I’ve written a book. So, now what?

Writing a book is something that is often romanticised and dreamed of. It’s said that everyone has a novel within themselves, and the notion of adding “Author” to one’s list of credentials is for many very alluring.

For those who do embark on the journey of writing a book, the motivation is different in almost every case. Indeed, some set off without the right amount of motivation required to successfully complete the writing process. Of course, many do cross the finish line and in a world where a large number of people have never read a book from cover to cover, they can proudly proclaim to have written one – a feat which is an order of magnitude greater – however commendable or poor the resulting manuscript might be.

For me, the motivation to write Portraits of Madagascar came unexpectedly and with little foreplanning. Like many others, I’d toyed with the idea of using my fondness for words to one day write a book, but perhaps I’d shelved these thoughts in the belief that I hadn’t yet found a story worth telling. My trip to Madagascar changed that and awakened a desire to share with others my joyous, yet simultaneously heart-rendering experiences there.

By no means did that happen overnight, though. I started writing during the flight home from Antananarivo, without a clear idea of when or where I’d use the script, and it was only while I was sorting the many photographs I’d taken into a collection that I felt the pieces of the project starting falling into place.

Since August of 2015, those pieces have shuffled and reshuffled themselves, and many additional pieces have been added and what started as not much more than a private sideline photographic project grew into a book, a change of career, a business, and a burgeoning humanitarian organisation. (Stay in contact to learn more about that in the near future.) Pieces are still being added to the greater project constantly, and it now really is taking on a life of its own.

The same can be said for Portraits of Madagascar, for while many authors set off on their writing endeavours with hopes of starting a successful and prestigious career, making lots of money, or simply achieving the satisfaction of being able to say they’ve written a book, the experience has been very different for me. I don’t feel that it’s a case of wanting the write a great book, but rather that at its essence is a message which is far greater than any one person, and that the book was instead looking for someone to write it. I feel like it “chose” me because of the gift of passion which Madagascar instilled within me to share my experiences in a stunningly beautiful, yet very troubled country.

The process of writing Portraits of Madagascar felt very much like the book was writing itself, and that I was merely present to pen the words to paper. Of course, that is not to say that it was without challenges, but for the most part, it was a case of trying to keep my hands moving as rapidly as the words were coming to me. The message of Madagascar seemed to fall out of me, and throughout the process, my greatest fear has been that of failure to do a good enough job of telling the story.

As triumphant an accomplishment as finishing the writing of a book might seem, the truth is that when one crosses the finish line of the writing process, one immediately finds that there is another distant finish line to cross in getting one’s work out into the world, and it is at least another order of magnitude greater to get it published and into the hands of those who will read and appreciate it!

Having spent the majority of the past year writing, illustrating and designing Portraits of Madagascar without a supporting budget, it is now finally at a point where I feel proud to show it to the world and is now ready for print. But it desperately needs the support of the public (YOU!) for funding this costly process, or it will never see the light of day. We will soon be launching a crowdfunding campaign to raise the funds needed to put the book into print. You can show your support in the meantime by subscribing to this blog and following on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. More importantly, it will go a very, very long way in helping us achieve our targets if you buy a copy of Portraits of Madagascar by effectively pre-ordering through the crowdfunding campaign when it launches in the next week or so.

I will be posting more content on this site and blog as things progress. Of course, I do not wish to give away too much of the contents of the book itself, but I do very much want to share as much about Madagascar, my experiences there, and what’s developed from them as we head into the future. In collaboration with my friend, Hasina Samoelinanja, who is featured in the book, there are some remarkably exciting and significant projects being born out of this, and I would like to invite you to be a part of them. It may not seem directly linked, but your support in purchasing the book is going to go directly to funding our efforts to create a far-reaching humanitarian project for Madagascar and other similar regions. More information on that will follow, so remember to subscribe, like, share, and please feel free to comment and ask questions. This book and everything that stems from it is driven by community interaction and co-operation, so the more you interact, the stronger it will grow.

Thanks for your interest and support, and stay tuned!

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Page 190 – Female Red-bellied Lemur

We were deep in the Pangalanes lake region in some thick rainforest and experiencing firsthand why it is named as such. After a short boat ride in the rain from Hotel Bush House, where we were staying, to Hotel Palmarium within eyeshot across the lake, our group, led by Hasina, embarked on what was scheduled to be a forest walk of a couple of hours to view lemurs.

While even many high-end cell phones are fully water resistant these days, my camera equipment was rated as only “weather-sealed”, meaning it could withstand a brief, light drizzle, but not much more. So, having already braved the challenging rainforest conditions a few days earlier Andasibe National Park, and gotten some decent shots of lemurs, I opted to not risk my equipment in the wet conditions any further and to rather stay at the lodge to get some computer work done while the rest of our Wikinger Reisen group followed Hasina through the forest in search of more lemurs.

I wished them a pleasant walk and bid them a temporary farewell, but I had not even fully opened my laptop when a bounding Hasina reappeared with an enormous smile, beckoning me to follow him: “Paul, you must come! We have seen a very rare lemur!”

I quickly stashed my computer, grabbed my cameras and my poncho and followed him to a spot not even beyond the boundary of the lodge.

The Female Red-bellied lemur (Eulemur rubriventer), is pictured here as an extract from page 190 of Portraits of Madagascar in the chapter: Wildlife.

Here, the camera deceives one when conveying the darkness of the overcast rainforest. It was a very tricky affair getting a nicely frozen shot of the little animal as she scanned our party’s hands with feverish curiosity for the possibility of food offerings, and scurried hurriedly from branch to branch. The task was made all the more difficult my fellow tour party members at times stepping into the view of my long lens to get their own shots.

As a professional photographer on these sorts of trips, when embedded on assignments in tour groups of folks who have paid for a superb holiday, I’m always very careful to keep a low profile and to let the travellers have the most pleasant and enjoyable experiences without having my work or my presence interfere in any way. However, on this occasion due to the weather, the difficult lighting, my uncooperative subject, the fact that my long lens meant that I was shooting from the back of the group and therefore had to hunt for gaps in the small crowd to get an unobscured shot, and with my head and my camera completely covered from the rain, I will admit to the possibility of there having been a few mumbled English swear words emanating audibly in the background from beneath a bazaar looking wet green poncho.

The frustration was, however, brief and well worth the exchange for yet another special encounter with one of these friendly and gentle creatures.