Congratulation to Janette (Jan) Conway on being awarded the 2024 Di Yerbury Residency.

Jan writes:

The concept for my proposed book, The Photo Album, germinated in response to a granddaughter’s questions about her ancestry. I, too, had often wondered who were these people that stared at us from within the vibrantly coloured pages of the old photo album.

Sepia images come into view as I turn the pages of the 180-year-old photo album I inherited from my father – images of my ancestors. The album has character too, leather bound, each silver-edged page illustrated with birds and flora of Australia, the Pacific and South America. With convict 5 x great grandparents arriving in 1791 and 1792 respectively, my family history spans almost the entire Australian colonial era to the present day.

The Photo Album will explore and bring to life these forebears with narrative biographies of each individual or family as they arrive on Australian shores. 

Those individuals who make up the family tree represented in the old album were a diverse bunch. From convicted thieves, pickpockets and highwaymen to surgeons, military men and farmers … but where were the women?

To fully populate my family’s story, I will seek out the women hidden in the shadows of their men – in humble cottages to grand manors, in villages, towns and cities, in churches – across England, Wales, Ireland and in the remote corners of Australia.

To truly know these forebears in Australia, I must understand them in the past. The story will take each one back to their roots in the United Kingdom. What was happening in their lives that they were forced or decided to independently emigrate to a land that hadn’t yet been officially named? Was the struggle to shelter and feed a family overwhelming? Perhaps a career change was demanded by superiors. It’s possible the politics of the day forced some to consider their options. Who did they leave behind?

Once in the colonies, it is not always the miscreants that cause problems for the establishment. With the arrival of Dr Edward Luttrell in 1804 as Assistant Colonial Surgeon, disputes with consecutive governors erupt over his medical practice. As the choicest land is granted to family along the Hawkesbury River, Aboriginal communities and ceremonial lifeways and practices are usurped. Skirmishes and fatalities occur on both sides.

In the 1830s will the Pedder, Corrigan and Storey families in Van Diemen’s Land act and behave any differently?

How does this disparate group of characters meld to be the family I know today? What will be the ultimate legacy of this ancestry to Australia?

In 2018, before attending a memoir workshop in Paris with Patti Miller, I was fortunate to spend time in the UK, visiting the Hertfordshire Archives and the National Archives, Kew. While there is much to be discovered online today, there is nothing more visceral than seeing, handling and smelling documents that tell an ancestor’s story of over 200 years ago. To walk in villages, enter homes and churches soaking up the smells, sounds and atmosphere was invaluable as I researched and began drafting The Photo Album.


October 2023

The last month of my writing residency in North Devon has literally flown! Autumn is definitely here, with shorter days, misty mornings and chilly nights. It has been a wonderful experience to spend the summer in this beautiful part of England and I will be so sad to leave. 

As well as writing, I have been focused on making the most of the research opportunities here, especially those simply not available in Australia. For example, an absolute highlight was the Battle of Britain Air Show at Duxford RAF in Cambridgeshire. This event commemorates the crisis in September 1940 when the RAF defeated the German Luftwaffe in its largest attack on Britain. The Air Show was completely sold out, and I was glad I had booked my ticket months before from Australia. 

So many people were dressed in 1940s clothes and uniforms (including me!), bringing World War 2 history to life with pilot scrambles, Home Guard patrols, secret aerial reconnaissance, vintage vehicles and live boogie woogie entertainment. There were aerial dogfights between Spitfires and Messerschmitts complete with explosions and flak, Spitfire and Hurricane fighter formations, and flyovers by Lancaster bombers. It was an extraordinary experience. 

I took advantage of the long weekend near Cambridge to visit several other museums including the Bletchley Park codebreaking centre, the Imperial War Museum at RAF Hendon, and a private tour of the WW2 top secret headquarters of RAF Fighter Command at Bentley Priory. I met with German historic aviation expert Tony Gemeinder who generously shared his knowledge with me. 

Another highlight was visiting the Jane Austen festival in Bath. It was surreal to see the streets of this beautiful town filled with hundreds of people dressed in gorgeous Regency costumes. The festival runs for several days, with the highlight being the Grand Promenade from Holbourne Museum in Sydney Gardens (which was Jane’s favourite place to walk in the mornings), down Great Pulteney Avenue through Queen’s Square and finishing at the Assembly Rooms. I loved walking in Jane’s footsteps, seeing where she lived at 4 Sydney Place, and visiting some of her favourite haunts. The British certainly enjoy celebrating their literature and history. 

In Bath, I met acclaimed English children’s author Fleur Hitchcock (author of Murder in Midwinter, the Clifftopper series and Mouseheart) and it was fascinating to discuss emerging trends in children’s literature and the UK publishing industry. 

The Appledore Book Festival is held every September in this historic fishing port, about half an hour away from Barnstaple, at the confluence of the Rivers Taw and Torridge. The nine day festival includes a fascinating lineup of author talks and cultural experiences, the opportunity to meet local authors, as well as a comprehensive children’s programme. I particularly enjoyed hearing World War 2 historian, author and broadcaster James Holland, who shared the stories behind his new book The Savage Storm, about the battle for Italy in 1943.  

This summer was unusually cool and damp, which made it good weather for hiking several sections of the South West Coastal Walk with its steep climbs, muddy paths and spectacular views over the Atlantic. Several people recommended that I should read The Salt Path by Raynor Winn, a beautifully written and uplifting memoir about a couple walking over 630 miles though North Devon and Cornwall, after losing everything.

About ten miles north of Barnstaple is stunning Exmoor, with its black-faced sheep, wild Exmoor ponies, and vast swathes of blooming purple heather and yellow gorse. Tiny villages are nestled in the shelter of narrow valleys, beside cascading brooks. 

On one exploration, we turned down Hookaway Hill, onto a hedged lane, barely wider than our car, crossing Robber’s Bridge. Flocks of pheasants were nesting in the hedgerows and woodland. The drive was stunning, but rather hair-raising when we came headfirst upon a large tractor returning home and had to reverse some distance to let it pass. 

Imagine my delight, when we crossed a shallow ford by an ancient arched bridge over Badgworthy Water, and unexpectedly arrived in Doone Valley, to discover the very farm where the classic novel Lorna Doone was set. Lorna Doone was written by RD Blackmore in 1869, inspired by murderous tales of the real-life Doone family, a clan of Scottish outlaws. 

Blackmore’s grandfather was rector at St Mary’s Church in the nearby hamlet of Oare, where Lorna Doone was shot on her wedding day, by the villain Carver Doone. The National Trust is renovating the old Doone Farm buildings, including the derelict stables and outbuildings. Inside the old farmhouse, you can see the huge kitchen fireplace and the original, scarred kitchen table. 

Another Victorian classic that I loved from my childhood was The Water Babies, by Charles Kingsley. He was also a local writer, growing up in the quaint, fishing village of Clovelly on the Hartland Coast, part of an historic family estate. The village is vehicle-free, set on a steep cobbled lane, leading down to the 14th century quay, with breathtaking views over the Celtic Sea. One of the cottages is now the Kingsley Museum, celebrating his life and books. The village is listed as one of the most beautiful in England and attracts huge crowds in summer. The best tip is to go early on a sunny, autumn Friday to explore without the masses. You can also visit the walled Clovelly Court Gardens above.

So as my Di Yerbury residency comes to its end, I’d like to say a huge thank you to previous winners for their helpful tips and suggestions, especially Helen Thurloe, Anne Beaumnont and Cindy Broadbent, and of course to Di Yerbury and the Society of Women Writers. It has been a dream come true. 

Best wishes,
Belinda Murrell


September 2023

It is the first week of autumn here but the days are still warm and sunny, with blue skies and long evenings. The hedgerows are full of ripe blackberries and the last of the summer roses and wildflowers are blooming, yet the leaves are starting to turn. 

North Devon is so beautiful and a delight to explore. On the rugged coast there are golden beaches and quaint fishing ports, while inland has miles of rolling green farmland, narrow country lanes and pretty thatched cottages. To the north are the rolling moors, covered in purple heather, with wild Exmoor ponies and black-faced sheep. Such a stunning place to walk. 

I have been in Barnstaple for nearly two months, so two-thirds of the way through my writing residency. It has been an incredible experience to live and work here. Wandering the streets, chatting with neighbours and shopkeepers, I feel like a local. Everyone is so friendly. 

Last week I took a few days to explore Cornwall, including the former smuggling coves of Boscastle, Port Isaac, Padstow, Fowey and Mousehole. I visited the Padstow Bookseller, a gorgeous bookshop which was established by Australian publisher and booklover Sarah Stein.

The highlight of my Cornish visit was a literary quest to walk in the footsteps of Daphne Du Maurier, around the medieval port of Fowey. Daphne du Maurier lived here for most of her adult life. 

I followed one of Daphne’s favourite hikes from Fowey to Readymoney Cove (where Daphne and her children lived during World War 2), past St Catherine’s Castle over the cliffs, to Polridmouth (the stone cottage here inspired the boathouse in Rebecca) and up to Gribben Head. It was on this walk that Daphne first saw Menabilly, the house she fell in love with and later restored. Menabilly was the inspiration for Manderley in Rebecca, Barton in My Cousin Rachel, and the setting for The King’s General. The grand house could just be glimpsed, hidden amongst the woodland, from Gribben Head. 

Another highlight was staying a night at the atmospheric Jamaica Inn, on Bodmin Moor. This former smugglers’ haunt was discovered by Daphne on a riding holiday with a friend. The weather turned and the girls became lost in the mist. The horses found their way to the old inn, and there Daphne heard stories about its history of smugglers and murderous wreckers, inspiring her famous novel. 

Cornwall has been an inspirational setting for so many writers from Daphne du Maurier, Winston Graham (The Poldark series), Antonia Barber (The Mousehole Cat), Kenneth Grahame (The Wind in the Willows), William Golding (Lord of the Flies), Thomas Hardy (Tess of the D’Urbervilles) to Australian Kate Morton (The Forgotten Garden).

A couple of weeks ago was Book Week in Australia. I ran a creative writing workshop with a group of talented young writers at Melton Library in Melbourne, via Zoom. I was a little nervous about the time difference (very early morning here!) and the technology, but it all went off beautifully. The stories and characters which the children created were fantastic. 

In August I was invited to speak at Barnstaple Library to the Writing For Children group, about the Society of Women Writers’ Di Yerbury Residency, my books and the Australian publishing industry. The group was a mixture of local published authors and aspiring children’s writers. They were thrilled to hear about Di Yerbury, the writing residency and her connection to Barnstaple. They were also very interested to hear about my creative writing practice and the collaborative process with my Penguin publishing team. I shared a sneak peek into my upcoming junior fiction series and the development of the book covers. 

Next weekend, I’m looking forward to catching the train to Bath for the annual Jane Austen festival. Later in September, I will be attending the famous Appledore Book Festival, which features writers such as Ann Cleeves, Val McDermid, Deborah Moggach, Alexander McCall Smith, and Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho. So lots of wonderful opportunities to look forward to. 

It has been such an inspiring trip and I am so grateful for this wonderful opportunity provided by our Patron, Professor Di Yerbury, and the Society of Women Writers. Until next time!

Best wishes
Belinda Murrell


August 2023

As I write, the sun is shining, after several days of incessant rain. It is a true Devon summer. Blustery, drizzly, or misty. Then when the sun struggles through, the countryside is transformed. Wildflowers are blooming, blackberries are ripening in the hedges and the hay is being harvested in the nearby meadows.

I have been here in Barnstaple now for three weeks and am so grateful for this wonderful opportunity to live and work in England for three months, provided by our Patron, Professor Di Yerbury and the Society of Women Writers. 

Barnstaple is an ancient port town on the River Taw, a few kilometres from the wild North West Devon coast. The old town retains evidence of its wealthy past, with impressive historic buildings, a ruined castle motte and its 800-year-old stone Long Bridge, one of the longest medieval bridges in Britain. Di’s apartment is located close to the medieval town centre with picturesque views over quaint cottages and the church tower of Holy Trinity, to the fields and meadows on the hillside. 

The first couple of weeks have been spent settling in, finding the best grocery stores, organising technology, and exploring the local area, which is brimming with history and literary connections. Famous local writers include Charles Kingsley (Water Babies and Westward Ho!), Henry Williamson (Tarka the Otter), and Rudyard Kipling (The Jungle Book). In 1865, RD Blackmore was inspired to write Lorna Doone while on a holiday in Exmoor, while more recently, Michael Morpurgo wrote his famous novel War Horse based on stories told in the nearby Duke of York pub.

The Romantic poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth and Percy Bysshe Shelley, loved North Devon, especially wandering the local byways. In 1797, Coleridge was inspired to write The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan, while walking with William and Dorothy Wordsworth near the fishing port of Lynmouth.  

In 1812, Shelley lived in a thatched cottage in Lynmouth for a few months with his 16-year-old bride Harriet, until he fled to Wales to escape prosecution for distributing revolutionary tracts in Barnstaple. Two years later he abandoned poor pregnant Harriet to elope with 16-year-old Mary Godwin, author of Frankenstein and daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman in 1792. It is very inspiring to walk in the footsteps of some of my literary heroes. 

Last week, I was invited to join the monthly meeting of one of the local writing groups at Barnstaple Library. I was asked to give a short presentation about my books and the SWW Di Yerbury writing residency, and to contribute feedback on some of their works in progress. It was lovely to meet so many passionate and talented writers. They have also invited me to visit the next meeting of Writing For Children in a couple of weeks.

My current project is an historical novel, set during World War 2. Barnstaple was an important military base during the war, with thousands of American soldiers training for the D-Day invasion of Normandy on the nearby beaches of Saunton Sands, Braunton Burrows and Woolacombe.  

This trip has given me the opportunity for invaluable research, including visiting several military museums, such as the nearby Cobbaton Collection, the Imperial War Museum in London, the Secret War Tunnels in Dover, RAF Base Manston near Folkestone, the Nazi Rally Grounds in Nurnberg and Le Musee de la Reddition in Reims. 

Cobbaton Collection is a private military museum, just a few kilometres away. Here, I was able to sit in an Anderson bomb shelter and experience the terrifying noise of an air raid, climb in an ARP shelter, and touch several anti-aircraft guns. I saw the crashed remnants of a Nazi glider, a war zone ambulance, a fire truck used during the Blitz, a long-range desert rover, several tanks and thousands of wartime relics. The opportunity to see and touch these objects brings this period of history to life and is an invaluable opportunity for research which is simply not possible in Australia.

I also took the opportunity to extend my trip so that I could do more extensive historical research in Germany (Nurnberg and Coburg), France (Paris and Reims) and England (London, Folkestone and Dover). A week in London enabled me to research in the National Archives at Kew, visit key settings for my novel and walk in my characters’ footsteps. 

It has been a truly amazing trip so far, and I am really looking forward to the next couple of months of writing and working in this lovely, Devon town. 

Best wishes
Belinda Murrell



28th June 2023

Hello again from glorious Devon.

Last week I did a little travelling outside Devon to see a friend in Windsor, Berkshire. While there, she took me to Windsor Great Park to watch ‘the royals’ in a convoy of Bentley cars on their way to Royal Ascot. I got a quick wave from the King! Although I’m not a royalist, I have to admit to smiling as the cars passed. 

I’m now back in Barnstaple where there’s been a heatwave with temperatures in the high twenties. Most places are not airconditioned but, as the flat is on the third floor, I get lots of sea breezes from the nearby coast. 

I was fortunate to be invited to a book group to give a talk about my two novels. The group was fascinated to hear about the trials and tribulations of getting published. To us, sending the first three chapters, synopsis and a log line are as obvious as breathing. When I said each finished novel (including my third which is with the publisher) was edit number six, they were astounded and said they had no idea writing was such hard work! 

Yesterday, I gave myself a day off from writing, and took the bus to Clovelly a lovely village on the coast which, because it’s privately owned, has an £8.50 (about $18.00) entrance fee! This covers the cost of the upkeep of all the cottages. The street down to the harbour is almost vertical and cobbled. In the past, donkeys used to carry people and goods up and down but since the 1980s sleds have replaced them. Needless to say, I was happy to pay the £3.50 ($7.00) fare to go back up to the tourist shop in a privately run Land Rover via a side road. 

The Victorian author Charles Kingsley, best known for his children’s novel The Water Babies and historical novel Westward Ho!, lived here as a child. He loved it so much that he returned several times in the mid-1800s. The cottage where he lived is now a museum.   

As a writer, I feel I’m in good company in Devon. R D Blackmore, based his novel Lorna Doone in North Devon. The romantic poets Shelley and Coleridge took inspiration from the local landscape of Lynton and Lynmouth. In fact, just over the border in Somerset, Coleridge had an experience that we can all relate to. It’s the story of The Man from Porlock

One night, the story goes, Coleridge, who liked a bit of opium when he could get it, had an amazing dream. He raced downstairs the next morning to write his dream as a poem which he called Kubla Khan. He’d written about fifty-four lines when someone knocked on the cottage door. Coleridge put his pen down and opened the door to a man purporting to be from the village of Porlock. He detained the poet for over an hour.

Finally, Coleridge went back to his writing. He picked up his pen, stared at the page and could only remember a few vague impressions from the dream. The poem remained as a ‘fragment’, and thus the legend of The Man from Porlock was born. So, fellow writers, next time you have writer’s block, you can blame it on being interrupted by the man who arrived to read the gas meter …

Happy writing.
Cindy Broadbent


June 2023

Hello everyone from the lovely county of Devon in the UK. Happy to be staying in Professor Di Yerbury’s apartment in Alexandra Court, Barnstaple, after being awarded the writer’s residency here. Having recovered from a bout of flu, I’ve been exploring the centre of Barnstaple, still laid out on its original Mediaeval lines. Fortunately, High Street is now a pedestrian thoroughfare. Not far from the town centre is the river Taw with a footpath leading along the tidal estuary in one direction and to a pleasant park in the other. This is within easy walking distance of where I’m staying. 

The weather has been sunny and warm, and there’s talk of a heatwave. Dire warnings on TV about how to cope in hot weather (25C predicted for this area and 29C for London). Many places, including the buses are not airconditioned. However today (10 June) it’s rainy and cool.

There’s a good bus service to the coast and, as I haven’t got a car, I’ve taken the bus to the seaside town of Ilfracombe. The town has a 20-metre high harbourside statue entitled Verity, and opinions about it are mixed. 

As well as talking to the Alexandra Court residents, travelling on public transport has given me a chance to chat to local people, whose main concern seems to be the rising cost of living. My novel is set in the present day so I’m writing copious notes. I also find the local TV news broadcasts a great source of information about what’s going on in the area.

Yesterday I went to Exeter, it’s a one-hour trip on what they call the Tarka train, a name based on the 1920s children’s novel Tarka the Otter. The countryside is at its best at the moment, extensive sun-drenched fields and scattered farms, dotted with sheep. I can’t help noticing plants like Patterson’s curse and wild blackberries which were introduced into Australia with devastating effect. Here they grow innocently in small clumps near the railway line.

Exeter has a real buzz. It’s an attractive university city, with a cathedral dating from the eleventh century. The main street is very busy but not far from the centre, there’s a wide river front with pubs and restaurants. I spent the day walking around, choosing places for my characters to meet and have lunch. Gandy Street, just off the High Street, was apparently JK Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley in her Harry Potter books (see photo). She was a student at Exeter University, hopefully I’m in good company.

Stay well everyone and warm!
Cindy Broadbent


August 2022 

It’s blackberry season and the brambles here are allowed to ramble. I’ve had my eye on a patch close by but, alas, due to the extreme heat and lack of rain, they are not worth picking. 

With only have a few weeks left of my residency, I feel I am almost a local as I wander around the town. I know all the back alleys, where the best coffee is and where to get free advice on my phone and computer. I think being a grey-haired lady with an Aussie accent helps, but people are surprised I am not used to the heat; in fact, I hate it. They find it hard to believe we have more snow in Australia than Switzerland but, when I show them a photo of my daughter skiing at Thredbo last week, they are convinced. 

I am on nodding or smiling terms with some of the regular characters around town; like the South African man selling the Big Issue outside Marks and Spencers in the High Street. His wife talked him into coming back to England to live, then dumped him. But he is still smiling and up for a chat. 

Then there is the homeless man who sits in the lane on the way to the library. He has a big smile, whether or not you give him something and says ‘Have a luverly day my luverly’. Passers-by keep him fed and I always give him change and a smile. There are also a lot of seniors around here who cruise the streets in their mobility scooters, often riding side by side having a chat. Totally oblivious to pedestrians. You learn to dodge them and wouldn’t dream of chipping them. Just as well I am still pretty nimble.  

There have also been a number of memorable visits out of town. The Green Man Festival in Pilton, a charming village, now an extension of Barnstaple, was very special. The sun was shining and I joined thousands visiting the old church, graveyard and school, and watching the parade and re-enactment of the Green Man legend. Typically, I got chatting to a few women taking part (see photo).

The North Devon Show about eight miles out of town was also a wonderful day out, the highlight for me was seeing sheep breeds I had never seen before and talking to farmers. Other outings included a visit to Sudderley Castle in the Cotswolds, and a few days in Plymouth. All research trips you understand!

On the writing front I continue to go to the writers’ group at the library, the book group that meets at the Imperial Hotel (the poshest in town where it is £5 for a cup of coffee). I also went to Bideford and met up with fellow historical writer Liz Shakespeare who is well known in North Devon. We will stay in touch as we have so much in common and are writing and researching the same period of history. 

In the next few weeks, I look forward to visiting a few close by towns and catching up and saying farewell to the many friends I have made. 

For me, this experience has been all and more than I expected, and allowed me to stand back and assess where I want to go with my personal and writing life. I would highly recommend it to any SWW members thinking of applying for next year’s residency. 

See some of you next month and at the October meeting at the Mitchell Library in Sydney. 

Best wishes,

Ann Beaumont


14 July 2022

Thank you to everyone who responded to my last postcard. 

I have now been here more than six weeks, during which I’ve been busy getting to know people and places. Also doing a lot of walking. Some of you commented that I seem to have made friends quickly. As well as being a lifelong nosey parker (sticky beak) people watcher, and explorer I also made contact with the local U3a (University of the Third Age) before I left home.  I am a member at home and I was warmly welcomed by local people and attended their quarterly lunch a week shortly after I arrived. Since then, I have joined the literary circle, the strollers’ group and taken part in their open day last week to help recruit new members.

I am doing quite a lot of walking but decided to try out the entrance level walkers first. Figured the Ramblers (lovers of hills and dales) and the trekkers (intrepid mountaineers) was not for me. Just as well as my first stroll was at Instow on the River Taw. The “stroll” was actually a two hour walk on even ground followed by lunch at a local pub. Much more my style.

Afterwards the leader, Pam, took me in her car to see the towns of Bideford, Appledore and Westward Ho. The latter was the home of author Charles Kingsley who was visited from time to time by his friend Rudyard Kipling. Sadly, Westward Ho has become a hideous holiday town with high rise flats and rows and rows of monotonous chalets. Each little town is different and being a passenger, I have the luxury to enjoying the rolling hills and lovely old villages as we drive through the countryside.

Several weeks ago, another member who has become a good friend, Sue Thomas took me to the National Trust property Arlington Court, about half an hour away. It was a magnificent day, visiting the house, the carriage museum and best of all the walled garden where I spoke to some of the volunteers. As I volunteer in the garden at Harper’s Mansion in Berrima it was good to swap notes. I always keep my Australian National Trust membership up to date so I have free access to NT properties here.

So, with all this activity am I getting much writing done? I am, but not a lot as I am spending time at the library doing more research and talking to some of the local historians. So much so that I have developed several new characters from this area for my book. One is based on a real character who lived in Greater Torrington which is about half an hour from Barnstaple.

You guessed it; no sooner did I mention my new character than a day out was planned for me by two of my new friends. We had an amazing day in Great Torrington, famous as the site for the final battle of the English Civil War between the roundheads and the cavaliers. The local people supported the cavaliers so Cromwell’s men blew up the local church which resulted in hundreds of deaths. For those interested, contact Google for the Battle of Torrington 1646. GT was also famous worldwide for making gloves.

The local museum was a great source of information and the guide said that when many more people turned to gardening during Covid more 1646 cannon balls were dug up as people dug deep into fallow ground!!!! Mmmm.

Afterwards we went to the Royal Horticultural Society Garden, Rosemoor, a few miles out of town. What a treat. I was able to wander around this place for several hours on my own. Bliss; I could have stayed there all day.

I have joined the monthly writers’ group at the library and met some very talented people, three of whom read out part of their work for critique. I look forward to going again.

One of the unexpected benefits of this residency is having the time to read uninterrupted by daily life. While here I read the second book The Heron’s Call by Ann Cleeves, set around Barnstaple. Knowing where things are and having visited some of the towns mentioned made it very enjoyable. As Di Yerbury also has hundreds of books here in the flat there is no shortage of reading material.

In my last postcard, I mentioned I had met and planned to interview the Melody Appleton the author of Go Home Blackie, living in England in the 1950s and 1960s. I spent several hours talking to her recently and we have become firm friends as we have much in common. 

Given Wimbledon is over and the political crisis is on the slow boil, I am hoping to having a quieter week, but given the Green Man Festival nearby Pilton is on here next Saturday and the North Devon Show in two weeks, there is no shortage of further distractions.

Di Yerbury grew up in Pilton and many of her ancestors are buried in the local church so I will certainly visit it and some of the places Di explored as a child.


Ann Beaumont 


17 June 2022

By the time you read this, this year’s applications for the Di Yerbury Writer’s Residency may have closed. If not and you meet the criteria, do think about applying as it is a great opportunity. 

I am now in the second week of my three-month residency and really enjoying the freedom to write and explore this interesting old town. The first week was spent settling in and working out where essential food services etc. could be found. These are all located with walking distance so am clocking up quite a few kilometres on my fitbit watch.

I was delighted to find a real green grocer which sells fruit and vegetables grown on their own farm not far from town. As a keen gardener, I am enjoying my chats with the owner, discussing what is grown here and what is imported. Blueberries from Morocco but local strawberries are divine. Was also tempted to buy the famous Devon clotted cream made by a local creamery. I succumbed. 

I am not a great fan of chain coffee shops so as I wander around the town I am discovering little coffee shops in alleys and off the beaten track. This has led to new friendships and good coffee, with a story around every corner. So far, all these little gems, with the exception of the green grocer, are run by vivacious and enterprising women. I warm to them and give them my business. In return they introduce me to other women and new stories. 

Last week I wandered into an arcade and a recently opened shop called Black Street London Afrocentric (yes, another enterprising woman) which promotes artists and writers from a non-white background. As it happened they were having their first book launch last Saturday and invited me to go. I met a most interesting writer, Melody Appleton who has written Go Home Blackie, Growing Up Black in Britain in the Fifties and Sixties. I am meeting up with her next week to do an interview so watch this space. 

“Do I detect a slight accent?” people say. It appears I am starting to slip into my original English accent so they are not sure if I am Australian. They are delighted when I say I am. This is a very Anglo town and I haven’t noticed many people from diverse backgrounds so far. 

I am working on an historical fiction set in England, so high on my agenda were visits to the local museum. Been twice so far and connected with the curator, another enterprising young woman. Also joined the library and will return to check out their history collection today. It is looking like I might need to conjure up a character from Barnstaple for my story. 

We are so lucky our Patron Di Yerbury has made this accommodation available for women writers and I hope others will enjoy it in the future as much as I am now. 

Enough for now. Be in touch next month. 


Ann Beaumont 


Judges’ Report

It is an honour and a privilege to judge the Di Yerbury Residency applications. The Residency is a prestigious award and a rare opportunity for writers to concentrate solely on their writing and research. The high standard of applications from our SWW Members made the judging process quite a challenge. We have, however, selected Ann Beaumont as the recipient of the Society of Women Writers Di Yerbury Residency 2021. Congratulations to Ann and a warm thank you to all who submitted applications.
Ann Beaumont    ‘Flesh Peddlers
Ann’s application is thorough and clear. She has a viable and fascinating work in progress and a clearly defined Research and Writing Plan. Ann has done preliminary research, walking the paths of her characters in East Sussex. Her character Harriet is fiery and an agent for change. The project is topical for today for it is important to know more about the Peterloo Massacre of 1819, and Women in White who were the forerunners of female emancipation. As in The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka  (Stella Prize 2014), reframing this history is most appropriate as women struggle towards equality in so many areas today.
Ann’s resume is very impressive. Her credentials as a researcher, historian and author are compelling. As a published author with at least six books to her name and several commissioned family histories successfully completed, her track record of publishing is assured. There is the possibility of a trilogy. The sample chapters from her previous book are well-written, well-researched and engaging for readers.
In our opinion, Ann would make excellent use of the Di Yerbury Residency, which would give her tangible support to write Flesh Peddlers, a powerful story for today

Other applicants submitted well-expressed, worthy and persuasive proposals, including an example of the new interest in the reconstruction of lives and achievements of women who have been overshadowed. The search for the woman behind the hero is important and relevant today. Applicants had all carried out some preliminary research in England.
Each applicant has an impressive professional writing career, and submitted fine samples of writing which demonstrated lyrical and poetic talent. Applicants have been short-listed in prestigious competitions and coveted awards. Each is a worthy candidate for the Di Yerbury Residency.
However, some applications were not as clear and advanced as the proposal from the winner. So it was our decision that Ann Beaumont would gain the most benefit from the Di Yerbury Residency 2021. 

Colleen Keating and Sharon Rundle, Judges
14 December, 2020

The Society of Women Writers offers a UK Residency to a Female Writer

This residency is generously donated by our Patron, Emerita Professor Di Yerbury.

The residency is located in the beautiful North Devon town of Barnstaple. As a major tourist centre, it has excellent public transport and car access to the moors, famous beaches and very pretty villages.


Janette Conway was the Winner of the 2024 Di Yerbury Residency Award

Belinda Murrell was the Winner of the 2023 Di Yerbury Residency Award

There was no winner of the 2022 Di Yerbury Residency Award

Ann Beaumont was the Winner of the 2021 Di Yerbury Residency Award

Ann's residency, postponed due to COVID-19, was undertaken from June to August 2022.

Cindy Broadbent was the Winner of the 2020 Di Yerbury Residency Award

Cindy's residency,postponed due to COVID-19, was undertaken from May to July 2023.

Helen Thurloe was the Winner of the 2019 Di Yerbury Residency Award

Helen used the residency to undertake research for an historical fiction, currently titled Borrowed Milk. Set in Exeter, Devon in the 17th Century, the story concerns a married woman who is hired as a wet-nurse, to breastfeed and raise the child of a wealthy merchant family.

Valerie Pybus was the Winner of the 2018 Di Yerbury Residency Award 

Valerie planned to consolidate preliminary research already undertaken in Devon and Cornwall in 2017, into the history and social fabric of these areas of England. Her focus was on the families that lived in the centuries-old mining communities, with all the dangers and difficulties that entailed. Her story West of Tamar, an historical novel set in the years 1910-1915 - a time of great change - revolves around one West Country family and the society in which the family struggled to survive. 

Terri Green was the Recipient of the 2017 Di Yerbury Residency 

The residency supported her writing and research for a novel set in Shakespeare’s London.

To Apply You Must Satisfy the Following Criteria:

  • be a member of the Society of Women Writers NSW Inc for at least 12 months at the time of submitting your application and be a paid up member for the year prior to departure.
  • be over forty-five (45) years of age at the time of taking up the residency.
  • be available to spend a minimum of ten weeks at the residency.
  • be a resident of NSW or ACT (proof required, e.g. copy of licence, rates notice etc.).
  • be researching or writing a manuscript, fiction or non-fiction, set in or linked to and has its main focus in the United Kingdom.
  • the work must be a work-in-progress, not an already or almost completed manuscript

Requirements (either hard copy or email attachment):

  • a copy of your CV (no more than one A4 page).
  • a summary of your proposed manuscript (500 words).
  • a research and/or writing plan you intend to carry out in the UK.
  • a chapter of a previous book or a short story or an article you have written.
  • proof of your NSW or ACT residency

What is Offered:

The successful applicant will be offered accommodation in a comfortably furnished one bedroom apartment for over 55s in the town of Barnstaple, North Devon for a period of up to three months from June to September. Electricity and phone calls are included as part of the residency.

What is Not Included:

Airfares, including travel insurance, domestic travel costs and meal allowance, will not be covered by the residency. These costs will need to be met by the recipient for the period of her stay or she should seek funding from other agencies to assist with these expenses.


Upon completing the residency, the recipient will be required to give an address to the members of the Society of Women Writers (NSW) at its February literary luncheon in 2022.

A written report of approximately 1200 words is required for publication in the Society's magazine Women’s Ink!


  • Must be a member of the Society of Women Writers NSW Inc for at least 12 months at the time
    of submitting your application and be a paid up member for the year prior to departure
  • Non-members of SWW are welcome to enter after becoming a member however same requirement as above.

Non-Member Relevant fees are:

  • Full membership fee $50; once-only joining fee $15
  • Concessional membership fee $40 (only available with a Pension card number); once-only joining fee $15.

Di Yerbury Competition - CLOSING DATE:

30 October (no later than 5pm)


February the following year


The Secretary, Society of Women Writers NSW Inc.,
GPO Box 1388
Sydney NSW 2001
or email applications to (with all required attachments)