A writing life

Wavesound Audiobook of MEMORY CRAFT images: The PDF for the images can be dowloaded here.

I am very excited that both the Australian (Allen & Unwin) and American (Pegasus Books) editions of  Memory Craft and The Memory Code are now available in all good bookstores in Australia, New Zealand and the US. These books as well as Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies and Spiders: learning to love them are available online through Bookdepository and many other sites.

My new book, Songlines: the power and promise, is co-authored with Margo Neale, Head of the Centre for Indigenous Knowledges at the National Museum of Australia. It offers Margo’s Indigenous (the power) and my non-Indigenous (promise) perspective on Songlines. It is to be published by Thames & Hudson with the National Museum of Australia in November 2020. Songlines is the lead book in the First Knowledges series.

I have written 19 books and many articles and am an Honorary Research Associate at LaTrobe University, Australia. My field of research is the memory methods used by those who depended on their memories for everything they knew: oral cultures including Australian Aboriginal, Native American, Pacific and African societies. I explore the memory techniques used as literacy slowly spread, especially in Classical, Medieval and Renaissance Europe as well as glorious mnemonic art forms used across Asia.

In The Memory Code,  I explored the necessity of memory methods to prehistoric cultures. This offers radical new interpretations for their ancient monuments such as Stonehenge, the Nasca Lines and the moai of Easter Island. It is published in Australia by Allen & Unwin, Atlantic Books in the UK , Pegasus Books in the US and as an audio book by Audible. It is now available in traditional Chinese and Czech.

In Memory Craft I look at how all these techniques can be applied in every day life in contemporary society, including the implications for education and ageing. These are memory methods everyone can use – and there are lots of them! It is published in Australia by Allen & Unwin, the US by Pegasus Books and in audio by Wavesound. It is currently being translated into Russian.

I practice all the memory methods discussed to ensure I really understand how they work. Given my pathetically poor natural memory, I am constantly shocked by how effective they can be. Through working on my 40 memory experiments, I am committing vast amounts of information to memory. I competed in the Australian Memory Championships, taking the Senior (over 60) title in the two most recent events.

In Memory Craft I talk about the two memory aids I use daily, The Bestiary for memorising names and anything using words. I use The Visual Alphabet for anything which needs sequence, such as a speech, shopping list, to-do list or my bird list when out in the field. The images for the Visual Alphabet and the first two pages of the Bestiary are in Memory Craft. I have now published the full Bestiary as a small book. I have included the Visual Alphabet as I often use the two together.

Grounded: Indigenous Knowing in a Concrete Reality is an academic essay on Indigenous knowledge systems and the implications for education.

Both The Bestiary and Visual Alphabet and Grounded: Indigenous Knowing in a Concrete Reality are available as e-books. All details in the Memory Whisperer Shop.

My academic book, Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies is published by Cambridge University Press. Based on my PhD thesis, it gives the full academic justification for my theories about indigenous memory systems and archaeology.

My previous books include the popular science titles of Spiders: learning to love them and Crocodile. My lighthearted scientific analysis of pseudoscientific claims, The Skeptic’s Guide to the Paranormal is published in The US (Basic Books), Australia (Allen & Unwin) and translated into Russian. I have one novel published, Avenging Janie, and ten books for education.

My TEDxMelbourne talk on The Memory Code can be found by clicking on the image.

I have ventured into the world of memory athletes. Competing in the 2017 and 2018 Australian Memory Competitions, I took out the Australian Senior Memory Champion title for both events. 

With a background in engineering, physics, mathematics, information technology and gifted education, I have spent decades in teaching. A full Curriculum Vitae can be found here.

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37 Responses to A writing life

  1. David Leitnick says:

    Hello Lynne, you’ve brought priceless treasures to the memory arts community, and you’re a rock star in my eyes. I wanted to inquire about Rapscali’s Tables. Do you have a status on its release date? I can’t wait to read it and put it into practice!

    • lynne says:

      Thank you so much for that lovely comment, David.

      I am so sorry that I have taken so long about Rapscali’s tables. In the middle of converting them to paintings, I received a request to co-author a book, Songlines: power and promise, with Aboriginal identity, Margo Neale, for the National Museum of Australia, to be published by Thames & Hudson in November. It was an offer too good to refuse, but they wanted an incredibly short timeline. I had to drop everything for months – including the conversion of Rapscali. I am embarrassed that Rascali’s Tables has taken so long.

      I am back to it now and hope it will be ready in a month or so. Thankyou hugely for your interest.

      sincerely,

      Lynne

  2. Nayan says:

    hi lynne,

    i am currently reading ‘The Memory Craft’ . I also created a memory palace for the countries.
    But i have some questions .
    i) Whenever i think of naming all countries starting with a particular letter , i can’t just recall all of them. I have to go through my memory palace from beginning till end till i am sure i listed all of them . Am i doing something wrong or will it come naturally as i spend more time with memory palaces ?
    ii) remembering list of numbers using that assinging each letter to a number and create a sentence, story etc. After sometime i should recall the numbers at the speed of thought ,right ? but there also i have to go through complete sentence, find my letters, convert them to numbers and this
    seem to take too much time .

    thanks

    • lynne says:

      Hi Nayan,

      Thank you for your comment.

      When you put things in memory palaces, you need to put them in the order which would most suit your purpose.I didn’t put the countries in alphabetical order because I don’t know why you would want to think of all the countries starting with a particular letter. I put them in the order of population because I thought that would give me more useful information. To find all the countries which start with a given letter, I would need to go right through the palace too. I could skim it fairly quickly, but I have never tried that. It does take a while to get a m emory palace so strong that you can skim it quickly. I use the countries palace to know about countries, and jump to the one I want at any given time. I only think through them in order when I am revising the palace. I am curious – why do you want to know every country starting with a specific letter?

      I am not sure that I understand what you are doing with numbers. Are you assigning a number to every letter? I only use some of the letters. Have you got to the stage where I describe the Dominic System? I have never recalled numbers at the speed of thought. The very best memory champions in the world can probably do that, but not us mere mortals. It is usually slower than that. I have memorised the first 1000 digits of pi, but I don’t recall them at the speed of thought. I can recall them reasonably fast, but no that fast! I think that would only work for very short numbers like phone numbers. I don’t make up stories and don’t assign letters to single numbers – I have the digits of pi in a memory palace, 6 digits in every location. I explain the number methods more fully in Chapter 10.

      I hope that makes sense!

      Lynne

  3. Mike Scallan says:

    Hi Lynne

    Listening to you speak to Sean Carroll (Mindscapes) and am quite excited by your memory paradigm. As is so often the case with acquiring new knowledge, it resonates with us because it formalises previously intuitive experiences. As a teacher yourself, you may understand my excitement at being able to share the ‘memory palace’ idea with my Year 12 Modern History students. I look forward to exploring your work, but popped by just to thank you for sharing your insights. So good to hear someone talk of Australia and our Indigenous cultures with such eloquence and respect.

    So, thank you.

    Mike (Perth, WA)

    • lynne says:

      Thank you so much for writing, Mike. I really appreciate your comments. I can see huge applications for memory palaces with history students. I find that I use my History Walk constantly, putting events in the right chronological place, and seeing the context globally. It just makes me want to know more and more.

      Thank you again for your comments,

      Lynne

  4. Loic says:

    Hi, my name is loic. I lived in Canada and in New zealand. I was in Melbourne and found your book the memory code. I am now based in spain. I tried to buy your book «  memory code » but i can find it in english book store or online. Where to buy a hardcopy and delivery it in spain or France? Thanks loic

  5. Geoff Vivian says:

    Hi Lynne,
    I downloaded and started listening to your audio book just before Christmas, but left off to join family celebrations. I was excited about starting to construct and use a memory palace. However now I have rebooted my computer and don’t seem to be able to find the link anywhere. Has it disappeared?

    • lynne says:

      Hi Geoff,

      Thank you for writing. I don’t control the audiobook at all. It goes through the publisher. You need to search for the title, I guess. It will still be there. I don’t know what software you are using. I am sorry that I can’t help. This is the publisher (assuming that you are talking about Memory Craft and not The Memory Code) who you can contact:

      https://www.wavesound.com.au/title-details/9781760871406

      Or you need to contact Amazon or your supplier.

      Please let me know if you don’t solve it and I will ask Wavesound about it.

      Thank you for your interest in my work!

      Lynne

  6. Mark Jones says:

    Hi Lynne,

    I have just come across your work after talking with a friend in the Kimberley, Western Australia. I have got “memory code” which I am about to embark on, but found your “Conversations” interviews and listened first. I was especially transfixed by your Avebury stories and ceremony.

    I have lived in the Kimberley for 30 years and have been recording the songs and stories as a film maker for the whole time. I have been taken too many stone circles and ‘tables’ and have recorded their deep stories and understand completely about the stories being in the stones.

    Here we have a stone arrangement with a table laying down surrounded by 18 small stones and 2 large stones in a ring around the ancient table. Interesting the tale of the Emu and the berry is not dissimilar to the Ava berry which is steeped in ancient legend in that part of the world.

    The cosmology of that story, the stone circle and the emu in the sky (with the berry) above its head is one of the oldest lessons… and stories.

    We are very lucky in this country that we still have knowledge holders… I believe if unlocked here, then other places can be unlocked as well.

    Regards

    Mark

    • lynne says:

      Hi Mark,

      Thank you for such an intriguing comment. I am very keen to know more about the stone arrangement you talk about. How can I find out more?

      I agree totally about the luck we have (mostly unappreciated) with the Elders and their knowledge. I also agree that understanding what they do could unlock so much more about cultures and places around the world.

      Thank you again for your comment!

      Lynne

  7. Natalie Pawlus says:

    Hi Lynne,
    I’m on Chapter 3 of Memory craft when you mentioned that you live on Dja Dja Wurrung land. I was wondering if you heard about the protesters at the sacred tree site on Djap Wurrung land, and if you would consider using your voice to add to the protest? Ps I am enjoying Memory Craft immensely and enjoyed The Memory Code a great deal also- I believe I heard you speak on the All in the Mind podcast and purchased it immediately after.
    Please consider lending your voice to that of the protesters out on the land, so much about what you write about landscape and memory makes me think about their struggle.

    • lynne says:

      Hi Natalie,

      I am certainly on Dja Dja Wurrung country and am, of course, well aware of the protest. I have written to Daniel Andrews and signed various things in support. What do you want me to do in terms of ‘lending my voice’? I will email you and we can talk that way. I am horrified that a new road has to go through sacred trees.

      Lynne

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hi Lynne,
    I’m on Chapter 3 of Memory craft when you mentioned that you live on Dja Dja Wurrung land. I was wondering if you heard about the protesters at the sacred tree site on Djap Wurrung land, and if you would consider using your voice to add to the protest? Ps I am enjoying Memory Craft immensely and enjoyed The Memory Code a great deal also- I believe I heard you speak on the All in the Mind podcast and purchased it immediately after.
    Please consider lending your voice to that of the protesters out on the land, so much about what you write about landscape and memory makes me think about their struggle.

  9. Lew Kor says:

    Dear Dr. Kelly, I truly enjoyed listening to your interview with Sean Carrol on Mindscape. One of the best! Your interview speaks to me personally as a native of West Africa (Ivory Coast) where there is a long and rich tradition of Griots aka Djelis. Djelis are storyteller, historians and troubadours of some sort. They are known to have a gigantic memory and to have good knowledge of past historical events, of genealogy, etc. I am not sure if they use “memory palaces” as a technique to remember anything but I suspect they do. In their case I also suspect that melodic music and rhythms play a big part in their ability to record the community’s past and to boost their nearly encyclopedic memories. Interesting research path to explore . . .

    • lynne says:

      Thank you so much for your comment, Lew. I talk about Griots in The Memory Code. I have watched documentaries as well as read about them and am astounded by their achievements. I have not found anything about using memory palaces, but I couldn’t find anything about techniques despite looking. I was only able to conclude about the role of music and rhythms. I was researching so broadly that I didn’t have time to do more on Griots, and your giving me the key word Djelis is a huge advantage. Thank you so much. I am longing to get into finding out more about them and their extraordinary skills.

      If you do find out anything about the use of memory palaces with Djelis, then I would really appreciate hearing about it.

      Thank you again,

      Lynne

      • Jennifer Cruse says:

        Hello Dr Kelly,

        I too listened to you on Mindscape yesterday. I work in a library and today I leafed through a book on constellations, one that has the story associated with each constellation and how/when to find it in the night sky. Has anyone discussed or reflected upon the probability that the ancient Greeks and other pre-literacy cultures used the night sky as an incredibly complex memory palace?

        Sincerely,
        Jennifer

        • lynne says:

          Absolutely! The sky and constellations – and dark spaces between – are used by every culture I have researched. I write about it in each of the three books on memory, especially in Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies and The Memory Code. In the most recent, Memory Craft, I look at implementing the memory systems and found it too complicated to implement the way Aboriginal cultures do. A good starting place is Emu in the Sky:

          http://www.emudreaming.com/Examples/emu.htm

          There are numerous books and papers on indigenous astronomy, but also on the ancient Greeks. Metrodorus of Scepsis, for example, used the zodiac as a mnemonic device. That is explained in wiki:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metrodorus_of_Scepsis

          Once you become alerted to these ideas on memory devices, you will find them everywhere!

          Thank you so much for your comment,

          Lynne

  10. Steve says:

    Well, I just received the book in the mail. I’m here in Canada.

    The first thing I did was converted to an audiobook. I am now going to listen to them all on Sheldon.

    • lynne says:

      Delighted to hear that a copy is now in Canada!

      Did you convert them somehow using text to audio software? What is Sheldon?

      Lynne

      • steven says:

        Here is how I did it. I took a cardboard box, placed it on its side, and cut a hole in the top for the ipad‘s camera to be able to view downwards. I then cut 2 pieces of acrylic, and glued these together at 90 degrees. This would act as the flat page holder and to keep it open while scanning. I also placed a lamp at a low angle to avoid reflection into the ipad during the photos (scanning).

        The software is an ios app called Voice Dream Scanner ($7). It will automatically identify the page edges, and also automatically snap the picture without the person needing to push a button on the ipad (or iphone).

        Once the book is scanned, the software has already identified the text. I then was able to save/export just the text (to a word processing software of my choice), or the pdf with the ocr‘d text layer to

        The companion software, Voice Dream Reader ($7). This will read, using numerous selectable voices (male/female, different accents). I use this program to read to me while I am jogging or driving. (lol, Not *sheldon*, I was using siri voice dictation through the air pods, and it made this dictation error – usually I just use the iphone microphone which gets almost perfect dictation).

        I recommend you also try JustPressRecord, which is another ios app (for both ipad and iphone) which allows a person to record their voice. At this point it records audio by pressing the record button. It retains the audio file. Now, once this is done, it automatically transcribes in the background, locally. It does not send the file out of the phone to the cloud (so no privacy concerns). In a short time, the transcription shows in the audio file. One can then select this for sharing, or exporting to their word processor (or any other app).

        An example of usage for yourself is this: you walk along your outdoor path, and verbally describe the linkages you have in place for that walk. You add in punctuation phrases like “comma, period, new paragraph, question mark.“ At the end, you may have a 20 minute audio recording. The app/program will then transcribe to text. A few minutes later, the entire 20 minutes will be usable text, which you can then export to your word processor. As you get better at the audio format, this text will be completely correct, not requiring any editing or changes. The app keeps the original audio, so one can refer to it later if transcription errors occurred.

        For memory students, their memory palaces, and paths (and any other formats like in your book) can be recorded (for posterity) without the 40 words per minute slow pace of typing.

        Even if a person does not have any apple products, the above apps are so worthwhile, I recommend buying an iphone 6 or newer, or an ipad of a few years in age. These will be new enough to handle the scanning, reading, and audio recording/transcribing as described in my post here.

        • lynne says:

          How interesting. I am going to try recoding my memory palaces this way. Especially the one where I do 1000 digits of Pi.

          Thank you for taking the time to write out in such detail.

          Lynne

          • steve says:

            so …. how did your recording of your memory palaces work out? Using JustPressRecord.

            I just converted your other book “Memory Craft“ to text, then modified it for epub, and using that I am able to send it to Voice Dream Reader to listen to while driving and jogging.

            I am really tweaking your books, to change the structure to highlight the memory systems used. Instead of the chapter and subheadings you used, I believe that a heavy focus on the systems used would be more useful.

            Furthermore, using easter eggs would be an excellent tweak. Surprises to readers, where they would be able to look back and realize that useful memory pegs were placed throughout the text, to aid the person in remembering the overall structure and components parts.

          • lynne says:

            Hi Steve,

            This all sounds like great ideas and good fun. I haven’t had a chance to try anything new. When a new book comes out, it is a full time job doing interviews, writing articles and replying to readers. All time consuming and very rewarding, but means that testing recording memory palaces will have to wait. As will a brilliant idea from another reader using the bestiary for Chinese vocabulary and another idea … Too many great ideas! I just need time!

            I find your tweaks very interesting. Maybe in a later editions!

            Lynne

  11. lynne says:

    No, sorry. Different author.

  12. Kiblas Soaladaob says:

    Dear Lynne,

    Are you currently a professor or do post-graduate supervision? I have been thinking about this for a while and I am from the Pacific. After reading some of your material, I am interested in pursuing a PhD along this idea and was wondering if you could be someone that can help guide me in this.

    Thank you,
    Kiblas

    • lynne says:

      Dear Kiblas,

      I would love to see you pursue a PhD in this field. I am an honorary researcher at LaTrobe University. Basically that means I do research for no pay – which gives me total freedom. But I also do no teaching and don’t supervise students. I am sorry.

      I do hope you find the right person to halve with your academic goals.

      Lynne

  13. Mark McGurgan says:

    I only recently discovered The Memory Code. I’ll share my ideas based on this book as they evolve. Theres a lot of work I have to do first. I just want to know when the book comes out that explains a practical application of The Memory Code.

    • lynne says:

      Hi Mark,

      I look forward to your response to ‘The Memory Code’. The new book expanding on the practical application will be published early in 2019. Sorry it is so long, but there is a lot of new material and I need to thoroughly test every method I talk about, not only the ones I talk about in ‘The Memory Code’.

      cheers,

      Lynne

      • Mark McGurgan says:

        Hi Lynne
        Thanks for replying. 2019 is great! it means i can read as much as possible on orality and internalize it. I teach music mostly to little people and I’d like to apply these techniques in my teaching as well as in my eveyday life. The Memory Code has been a trigger to another pathway through, making me a better teacher and helping me know a whole heap of stuff. I fugure thats what we’re here for
        Kind Regards
        Mark

        • lynne says:

          Hi Mark,

          I am absolutely convinced that teaching these methods to school children is an essential application of my ideas. Indigenous people have been doing it for tens of thousands of years for every good reasons!

          Let me know how it goes.

          cheers,

          Lynne

  14. Hedley Finger says:

    I went to Amazon where the ‘Spider woman’ book is listed but not available. How do I get it?

    Regards,
    Hedley

  15. Graham Old says:

    Hi Lynne,

    I’ve seen you over at the mnemotechnics forum.

    I wonder if there is a place where you’ve listed your 52 ‘ancestors’ for playing cards? I love the idea of my 52 characters being useful memorable items themselves – and possible pegs for further info.

    Thanks,

    Graham

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