It's been a delightful two weeks at Eramboo Artist Environment in Sydney Australia's Terrey Hills. I've written the final short story for my collection, Pet, and I've re-drafted a couple more. I put the finishing touches on the stories I co-wrote with Dunedin school children as part of the Little Landers programme earlier this year, and I've also done some work on a Port Chalmers project I'm involved with. So, it's been a pretty productive two weeks!
It's also been nice to have the chance to do some reading. I've read two and a bit books, Billy Bird by Emma Neale (a beautiful, inventively-written novel about a marriage in crisis - excellent), Evie's War by Anna McKenzie (a meticulously-researched young adult WWII novel - also excellent) and I've made a start on The Omnivore's Dilemma (absolutely horrifying, but also excellent).
I would highly recommend Eramboo to any writers or artists looking for a beautiful, affordable and inspiring environment in which to develop creative work. We've had the use of a studio bedroom with a little desk in it, and also the use of 'the teaching space' - a long, sunny room with desks, a couch and a well-stocked bookcase. There's also a gallery space, which I've been able to use as a Pilates space in the mornings. There are wallabies in the garden, along with an incredible collection of birds including kookaburra, cockatoos, magpies and our favourite, the cheeky butcherbird. If you're lucky, the friendly brush turkey might also function as your alarm clock by scrabbling around on the porch with its dinosaur claws.
Several artists have permanent studio spaces here, and everyone we've met has been welcoming and kind.
The township of Mona Vale is a relatively short drive away, and features an art supply shop, a great library (where you can do printing) and an excellent bookshop. Mona Vale beach is worth a visit, as is the glorious Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. It's also fairly accessible to central Sydney, and we spent a weekend in the city soaking up the art galleries and an opera.
A culture shock warning for fellow kiwis - I've never before stayed at a place where I couldn't just go for a stroll when I needed to stretch my legs. Eramboo is on a fairly busy network of roads with no footpaths, and we couldn't find any walks nearby. Having to get in a car to go for a walk was an adjustment - and the best walking spot we found was the National Park, which has a $12 entry fee. (Totally worth it, but not very sustainable for repeat visits.) Be sure to hire a car, otherwise you might find yourself going a bit stir-crazy.
However, we've still managed to see beautiful sights, have cultural experiences and do plenty of our own creative work - and we leave this beautiful environment feeling thoroughly inspired.
Thank you, Eramboo!
I've popped over the ditch to experience the Sydney winter for a couple of weeks (it's not dissimilar to the Dunedin summer!). I'm staying at Eramboo Artist Environment, which is a wonderful facility in Terrey Hills, near Sydney's northern beaches. I can't get over the incredible variety of birds here - and the incredible variety of creepy crawlies! Apparently the artists share this space with a goanna and a python, along with a magnificent kookaburra, a friendly butcherbird, several intrepid bush turkeys and the ever-present cockatoos.
Find out more about Eramboo Artist Environment.
While I'm here I'm completing what will (hopefully) be the final short story for my collection, Pet. I'll also polish up a couple of older stories, and do a couple of other writing tasks too.
Opening with award-winning story Emotional Support Animal (Sunday Star-Times), Pet is a collection of literary short stories. Each story peels a different layer of meaning from the word ‘pet’, and the collection addresses themes of captivity, animal attraction and pack mentality. The tone of the collection is contemporary and darkly humorous. The stories are not afraid to peer beneath the stone pillars of culture and confront what is wriggling beneath. Stories from Pet have been, or will be, published in Takahē, Fresh Ink, The Sunday Star-Times, Mindfood Magazine, Headland, Bonsai and Pot Roast. Kathryn is the ‘momager’ of one of New Zealand’s most famous pets, Bruce the Cat, about whom she wrote the children’s book Bruce Finds A Home.
2023 Burns fellow Kathryn van Beek has an MA from Victoria University Wellington - Te Herenga Waka’s International Institute of Modern Letters. She is a winner of the Mindfood Short Story Competition and the Headland Prize. Her collection of short stories, Pet, is available as a podcast, and her work has also appeared in Overland, takahē, Newsroom, and the Sunday Star-Times. She lives in UNESCO City of Literature Ōtepoti Dunedin with her two rescue cats.