The Magical Mists of Varuna


For the past week I have been writing at Varuna, the beautiful writers’ retreat in the Blue Mountains. Every time I go there, and this is my third visit, I come away with an incredible sense of achievement and satisfaction.

It has to do with being in the mountains, in the quiet, in a writer’s house, surrounded by bird song and rolling mist.

It has to do with working in the same environment with four other inspirational writers/illustrators/poets. We have come together to work day and night with words and pictures.

It has to do with getting down, deep down into the layers of your story where things you never realised before suddenly become obvious, where threads merge and twist and you cry out, ‘Yes! of course!’ and then you slap your hand over your mouth because you’re suddenly aware that you are not alone but on a writers’ retreat.

I imagine each one of us in our writing rooms, words and pictures swirling around our heads and I wonder if these swirling clouds of our imaginations overlap and ideas slip, slide and fall into each other.

I went up to Varuna to work on a particular picture book. I came away working on another. I like to illustrate randomly and do so almost daily. I like to play with my imagination, let it go, let it surprise me.

I tried to work on one of these stories but it didn’t excite and I soon grew bored. I began editing my middle grade fiction novel, Hushing Wood instead, and have made fine progress on that. I also worked on a rough for the front cover which I am pleased with.

On Friday in the late afternoon, before going down to Sheila’s delicious dinner, (Sheila comes and cooks for us each night), this sad gorilla turned up on the paper and a story began to form.


The next morning, in that dreamy state between sleep and wakefulness, I saw the book frame by frame and call it, for now, The Runaway Zoo.

It is a work in progress and I do not know where it will lead but it does excite me and that’s the important thing.

Here are a few more illustrations.

The Runaway Zoo


I have some other exciting news waiting in the wings but I can’t reveal what it is just yet.

In the meantime here are some ‘random’ illustrations I painted while at Varuna.

Missoni cats

Missoni cats


Varuna magpie

Varuna magpie

Tiger and Girl

Girl with Tiger

Gabi xx


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *