Staying at Varuna: What to expect during your visit
Varuna is an environment dedicated to writing and offers writers ideal conditions in which to concentrate on their work. The success of Varuna depends on writers respecting the needs of their fellow guests. The house accommodates five.
Arrival & Departure Times
Guests generally arrive and depart on Mondays. Rooms are available from 2:00 pm on Monday afternoon, and on the Monday of your departure, we welcome you to leave Varuna at your convenience but to vacate the room by 9:30 am in order for us to prepare it for the next guest.
A short tour of the house - covering essential need-to-know practical details - is conducted on arrival.
The domestic arrangements have deliberately been kept as straightforward as possible. Breakfast and lunch are simple meals that residents serve themselves, helping themselves from the ample supplies in the kitchen – bread, various breakfast cereals, eggs, yoghurt, standard cheese, soup portions (mainly winter), juice, fruit, basic salad ingredients, biscuits, crackers, tinned fish, tinned vegetables, tinned beans, jam, peanut butter, coffee (espresso, decaf, instant), teas, etc. Residents are at liberty to augment these with their special delicacies and treats.
Dinner provides an occasion for people to meet and is the central social event in the house. All residents share in the meal, around a shared dining table.
Varuna's caterer Sheila prepares the evening meal at Varuna each night. With the ever-increasing number of food allergies and intolerances, it can be quite a feat to cook one meal that suits all five residents' needs. We appreciate your consideration of this as you make selections on your residency form.
The Standard Evening Meal at Varuna caters for people with no dietary restrictions, while the semi-vegetarian option can include seafood and/or white meat and there is also a 100% vegetarian option.
Please let Sheila our caterer know at least 24 hours in advance if you are not going to be in for an evening meal.
Laptop computer, USB if you need to print, mobile broadband device if your work requires heavy use of the internet, warm layers in case of cool weather (all year round), soap for showering, ear plugs if you are sound sensitive.
Varuna does have a hair dryer and also a couple of hot water bottles. Generally kept in the first storage cupboard upstairs.
Taking care of yourself and others
Varuna is a residential retreat with staff in attendance during office hours on weekdays. There is however, no on-site manager outside of these times.Varuna makes every effort to provide a safe environment for residents. If however, you notice anything that may be a risk to yourself or others you should let the Varuna Administrator (Vera) know as soon as possible.
Please keep shared areas pleasantly tidy. Joan, Varuna's housekeeper comes once a week to clean the house, but you will need to take care of general cleanliness of shared areas during your stay.
You also need to be mindful that you are responsible for loss or damage to Varuna items and the safety of your own possessions during your stay. All bedrooms and workrooms have locks and we ask that all windows and doors are locked before leaving the premises.
Please let a staff member know if you plan to be away overnight.
When using the grounds around Varuna, you should be aware that the garden is a natural environment, with informal pathways that may be inhabited by bush creatures such as snakes, lizards and spiders.Guests are also asked to respect that smoking is not permitted in the Varuna house.
On the back of your bedroom door you will find a list of matters you should be aware of during your stay, including a fire evacuation plan. Please be conscious of these things when enjoying your residency at Varuna.
The Eleanor Dark Foundation Ltd reserves the right to terminate a residency at Varuna at any time, entirely at the Management's discretion.
Bushfire Emergency Information for Residents
Varuna is located adjacent to the Blue Mountains National Park and therefore may be susceptible to bush fires during the summer months. If you are taking a residency at Varuna at this time, it is recommended that you read Varuna's Bushfire Emergency Information. This information has been developed to advise you of what to do if a bush fire is threatened or occurs while you are staying at Varuna.
Telephones & Quiet Working
Most guests bring mobile phones, but we ask them to keep phones off or on silent during the day, as even a murmur of conversation from a nearby room can be very distracting. Feel free to make mobile calls in the garden well away from the house during the day, or around the house after 6pm.
You are free to make local calls from the house phone, but should bring a phone card for long-distance calls, as there is no STD access from the house phone. Again, we ask guests to keep long conversations on the house phone for evenings as it can distract others.
As is usual for any retreat space, our guests should remain undisturbed in their work rooms during the day, between 9am and 6pm. Unless you have previously arranged to meet or speak with another writer, please don't disturb them during these hours.
Visitors not permitted at the house
For the same reasons, writers cannot invite guests or visitors to the house, and there is no television at Varuna. Guests can of course listen to their own music/media systems with earphones.
Varuna Library Collection
The Varuna Library Collection is a substantial library of over 3,000 books dispersed through the house and is available for use by residents during their stay. Volunteers Marsha Durham, Barbara Palmer and Frances Love have been overhauling the Varuna Library Collection for the past four years and a simple card system is in place to ensure that books are returned to their right place. Many of the books in the Living Room represent the outstanding achievements of writers - of nonfiction, fiction, poetry and drama - who have stayed or been connected with Varuna during its twenty two-year history as a writers' house. Unique to the collection are books from the personal library of Eleanor and Eric Dark, the original owners of Varuna, as well as books written by them. Electronic access to the part of the collection that has been catalogued is available at the Library Thing website - if you click on 'your library' you will see the full list of books that have been catalogued so far (over 1900).
Computers, Printer & Internet access
While writers must bring their own computers to work on, Varuna has a single desktop computer for the house, that enables printing and internet access. Printing is available via this computer, with paper supplied by Varuna, at a cost of 5c per page. Writers need to bring their own USB device.
Varuna has Wifi internet access available in the house, extending to all work spaces.
If you require constant use of internet for your writing, we encourage writers to bring their own mobile wireless broadband device.
Access by car
If driving to Varuna in your own car, entry is via 141 Cascade Street. After setting down in front of the house to unload, you will find a car park further along the driveway. If residents wish to close the gate at the Cascade Street entrance (after Monday) to minimise traffic, there is an alternative entrance via Loftus Street (go down Sherman Avenue, turn left into Loftus Street and it's two driveways along on the left hand side). The exit driveway goes out to Sherman Avenue.
Writers are asked to acknowledge any Varuna support they receive, in any subsequently published or produced works. This is helpful for the expansion of awareness of Varuna's contribution to Australian and international writing.
Varuna alumni and other writers involved with Varuna are free to choose the extent of acknowledging how Varuna's role has helped them with their writing project. It is always pleasing when writers formally acknowledge the assistance they have enjoyed through the Varuna experience. The Varuna library, with its many books containing authors' acknowledgements and inscriptions, illustrates Varuna's valued role in supporting writers.
Acknowledgements may identify and celebrate different aspects of this experience. Examples:
- Varuna the National Writers House: Some writers simply acknowledge Varuna the National Writers House. Others include specifics, such as uninterrupted writing time, meeting and sharing ideas with other writers, or gaining inspiration or focus.
- Varuna individuals: Writers sometimes highlight the helpfulness of a particular person associated with Varuna.
- Varuna programs: Writers who have been awarded Varuna fellowships or have been involved in major activities hosted by Varuna, sometimes acknowledge these as major forms of assistance.