Monday, June 6, 2016

Something to hold in your hands...keeping a travel journal

One of my favourite books on journal writing is Sheila Bender's exquisite Keeping a Journal You Love. In it, she suggests that one of the reasons we should keep a travel journal is so that we can have "something to hold in your hands when you get back home."

Before you leave, you need to ask yourself – why am I really keeping this journal?

Do it now – spend a minute or so considering the possibilities. Are you keeping it purely for yourself? To record memories? For possible publication? For future reference and usefulness? For future generations?

The reasons why you are keeping it matter, and they change what you record and how you record it. Take this into account too.

And experience tells me that when you are travelling you won't just be using your journal to write in. It will become a de facto wallet, filled with tickets, brochures, pictures, cards and other things. Taking a tip from Lynne Perrella’s Artist’s Journals and Sketchbooks, I now paste en envelope into my journal before I go.

You can glue or tape one in.

It's good for newspaper clippings, extra notes you made on other things, cards, menus, fliers, receipts, leaves, tickets...well, it's just damn handy.

If you have talents in the visual arts area, do take a closer look at Lynne Perrella’s book – it is filled with useful ideas, even for non-artists like me.

Maybe you can bring a small stash of photocopied images of favoured spiritual figures and symbols? You can stick these into the journal when you visit associated sites to remind yourself more quickly when you review your journal. You might also use them as prompts for more spiritual and reflective writing, or as a guide for those times when you feel like getting grumpy and complain-ey.

Use them to mark out special work and to inspire new work and thoughts.

Quite often we might avoid writing in our journals because we fear our thoughts aren't profound enough, that we're not thinking big. Please don't let this get in your way. I am a big advocate of the beauty of the small. Observing the small and writing about it can lead you to some really big places.

The ego mind tricks us into thinking that what we do is not important and that we must always be doing something big.

We have to be working on the 100,000 word novel, the entire exhibition of paintings, the history of everyone who ever had the name “Chester” and on and on.

One of the most liberating things to realise creatively, and one that I think you will find all professionally creative people work with, is that we only ever have to concentrate on the small and the immediate.

I am working simply on a page, a paragraph, a sentence, a word.

For the time being I am bringing beauty to one line, one stitch, one pose.

I can forget about the end, about the editing, the choreography, the dramaturgy, the Booker Prize, the adoring fans leaving roses at my mausoleum.

This too extends to themes. I think that, at the heart of a lot of terrible art, is this idea that I must be writing only about Things That Matter.

But anything matters in the scheme of things, especially when we are travelling. Our minds are much more alert to the wonder of the everyday.

Any observation, any encounter, any shade of blue or curve of clay. Any piece of glass.

We create beauty, grandness, piece by piece. You can forget about your social duties just for a moment and just be in touch with what you need to do in that second. It will be beautiful and it will have meaning.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Walter Mason to talk with Antonia Pesenti and Hilary Bell about their Sydney-based books for kids, Ashfield Library, Tuesday April 26, 2016, 1pm

Numerical Street & Alphabetical Sydney 

A talk with the wonderful creators of these delightful books about Sydney, growing up and the way the landscape inspires them. 


Pesenti’s illustrations are witty and textured: a collage of black-and-white photocopied photos and bright, bracingly clean-cut drawings. […] All too unusually for a picture book, the text, written by playwright Hilary Bell, is an equal match […] it is a playful, often sly, pleasure.
Delia Falconer on Alphabetical Sydney, Sydney Morning Herald

About the Books

Numerical Street

Numerical Street is a counting book set in a colourful, quirky streetscape where there’s always something new to find. It celebrates the jostle and chaos of a busy shopping street, playfully documenting familiar shops and businesses: Coin-op laundries, cake shops, panel beaters and hair salons. These unremarked shops are a disappearing species.
In the two years spent photographing suburban and regional shopfronts for Numerical Street many have vanished, including much-loved urban icons like Sol Levy’s Tobacconist Extraordinaire on George Street and Perkal Brothers Bespoke Bootmakers in Surry Hills.
Numerical Street captures a moment in time and place, distilling the beauty and charm of these everyday shops into bold double spreads – using the language and type of their signs, architecture and product display.




Alphabetical Sydney

This is our Sydney, the brightest and best of it,
North to the south to the east and the west of it.
Bats and cicadas, lawn bowls and the zoo,
This is our town. Let us share it with you.

A playful and vibrantly illustrated picture book that celebrates Sydney in all its diversity – from A to Z. It is a best-seller and won the 2014  Australian Book Design Award. It has also been  been shortlisted for the Australia Book Industry Award and nominated for several awards, including the AABA and the Independent Booksellers’ Award.

About the Authors



Antonia Pesenti and Hilary Bell have been friends since they met in Paris 20 years ago. Antonia is an architect and illustrator, and Hilary is an award-winning playwright. Their friendship turned into a collaboration when they created the bestselling Alphabetical Sydney together. They enjoyed the process so much that they have continued to collaborate, celebrating the beauty and charm of the ordinary in our urban environment.


Do join us for this free event - and bring a friend!



Tuesday April 26   1pm Local Studies Room - Ashfield Library
Walter Mason in conversation with Antonia Pesenti and Hilary Bell about their delightful picture books, Numerical Street and Alphabetical Sydney.
Books available for sale and signing from Better Read Than Dead Newtown