Varuna: how to maximise your chances
This is a piece I wrote for ACT Write magazine about how to maximise your chances when applying for a Fellowship residency with Varuna Writer's House. I was a Fellowship selector from 2013-2015.
Varuna is the national Writers’ House in Katoomba. It’s a two-storey home that was built by writer Eleanor Dark and her husband, Eric Dark. Gifted to the state of NSW by their descendants, it has been operating for twenty-five years as a place for writers to have uninterrupted writing time in an extraordinarily beautiful and historic setting.
Varuna is funded to provide thirty Fellowships a year – five in particular categories and twenty-five general. A panel of peers (writers who have previously been awarded a Fellowship) selects these thirty Fellowships each year. Panel members serve for three years – their ‘reward’ is a free week at Varuna for their own writing purposes.
I have just completed three years on the selection panel and am writing this info sheet out of what I have learned for the benefit of applicants.
In your submission you are asked to provide up to 50 pages of your work (consecutive pages from your manuscript) and a cover sheet. Your cover sheet should include the following details:
The name of your manuscript
A Logline (1-2 line description of your project)
A brief synopsis of the work (approx. 200 words)
Brief outline of your intended work plan while at Varuna, bearing in mind that a Fellowship will normally be taken some months after your application (approx. 100 words)
Brief outline of previous writing experience, if it includes previously published works please identify the publisher or journal (approx. 100 words)
My tips are:
Make sure you have a strong start to your piece of writing. (Each year for the last three years, we have had at least 150 submissions. It’s a lot of reading and the more you can grab a selector’s attention from the outset, the more likely you’ll end up being considered.)
Make your log-line concrete and memorable. (At various points during the selection process, selectors are looking for short-hand ways to refer to a particular manuscript, so a log-line such as ‘Jane sets out to find her brother by tricking her blind uncle and then becomes a shock-jock’ is far more memorable and useful than abstractions such as ‘An odyssey through betrayal, loss, denial and love’.)
Abide by the formatting guidelines. (Failure to do so can be irritating to selectors – not a good outcome.)
Be realistic in your ‘work plan while at Varuna’. Take the timeline into account – you will be working on this manuscript months after applying. Provide an overview of the outcomes you imagine two weeks at Varuna would give you.
Do not ‘sneak’ your name into the application. (The selecting is done blind – if your name appears anywhere, you could irritate a selector and you may be disqualified.)
Applications open:16 June 2016
Applications close: 30 July 2016
Applicants advised of result: October 2016
Fellowships taken up: usually January to May the following year, though other dates can be negotiated.