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Tag: death

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Q&A on storytelling and tradition...and The Tale of the Sands

30maro_slide05You are creating wonderful stories about what our heart is telling us, but today more than ever we fail to reconcile our heart and our mind. Why are they tugging us in different directions? What do you do when your mind shouts louder than your heart?

As you say, I am telling and creating stories, and that’s what’s so central here. Storytelling appeals to the default setting of mankind, the core programming that’s in-built within us. We don’t really know why, but culture is arranged around storytelling – revealing information, ideas, and entertainment through stories. We can’t help but retell experiences in this way because we are programmed to do it. And, bizarrely, most people have forgotten that humanity operates with stories as their language. I sometimes find myself wondering whether other animals, or even insects, do the same and tell stories as a matrix like we do.

At the same time as live to tell stories, we reside in a world that’s so incredibly at odds with the realm our ancestors knew. Yet, in this mad frenetic, frenzied stew of life, it’s the stories and the storytelling that present themselves as a recognizable thread – a kind of communal backbone to humanity. We grasp hold of stories whether they be in the form of a book, a Tweet, a blog entry, a TV commercial selling soap, a movie, or even in the guise of a video game.

You mention your father very often in your works. Would you say that your story is a sequel to his? To what extent are our hearts beating together with those of our ancestors’? Does our storytelling begin where theirs has stopped? Read more

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Timbuctoo Holiday Sales

Timbuctoo book cover straight on 600pxSeveral people have emailed me lately requesting bulk pricing for Timbuctoo so they can purchase multiple copies for the holidays. I’ve spoken with my warehouse people, and they said that orders need to be in by tomorrow, 18th of December at the latest in order to reach you by the holidays. Because we’ll be selling these directly, we can offer a huge discount on the books.

Regular UK pricing of Timbuctoo is £29.99, currently available on Amazon at a discount of £25.49. We can offer you the bulk price of £20 for 5, 10, or more books (in multiples of 5).

Regular USA pricing of Timbuctoo is $49.99, currently available on Amazon at the same price. We can offer you the bulk price of $33 for 5, 10, or more books (in multiples of 5).

If you’re in the UK, and would like to order 5 books to be delivered to one address, please order here:




If you’re in the UK, and would like to order 10 books to be delivered to one address, please order here:




If you’re in the USA, and would like to order 5 books to be delivered to one address, please order here:




If you’re in the USA, and would like to order 10 books to be delivered to one address, please order here:




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Timbuctoo Update: hardcover, ebook, Q&A, and upcoming events

This is a limited edition hardcover of Timbuctoo by Tahir Shah, with non-wood paper, marbled end-papers, a pouch at the back with extra goodies, and silk bookmark.

Timbuctoo limited edition hardcover

Hello! I wanted to share a quick recap of news and coming events…

Hardcover

As you may already know, the Timbuctoo hardcover will be out next month. This is a very special edition, with six fold-out maps, marbled end-papers, a pouch at the back with goodies, a silk bookmark, and non-wood paper. It’s now available for pre-order on Amazon, or (if you’re in the US) you can enter for a chance to win one of six copies on Goodreads.

Once the book has been released, I will be holding pop-up sales in London, where you can get a signed copy. I’ll be sharing more details on this early next month.

Ebook

The Timbuctoo e-book launch was initially set for August. However, the date has been changed, and Timbuctoo is NOW available on Kindle and other e-readers. Click on one of the links below to get your copy:

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/MNdUyI
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/MQH0Kg

If you’d like a preview before you buy, you can download the first chapter in PDF. Hope you enjoy it!

Q&A

In other news, I held my first AMA on Reddit yesterday afternoon. You can still access the questions and answers on Reddit, where the conversation will be archived. If you have any other questions for me, I will be holding an Author Q&A on Goodreads from July 1-15. Several conversation threads have already been set up, so please introduce yourself and feel free to get started asking questions at any time. I will begin answering them on July 1.

Meetup

If you’re in the UK, get ready for a Timbuctoo picnic, which will be held in London in mid-July. More details on that early next month. Keep your fingers crossed for good weather, as it will be held rain or shine.

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April 26, 2012 Posted by tahir in Travel

Ten Worst Travel Moments

1. Being arrested, blindfolded, stripped, and flung into solitary at a Pakistani torture prison.

2. Being given the ‘rubber glove’ treatment on the border of Liberia and Sierra Leone when passing innocently through ‘Blood Diamond’ country.

3. Having dengue fever in the Madre de Dios jungle in Peru. That, along with having stomach problems, no skin on my feet, and worms burrowing out of me.

4. Having the most indescribably bad food poisoning in a locked down military area in Baluchistan, having eaten the sushi platter for four in Karachi the night before (a huge mistake).

5. Swallowing a live murrel fish in Hyderabad, a supposed cure for asthma.

6. Being lost and alone in a storm in a Cessna 152 somewhere above the Florida Panhandle, when I was aged 17 and learning to fly.

7. Being robbed of all my money, my travel documents and my luggage in the night on a train from Madrid to Algeciras.

8. Waiting for five days in a remote village in western Ethiopia for a truck to drive through so that I might have a chance to hitchhike to the next town and get stuck there.

9. Being on an organized tour of northern Namibia with retired workers from a ball-bearings factory in Dusseldorf (managed to escape, luckily).

10. Being lost at night on the live Niryagongo volcano in Congo with the threat of it erupting very likely.

How about you? What are your worst travel memories? Please share in the comments.

 

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July 22, 2010 Posted by tahir in Travel

Five Years On

Five years ago at this moment I was crouched in the corner of a solitary confinement cell at a torture jail in northern Pakistan. My Swedish film crew from Caravan Film and I were arrested a week after the London bombings of July 2005, and held without charge for sixteen days, and nights. In the half-decade that has elapsed since our release, I have found myself turning the experience over and over, looking at it in varying ways, and drawing a myriad of conclusions. It was clear that the system had seized us without quite knowing why and that once they had us, they didn’t know how get rid of us. The most obvious thing –just open the cell doors and let us walk out — never appeared to have occurred to them. My conclusions these days revolve less about our actual experience, and more about what it says in terms of the situation that people like me (one foot in the East and the other in the West) now find themselves in the Post 9/11 world. We can’t help but be affected, and be regarded with suspicion — by both sides. It’s a ridiculous position, and one which I might find myself drawing amusement from were the stakes not so high. The thing which still astonishes me is the apparent lack of cultural understanding between the Occidental governments and those of countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan. Certainly, they may have a linguistic commonality, but they both appear (to me, anyway) to have almost no intellectual connection. My experience of this has been first hand, most shockingly when interrogated blindfold and manacled night after night in a Pakistani torture room… and then when received at Heathrow by the British secret services. I’m not trying to make a big point here other than to say that we would all do better to learn much more of each other’s culture. Reading each other’s literature, study each other’s histories, understanding dissimilar etiquettes and so on. Beyond that, I write this in anniversary of those terrifying nights, waiting for the jangling of the keys and for the blindfolds, the signal that I was about to be led back down the long corridor to the torture room.



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Magic Dust

When I was at school, I remember my teachers always harping on about how wise they were and how young and foolish we were.  I would always roll my eyes and think how dead they had become, trading natural innovation for a learned system. I still believe this, and think we are all born with an amazing ability to think. It’s something that can be re-learned and used in writing, and just about anything. Look at children and you see it right away. They solve problems and use their minds in the most innovative and creative ways. Yet most of the time adults — who have had this default setting knocked out of them — tend to deride it. They don’t understand it because it was removed early in the education system. I find myself wondering how the world would be if we thought as communities using this default setting. Imagine it. Yes, there’d be less of the technological breakthroughs we are used to, but there would a form of genius that we’ve lost. The greatest thing would be, of course, to have a blend of the two systems… using one to fuel advances in the other. This imagination is something that’s like magic dust, an element that, when sprinkled into a writer’s work (whether it’s in a book or magazine),  has the ability to touch a part of us that’s often not stimulated at all. Learn to sprinkle the dust, and you will succeed in the most original ways.



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Pegs

I used to spend all my time dreaming up ideas for articles which I planned to sell. The ideas got better and better. Editors even told me they were great. But no one bought them. Why? Because there wasn’t a reason for publishing. Remember that most magazines and newspapers have limited space. For this reason, they need to be able to qualify why a certain story is going to run. The editor will often have to be ready to defend his choice to his own boss. So enter the idea of the ‘Peg’. It’s simple: If you write an article about London’s Tower Bridge, you may find it hard to sell. Editors will ask ‘Great, but, er, so what?’ But if you work out that it’s the 300th anniversary since the bridge was built and, better still, that there’s going to be an anniversary parade, you have a sure fire seller. Other pegs include political or military acts and anniversaries of any kind. You can get the Media Guide (in the UK) which gives details of up-coming anniversaries. But remember to pitch early. A magazine may work five months in advance, and a newspaper features’ section five or six weeks.



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Rights

 The difference between making $1000 for a story and making $25,000 for the same story is in the rights, and how you sell them. I’ve written already about how I started an agency to sell my books. Well, I used it for selling magazine features as well. The beauty was that, whereas editors will offer what they want to a writer, when they are dealing with an agency, they’re a lot more respectful. As the agent, it’s you who decides the price. And it’s you who chops the world into territories and sells a story again and again, as First British Rights, First Australian Rights and so on. You assign the rights in a contractual letter or a form that the magazine sends. And if you’re a journalist starting out be very careful they the magazine doesn’t assume they are buying all rights. You may have to fight them, but the truth is that they probably don’t even want world rights because they don’t have an active sales’ department. I’ve sold the same article dozens of times, and if you own the photos, you make twice the money again.



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One Man Band

With journalism there’s always a budget for the story… and if you’re smart you’ll try and get as much of that budget for yourself. The best thing you can do is to take the photographs as well, and limit the amount of work others have to do. I have always taken my own pictures, although I sometimes like working with a photographer, to have a travel companion. These days cameras are so amazingly good that you can pretty much point and shoot. I’ll make sure to give some photo notes soon though, as there’s a specific way to take pictures, especially for magazines. It also pays to cut out assistants, fixers, researchers, and all the hangers-on who will take a piece of the pie. The more you can do, the more self-contained you are, and the more money you’ll make.



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Human Interest

Whether you’re writing books or journalism, the best way to engage the reader is to write about people. In journalism it’s usually called ‘Human Interest’. It works in a way I can’t really explain, except to say that people are interested in other people. It’s what makes us who we are. If I’m given a wadge of research about a bomb attack in, say, Gambia, I search through and put aside most of the numbers and statistics. I can slot a few of them in, but they don’t tell the story. What I do is to look for a person, someone with whom my readers can identify, someone who’ll tug at the heartstrings. If you don’t believe me, read any article in the tabloid newspapers and they always lead on a person, rather than on figures. Start with the human, and spiral out, telling the story, weaving in a few facts, conflict and so on. It works every time.



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