Michelle De Kretser in conversation with Walter Mason - Thursday November 27 6.30pm for 7.00 at Ashfield Town Hall

I'm quite thrilled to announce that I am hosting a literary conversation with one of my great literary idols in November!

Michelle de Kretser (photo by Steven Siewert in the Australian Financial Review)

Thursday November 27  6.30pm for 7.00 Ashfield Town Hall

Michelle De Kretser will be in conversation with Walter Mason about her prize-winning novel Questions of Travel and her new novella Springtime.

Books for sale and signing.

Bookings essential (Free)

Arthur Conan Doyle lecture coming up at Ashfield Library, July 18, 2014

The always-intriguing Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, is an object of great fascination for so many people. With a renewed interest in the character of Holmes (though I am personally not such a big thing of the re-invented series), people are once more fascinated by this great author, one of the most successful in his time.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson

Doyle was a complex man. Incredibly energetic and prolific in his writing, he was tortured by his own successful literary creation and staked his claim to literary greatness on turgid historical novels that are now almost forgotten. Born into a Roman Catholic family and being provided with a traditional Jesuit education, he was patriotic and conservative. He also became, in his latter years, a proponent of the then-new religion of Spiritualism. This was the belief that death was not the end of life, but merely the beginning of a new existence on a more harmonious plane, and that the living were capable of communicating with the dead if they could simply develop a sensitive enough spirituality.

A Spiritualist image of Conan Doyle

Conan Doyle also courted public scorn by championing the Cottingley Fairy pictures. In what seems an obvious forgery now, Conan Doyle, already interested in the manifestation of spiritual phenomena in photography, felt sure that the presence and reality of fairies had been recorded on film for the first time. 

Spiritualism was Conan Doyle's abiding concern in his latter years

In her book Brief Encounters, Susannah Fullerton reminds us that Conan Doyle also visited Australia (there's a plaque commemorating the visit down at Circular Quay). While here he conducted lectures in the truths of Spiritualism, and his popularity was viewed with great horror by the Anglican Church in Sydney.

Here are the details of the talk:

David Lewis will give an  illustrated lecture on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes)

Free event - All welcome

Enchantment: A professional brand evangelist teaches us to gain influence through the exercise of charm

A practical guide to increasing likeability and trustworthiness and improving our personal and professional lives.

This week I did a guest post over at the excellent Book to the Future blog talking about the book I've just
read, the book I'm currently reading and the book that's next on my pile. The book I've just finished is Guy Kawasaki's very stimulating Enchantment. It's almost an etiquette guide for a newer, busier age, and it reminds us of the importance of respecting other people's time and feelings, especially if we want them to do something like buy from us. The simplicity and profundity of Kawasaki’s message was quite a revelation to me.

Guy Kawasaki rose to prominence as a kind of roving public relations guy for Apple, the man being paid for his enthusiasm about the products and his ability to convey that enthusiasm.  I suspect that Kawasaki is an all-round charmer. Smiling, handsome and gifted with an ability to speak plainly and convincingly, Enchantment is as much a guide to his own success as to the potential successes of all of us. Published by Penguin Portfolio, it is aimed squarely at a business audience, but I think that almost anyone will find this book a valuable and idea-stimulating read, particularly if you work in a creative field.

Each chapter sets out a simple stage on the path to success, setting forth a number of ideas and case studies around each idea. From launching a product with pizzazz to overcoming the resistance of naysayers, Enchantment is an unpretentious and easily used guide to getting things done in the world.

And the trick, of course, is not just to make a flash first impression and then fall back on your usual traits of unsatisfactory personal interaction. We've all known those people - solicitous, interested and affable on the first meeting and then brusque, pushy or even standoffish on the second. Consistence is the key to charm, and in order to enchant others we must be consistently generous. It should come as no surprise that a willingness to help and give is seen almost universally as being an attractive quality that attracts other people to us. That said, most people still remain almost exclusively focused on getting something from others, and Kawasaki says that if we make consistent giving a focus in our lives we will soon see the benefits. He recommends ways of giving that invoke kindly feelings in others and encourages them to reciprocate:

1. Give with joy
2. Give early
3. Give often and generously
4. Give unexpectedly

Of course, if you make this a part of your life you will soon realise that giving is its own reward and is much larger than simply another technique to manipulate others.

Naturally, Kawasaki is big on the use of technology. Engagement with social media is, he says, essential to any success at this moment of time. Dale Carnegie would have loved Twitter, he thinks, as it is the perfect way to build a tribe and begin to gain influence. So is having a blog. The key to success on social technologies is in not using it to sell aggressively or to brown nose important people. Our most important contacts come from a range of positions, fields and levels of social influence, and so we should seek to increase and strengthen our relationships upward, downward and from side to side.

In the latter chapters he provides quite specific techniques for using the various social media technologies, so this is a great book if you are starting out in this, or have been hesitant to properly engage.

Broadcast your own progress, form new friendships and deepen existing ones, and be careful about how you spend your money and time. Timeless advice, but still valuable and still not followed by most people you encounter. In this new world being a nice person has suddenly become a valuable asset. And there's nothing at all wrong with seeking to build on that talent and look for ways in which you can be more effectively likeable.

It's hard to fault Enchantment, which might be proof of the efficacy of its author's techniques. Get it, read it and put half a dozen (at least) of its hundreds of ideas into action. You have nothing to lose but your prickliness. 

13 Lessons in Creativity from Tallulah Bankhead

I have loved Tallulah Bankhead since I was a child, and have always found her outrageous life inspiring. I remember back in the 80s when Boy George said the only book he'd ever read was a biography of Bankhead, and that was all the preparation he needed for his colourful career. Born in 1903 and dying in 1968, Tallulah was a hard-living actress who eventually became more famous for being famous than for any of her professional work. She was unconventional and daring and spent her life living it exactly how she wanted to. 

Tallulah steals the show in the Batman series

 “Say anything about me, darling, as long as it isn't boring.”

I've always said that I wanted to create a world full of Tallulahs.

The most scandalous, colourful figure Hollywood ever knew, Tallulah lived her life to the fullest. Her final words were:


Omnisexual, clever and cultured, she could never fit in to the studio machine, which is why she made so few movies. She was principally a woman of the theatre, and later on radio, where she would tell all kinds of scandalous stories and bitch about everyone. Her principal enemy was Bette Davis, who played all her roles in the movie versions – Tallulah would make them famous on stage and then they would be given to Bette for the film version.

She could be monstrously demanding and unprofessional and was frequently drugged and drunk on stage. This only made her fans love her all the more.

Tallulah has inspired generations of creatives.

Here are 13 lessons I have derived from a careful study of Tallulah's life and a 25-year devotion to her work:

1. Enter Competitions - her first fame came when she entered a Picture-Play magazine screen opportunity contest in June 1917. She was one of 12 selected, and so her career began. There are still plent of literary competitions in Australia, of all kinds. Entry fees are modest. Set yourself the test and apply some deadlines. 

2. Hang out with the property men – Those that constructed and painted the sets were the best allies to have, and also, she soon discovered, the best judges of a play’s or an actor’s worth. Make the acquaintance of booksellers, librarians, graphic designers and the people who work the front desks. 

 “Fill what is empty, empty what is full, and scratch where it itches.” ~ Tallulah Bankhead

3. Dramatise everything you do – mythologise yourself so people are interested in you long before you become famous.

4. Attend local shows – Tallulah became interested in the theatre through attending local shows in Alabama, where she grew up. Support amateur actors, local artists, self-published authors. Go to talks at your local library. Once again, this is an incredibly valuable way to learn how the industry does – and doesn’t – work. It also helps build your profile and establish your reputation as a generous and engaged person. Become a master of the local arts scene.

5. Never forget your manners – Tallulah always sent thank you notes, no matter how hungover she was, or how disgraceful her behaviour had been at the party. She also always remembered and credited the people who had helped her along the way. Do the same. Graciousness, good manners and affability are incredibly valuable professional qualities, and will take you remarkably far. Editors, festival directors and sundry others will always go for the artist they like. 

6. Study French – Or Latin, philosophy, astrology, dressmaking, tarot or transcendental meditation. Deepen and broaden your experiences – anything you learn you will end up using in your creative life. So always keep learning, and not just about your chosen craft.

7. Tell people the raunchy bits – Tallulah was remarkably frank about everything from lesbianism, the penis size of her lovers and her drug use to the people she hated and the ways in which her career had stalled or gone backwards. The Hays Code had a special appendix devoted to Tallulah Bankhead, which concentrated on “Verbal Moral Turpitude.”

8. Be a fan – she always sang the praises of the people she thought talented and great. She called Garbo the greatest human on Earth. We often forget to cultivate heroes and people we aspire to as we get older. Cultivate this quality in yourself. Become really interested in great people.

9. Write about your convictions – in the early years of the 2nd world war Tallulah write and published a pamphlet called ‘Human Suffering Has Nothing to do with Race, Creed or Politics’.  Use your passions to fuel your writing, and vice-versa. 

10. Commit inspirational texts to memory – though hardly a churchgoer Tallulah delighted in quoting the Bible, and was particularly fond of Psalm 103:  “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” Taking the time to memorise inspirational phrases is an excellent discipline – it makes you look smart, it helps when speaking in public and is a constant gift when you are writing.

11. Don’t be afraid to imitate the great – Ethel Barrymore was, in Tallulah’s youth, the great stage actress of her age. “Because she adored and studied Ethel Barrymore and because Miss Barrymore had such an eruptive effect on Tallulah, she was able brilliantly and with great subtlety to imitate her.” (Lee Israel). Imitate those artists you admire. Do it as much as you like. Let the great talents rub off on you. Get Austin Kleon’s book Steal Like an Artist.

12. Read trade magazines like crazy – instead of studying at school Tallulah would read all the screen magazines. She knew about everyone and everything. Writers are not very good at this, and I am always meeting people who know almost nothing about writers, writing or publishing. Stay up-to-date and remain on your toes. 

13. Read everything like crazy – Tallulah loved reading and constantly re-read Dickens and Shakespeare and the Grimm Brothers. Reading stimulates the creative juices like nothing else.

Vietnam: 4 Cities - my new course at WEA Sydney, starting August

I am very excited to announce that in August I will be leading my first ever course at Sydney's WEA adult education centre.

If you are planning a trip to Vietnam or simply wanted to learn more about this most fascinating country then my course Vietnam: 4 Cities is perfect for you.

 Vietnam's fascinating history and culture has unfolded along its uniquely long and thin geography. In this course Walter Mason, author of Destination Saigon, takes us from the border of China right down to the Mekong Delta, and we explore Buddhist sects, royal intrigue, Marian visions and the historical clash of cultures through the lens of Vietnam's four great cities: Hanoi, Hue, Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho.

Course Code:   43HM027
Price:     $122.00 (Concession $110.00)
Sessions:     4
Time:     12:15 PM - 2:15 PM

Start:     Tues from 05/08/2014
Finish:     26/08/2014

    Taking enrolments now!

Book early to avoid disappointment

Course Outline

Restaurant on street corner, Hanoi

•   Week 1:  HanoiConfucius, colonialism and literature

Temple entrance, Hue

•    Week 2: Hue – Cham Kingdom, Tale of Kieu and royal dynasties

Renovation, Dai Giac Temple, Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City

•    Week 3: Ho Chi Minh City – Old Saigon, the Quiet American and war
•    Week 4: Can Tho – Delta cultures, Khmer influences and Buddhist sects

Remember you can follow me on Facebook at  www.facebook.com/waltermasonauthor

Inspirational Conversations: Being a Fully Creative Person - Jan Cornall at Ultimo Library Wednesday 25 June

Creative writing teacher, poet and memoirist Jan Cornall

This month I am so excited to be talking to creative writing teacher, songwriter, memoirist and multi-talented sensation Jan Cornall at Inspirational Conversations at Ultimo Library.

Jan is one of Australia's most beloved creative writing teachers, and she has had a huge influence on my own writing career. I will be talking to Jan about inspiration, meditation and staying fabulous. Like me, Jan has been deeply influenced by Asia, Buddhism and the writing and life of Marguerite Duras. Jan is also a popular tour leader and she takes people all over the world to write and explore their creativity.

Do come along to Ultimo Library at 6pm on Wednesday the 26th of June. I guarantee you will find it a fascinating and stimulating evening. It is totally free, but it would be great if you could book your place online here.

Full details:

Inspirational Conversations: Being a Fully Creative Person
Ultimo Library
Wednesday, 25 June 2014 from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM (AEST)
Sydney, NSW
Reserve a seat
Reservations are suggested for this event, as places are limited. If no seats are available, you are welcome to join the stand-by queue at the door prior to the event. Unclaimed seats will be made available to the queue shortly before the event commences.
Writer, poet, playwright, singer and legendary creative writing teacher Jan Cornall has inspired many hundreds of writers in her career.

Jan’s originality, creative drive and enthusiastic spark makes her one of the most unique voices in Australian writing, and her reputation as a teacher is global.

Join Walter Mason as he talks to Jan about how to allow creativity into our lives and how to fulfil our imaginative promise.

When & Where:
Ultimo Library
40 William Henry St
Sydney, NSW 2000

In August Jan Cornall is leading a writing tour in Indochina, following in the footsteps of Marguerite Duras. Read details of Jan's Indochine Journey.

Jane Austen Society - Sydney meeting, June 21

Maria Returns: Fictionalising the Legacy of Slavery in Mansfield Park

June 21 @ 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm
| $4

Dr Roslyn Russell is an historian and author and is a member of JASA. Entry includes Roslyn's talk and afternoon tea.

Roslyn will  be launching her book Maria Returns at the meeting, and copies will be available for purchase and signing by Roslyn.

Visitors are welcome.


Date: 21 June, 2014
Time:  2:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Cost:  $4

Venue Roseville Uniting Church Hall
    7 Lord Street, Roseville, NSW 2069

David M. Henley's new book Manifestations at Gleebooks

David M. Henley chatting with P. M. Newton

Had a full afternoon, and despite the pouring rain I found myself dashing all over the city doing all kinds of wonderful things. Got very damp and very cold, but it was worth it.
I trotted upstairs at Gleebooks to hear the intriguing David M. Henley talk about his new book Manifestations with the crime novelist (and my dear pal) P. M. Newton.

The book is the second in a proposed sci-fi trilogy published by HarperVoyager. David proved himself a deft salesman by responding, when I asked if I could read the books out of order, "Of course not - you must start with the first!" So I ended up buying two hefty books and carting them around. I do look forward to starting them, though, as the conversation with Pam Newton was most intriguing and set out a fascinating world which  touches on future politics and internet ethics. He also cited the redoubtable Philip K. Dick as a major influence, and every time I hear about Dick I am more and more interested in reading him.
David M. Henley is one of the guiding hands behind Seizure, one of the most handsome of Australia's literary magazines.
Spotted in the audience was publisher and editor Alice Grundy (who had a very good reason for being there), NSW Writers' Centre luminary (and accomplished critic) Portia Lindsay and internationally renowned book publicist Emma Noble.
I had to sneak out before audience questions because I had another engagement, but I'm aware of the buzz surrounding David's books and am going to bed tonight with the first in the series, The Hunt for Pierre Jnr.

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