Varuna Consultants


Dr Michael Mohammed AHMAD

Dr Michael Mohammed Ahmad is an award-winning novelist, playwright, community arts worker and editor. He is the director of Sweatshop: Western Sydney Literacy Movement and author of The Tribe (Giramondo, 2014) and The Lebs (Hachette, 2018). Mohammed is well-known for his nurturing, yet extremely honest, direct and critical approach to mentoring and training creative writers at all levels in their careers.



Tegan Bennett Daylight is a novelist and short story writer with more than twenty years experience as a teacher, critic and publishers’ reader. Her novels include Bombora (1996), What Falls Away (2001) and Safety (2006), and her short stories are collected in many anthologies and journals. She has been teaching in the writing program at the University of Technology since 1996. (Tegan is not available in 2019).

Jo Butler


Jo Butler has worked in the publishing industry for over 25 years as an editor (Penguin Random House and HarperCollins), publisher (HarperCollins/Fourth Estate) and literary agent (Cameron Creswell Agency). She has also worked for most other major and independent Australian publishing houses as a freelance structural editor, copyeditor and proofreader during her career. She is an experienced writing mentor, publishing workshop/seminar presenter and book contracts adviser. Jo’s aim as a consultant is to bring out the best in the writers she works with by challenging and encouraging them, while always remaining sensitive to the unique voice they bring to their narrative style. She loves the magic of seeing an author make a story more powerful, nuanced and seamless throughout the editing process − and as a result of the wonderful and robust conversations that can be shared about the characters and themes involved in an author’s work.



Nancy Conescu has spent her whole career working in children's books and is currently Associate Publisher of Berbay Publishing. Prior to working at Berbay, she was Executive Commissioning Editor of Walker Books Australia. Before moving to Sydney, she worked in publishing in New York and held positions at Penguin, Little, Brown, and Penguin Random House. She has worked with New York Times bestselling and award-winning authors and is passionate about developing new writers. Nancy is experienced at helping picture book, junior fiction, and YA writers build their confidence and assess which of their projects best merits their time and attention. She provides sensitive, comprehensive feedback that is focused towards bringing out the best in each of her writers and ideally readying their work for publication.



Margaret Hamilton has been involved with children’s books all her working life, as a children's librarian, a bookseller, a publisher and a parent. Margaret's publishing career began at Hodder & Stoughton, where she was a Company Director responsible for their entire Australian list. In 1987, Margaret and her husband Max set up Margaret Hamilton Books, a specialist children's book publisher. In fifteen years they achieved considerable international success and a reputation for high quality books, especially picture books. They now run Pinerolo, the Children's Book Cottage in Blackheath — the only centre for children's books in NSW, welcoming groups, promoting picture books and running courses on how to create them. Margaret offers mentoring and appraisals of picture books.



Vanessa Kirkpatrick is a writer, poet and teacher. She has a PhD in English Literature from the University of Sydney and a teaching qualification. She is an award-winning poet and her publications include To Catch the Light (Fence Post Press, 2013) and The Conversation of Trees (Hope Street Press, 2017). Vanessa is a nurturing and experienced creative writing mentor and is adept at assisting writers at all stages of manuscript development, from helping writers find the core of their writing project to providing detailed feedback on manuscripts.


Jody LEE

Jody Lee has worked in the publishing industry as an associate publisher (Simon & Schuster), commissioning editor and project editor (Random House and the ABC). She now freelances for all the major trade publishing houses editing books for children, YA and adults, including both fiction and non-fiction, ranging from biography, memoir, travel, history and popular culture. Working with writers is about focusing on storytelling and helping to develop their signature voice and style. It is also about encouraging a writer to take risks, to connect with their audience, to think critically about their craft and to keep reminding them why they took the leap into writing in the first place.



Melissa Lucashenko's interests are mainly in helping the development of emerging but already published or shortlisted Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and other writers of colour. Melissa is a Walkley Award winner for her long-form non-fiction. Melissa's novels have won or been short-listed for numerous Australian and International prizes including the Deloitte Qld Fiction prize and the Miles Franklin and Stella Awards. Melissa was the recipient of the 2016 CAL Fellowship for fiction writing. Please note that Melissa's availability is limited.



Carol Major has been a professional writer for over thirty years and works with writers across all narrative forms. Her skill is in drawing out the writer’s vision and matching it with crafting tools. She is originally from Scotland, later educated in Canada and now lives in the Blue mountains of Australia, a location she feels holds the ingredients of all three landscapes in one place. It follows that depicting place is one of her passions, and the subject of her Master of Creative Arts Degree.

Narrative voice is also a passion: who is telling this story to whom about what, and most importantly, why? What is the motive to tell? Motive was the subject of her Doctor of Creative Arts Degree. She believes it is a key ingredient in creating an authentic narrative voice.

Carol’s short stories, social commentary articles and essays have been published in Australian and Canadian journals and anthologies. She has completed three novels, and also works as a commercial writer with a particular focus on creating narratives to inform urban design. More about Carol can be found at



Stephen Measday spends his life writing books, scripts and plays. He is the author of seventeen young adult and junior fiction novels and is an award winning scriptwriter in adult and children's television. His awards include an Australian Writers Guild award for original radio drama and two novels The News They Didn't Use and A Pig Called Francis Bacon have been commended as Notable Books by the CBCA. Two of his plays, Blow Fly Blow and Mark Twain Down Under have been professionally produced.

Stephen has undertaken scores of mentorships over two decades and his strengths are assisting writers with structure, plot, storyline development, dialogue and characterisation.



Born in Melbourne Mark O'Flynn now lives in the Blue Mountains where he writes across a range of forms. After working for a number of years in the theatre where several plays were produced, Mark turned to fiction and also poetry. His poetry collections include The Too Bright Sun (1996), The Good Oil (2000), What Can Be Proven (2007), Untested Cures (2011), The Soup's Song (2015), and Shared Breath (2017). A second novel Grassdogs was published in 2006, followed by The Forgotten World, (2013), and also a collection of short stories White Light, (2013). He has also published a memoir, False Start, (2013). His most recent novel The Last Days of Ava Langdon, (UQP, 2016) was short listed for both the Miles Franklin Award and the Prime Minister's Literary Award for Fiction, as well as winning the Voss Literary Award 2017.

Mark is interested in poetry and fiction and how language and narrative works within different forms. He explores this by asking questions of the manuscript.

Kristina SCHULZ


 Kristina Schulz has worked as an editor and publisher for over twenty years in Brisbane, Sydney, New York and London. For the last 12 years, she has been the Children’s and Young Adult Publisher at the University of Queensland Press (UQP) working with both Australian and international authors. Kristina has spoken at writers’ festivals and conferences, contributed to industry boards and panels, judged writers’ prizes, and has helped authors and illustrators at pitching sessions and with manuscript feedback. She is passionate about Australian voices and has been lucky enough to work with many award-winning and best-selling authors including Claire Zorn, Peter Carnavas, Samantha Wheeler, Rebecca Sparrow, Steven Herrick, Nick Earls, Nova Weetman, Pip Harry and Megan Daley. 

Babette SMITH

Babette Smith is a freelance historian & writer. Her book, Australia's Birthstain, published in 2008, traces the country's shame about its convict foundations and the distorted history that resulted.

Australia's Birthstain follows the success of her earlier work, A Cargo of Women: Susannah Watson & the Convicts of the Princess Royal, a 2nd edition of which was also published in 2008. The fictional version of Cargo of Women was published in a new edition in 2010 by Macmillan Australia.