word to describe how the place works, what it does. For now I'll just say I needed this boost to my writing and took full advantage of it. Every afternoon I went for a walk to get my body moving and on a couple of days I had coffee in Katoomba but otherwise I sat on my backside and wrote. Ahh bliss.

Now it's over and I'm back in my almost-ordinary life. This week I'm talking about my book and my experience twice. Tuesday evening I spoke to the Friends of the Baillieau Library. As a Melbourne University graduate it was particularly lovely to return as a speaker. I spent many hours in the library, though I must admit I spent many more on the lawn outside, discussing issues of the time with my friends - feminism mostly, and the Vietnam War.

Tomorrow morning I'm speaking at Rosebud library, so if you're anywhere nearby pop in at 10 am. I'd love to meet you. An interview I did with Melissa Hart is on the library blog.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Although we live only about an hour from Cradle Mountain we usually need an excuse to go there.

A visitor is always a good reason, especially one from from overseas. Yesterday's justification was the autumn foliage of the deciduous beech, Nothofagus gunnii, Tasmania's only native winter-deciduous plant.

Normally the leaves go from vivid green in spring to dark green in summer, through yellow to bright red in autumn before they fall, leaving a wonderful confetti underfoot. This year the foliage seem to have got stuck on yellow, but the trees are still beautiful. It was a cold day but we rugged up in jackets and scarves, gloves and woollen hats and kept warm by walking.

It's such a magical place. Every corner you turn reveals more beauty.

Whenever we go we say how lucky we are to live so close and how we should visit more often. Then we get busy and forget. This time we swear we'll return in mid winter. I hope we do. These photos are lovely but it's not just how pretty Cradle Mountain is; it's the effect the landscape has on you, the way the spirit of the ancient wilderness reaches out and melts the hard shell that civilisation constructs around us all.