About Me

Hi. My name is Sally Hall and I write YA. In 2019 I was shortlisted for the Varuna Publisher Introduction Program (I was also shortlisted in 2016). In 2014 I won a PIP Fellowship for a young adult manuscript. In 2013 I was awarded the CBCA NSW Charlotte Waring Barton Award which included a mentorship with Penguin Books Australia. I've had magazine and short stories published in various anthologies and placed in many competitions. I also write in a corporate capacity for my 'day job'. My website is www.sallyhall.com.au.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Visiting Varuna House for the very first time!

In August this year I was lucky enough to visit Varuna The Writers House for the very first time as part of the Publisher Introduction Program Fellowship that I was awarded for a young adult manuscript The Prediction. It short it was amazing!

The beautiful Varuna House
Varuna House is a beautiful old building full of character and history surrounded by gorgeous gardens. The staff welcomed me upon arrival and gave me a tour of the building which includes lounge room/dining area, kitchen, laundry, office and five bedrooms/writing studios. I was given the Main Room which included two desks and an ensuite.

I arranged to meet with Stephen Measday, my mentor as part of the PIP Fellowship, on the first afternoon I arrived. We had a long discussion about his suggestions for my story. I wrote copious notes and later typed them into a check-list of things to cover.

Selfie (rugged up against the cold) of me at Varuna
At welcome drinks that evening I met the other four residents. Jansis O’Hanlon, the CEO, talked to us about the history of the house.

As I work full time and have a family my normal ‘spare’ time is very limited but the beauty of a residency at Varuna is that there are no jobs to go to, children to take to sports or groceries to buy. There’s nothing but you and your willpower to get the job done. I’m happy to say I used my week of writing time very wisely. I got up early and worked hard on my manuscript. I diligently crossed the items off my list of changes from my mentor. I even got started on opening chapters of two other projects I’d been thinking about for a while.

When I needed a break from the computer I went for a walk. The town of Katoomba is not far away from Varuna and is full of lovely shops and cafes. The weather was bitterly cold though. It even snowed one evening.

Breakfast and lunch are a help yourself arrangement from the products provided in the kitchen area but dinner is cooked by the amazing chef, Sheila. It was wonderful to relax by the fire each night and talk to the other residents about how their projects were going.

One of the writing desks in my room
One night we each read a piece of our work aloud to the others. They were vastly different in subject and style but we were all pleased with what we’d produced in such a short time period.

The true beauty of Varuna House is that it focusses your attention to writing, books and the company of like-minded people and seems to bring out the best in everyone.

I had the most productive week and I felt like a ‘real’ writer. I encourage everyone to apply for the Varuna residential programs. Having time to dedicate to your writing in such a great environment, without distractions, is absolutely priceless.
Read a full interview of my experience at Varuna House in an upcoming issue of Buzz Words (a brilliant newsletter for aspiring authors).

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