Arriving in Bangkok and my whole trip through SE Asia was such a learning experience in more ways than one. I’m not going to go into details about my trip but there was a toilet experience which started me writing to friends in a whole new way that I never knew was in me.(After the toilet experience there wasn’t much in me…!) If you want to find out more please visit www.garyhirson.com/blog. The story of much of my travels is blogged on the site.
But back to the publishing…
According to the Literacy agents guide book, the only email that an agent will look at is the query letter. All synopsis’s and proposals need to be posted so much of my time was spent in Internet cafes- sitting next to Orange robed Buddhist Monks- which initially was quite a shock to the system but soon became quite a normality.
The hours in the Internet cafes were spent sending out query letters as well as sending photo essays with text to magazine publishers all around the world. Looking back now I can’t imagine how I could have sent through the initial stories as they were nothing short of absolutely rubbish. I don’t even want to think what the editors must have though upon receiving such crap. I suppose my empty email box was proof that my travel stories weren’t well received but like everything else I did persevere and after 3.5 months- 10 days before I was set to return home I sold my first story.
The one plus about not giving up the writing and just carrying on with photography was that I was continuously writing and improving my skill in the genre of travel and documentary. It must have improved dramatically as not only did I sell my stories to local-South African publications- but I was also able to sell stories to international magazines.
In the time I was away with countless query letters sent, I can’t remember the the ratio of responses I received to the number of letters sent to the agents, but I can tell you how many positive responses and multi million dollar contracts I received- None! 🙂
But all in all I returned home with a new genre of writing, very good pictures, experiences that would last me a life time, and a very sobering fact…
Not being one for heavy tourist attractions I tried to stay off the beaten track as much as possible. Due to this I was visiting areas and villages in all the 4 countries of Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos where the illiteracy rate was as high as 50% of the total population. The one thing the children in all of these areas asked for were pens and as I never had any to give away I started to hand out a copy of The Magic that’s Ours every now and again. Hey, who better to give it to then someone who’d really appreciate it even if they couldn’t understand the words.
About 3 weeks before I was about to return home I received an email from a school in Cape Town asking me to come and talk at the opening of their book week. I realised the topic of my talks at schools, to the younger students, would be to promote reading and the luxury that some of us have of being literate. Something that many are not able to enjoy.
Grabbing my laptop, cameras and backpack-sans sample copies of The Magic that’s Ours I headed home wit butterflies in my stomach for my upcoming talk. But this time I was to be prepared and ready for the impending weight loss that I experienced during my first talk 6 months earlier