“Of course, writing is a craft. After you have done your reading and research, you sit with the words. Then you wait. And then you write.”
Where do you start to capture the versatility of David Leser’s work as a writer? You could try this; scribble his articles onto a deck of playing cards, fling them across the room in a game of 52-pick up, collect ten randomly selected cards and rattle off the list as you reassemble the pack; Germaine Greer, Fiona Wood, AD Hope, Neil Finn, the Dalai Lama, Justin Bieber, Paul Kelly, Pauline Hanson, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch…
You’d still have 42 cards to go. But at least you’d have your start.
David Leser (DCA) is one of Australia’s most highly respected feature writers. With a career spanning four decades, he has interviewed some of the most remarkable personalities of our times. He has had a long and distinguished career in Australian journalism writing for the Fairfax, Murdoch and Packer press, he has been a foreign correspondent in Jerusalem and Washington D.C. and a feature writer forGood Weekend, European Vanity Fair, HQ and Australian Woman’s Weekly. His memoir To Begin To Know: Walking in the Shadows of My Fatherwas a powerful reflection on his relationship with his father, the legendary magazine publisher and Australian Vogue founder Bernard Leser, and was shortlisted for the 2015 National Biography Award. He is currently working on a book due to be published in August 2019 by Allen and Unwin on the #Metoo movement.
He is also a highly regarded public interviewer, having taken the stage at Writers’ Festivals with the likes of Andrew Denton, Kerry O’Brien, Paul Kelly, Michael Leunig, Stan Grant, Peter Garrett, Geoffrey Robertson, Malcolm Fraser and many more.
For David, no subject is too big to tackle, and he is famous for entering large topics through small details. He believes that most of what causes either celebration or strife is related to, “the great drama in the human heart.”
David’s reputation for thoroughness on any subject he tackles is legendary – and that starts with, he is keen to stress, “…reading extensively.”
“You cannot be a writer without being a reader. You cannot write about an issue without absorbing, distilling and learning from what has already been written on the subject. Similarly, you cannot write about a person without placing that person in a larger historical, cultural, psychological context. Before we write we need to read,” he says.
For a non-fiction writer who has won a Walkley Award (Feature Writing) in 1999 for his Good Weekend profile ‘Who’s Afraid of Alan Jones?’ and has been a national finalist on three other occasions, he is influenced heavily by the great literary traditions of American, Irish and Australian fiction writers.
“There are so many writers that I admire and respect for different reasons; Hemingway for his lean, sculpted, muscular prose; Raymond Carver for his brilliant sketches of everyday life, Philip Roth for dazzling portrayals of American (Jewish) life, William Faulkner, Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, just to name a few. Then the Irish writers who evoke the sadness and lyricism of the Irish – John Banville, Colm Toibin, Ann Enright. And, of course, Australians like Richard Flanagan, Tim Winton and Kate Grenville, but also Charlotte Wood,” David says.
It is David’s clear thinking about the process of writing that in recent years has seen him become a popular mentor to aspiring writers. When the opportunity came up to join Cornerstone Teacher Learning for their new unit on ‘The Craft of Writing’, it just made sense.
“I know how to teach writing. I know how to make it accessible and exciting for those in my class. I believe strongly in the power of words and ideas to shape our lives. And there is nothing more important than trying to help shape young people’s lives for the better through words and ideas,” David says.
David Leser runs the Cornerstone course on The Craft of Writing.