Pitching to Tom Seymour

On Wednesday this week we had a lecture from Tom Seymour on getting your work published. Tom ‘has been published by The Guardian, The Financial Times, CNN and The New York Times amongst others. Between 2014 and 2017, I managed a team of reporters, designers and creatives as the Digital Editor of British Journal of Photography. The publication won the Independent Publishing Awards’ Media Brand of the Year and Publishing Innovator of the Year in that time.’ (Seymour)

It was full of insight on the process of getting published. His ideas on use of simple language, procedures, clarity about audience and the hooks that can be used to help editors was crystal clear. He made the process seem sensible and achievable.

After the lecture I used the ideas he had shared with us to pitch my work to him. Here is the email with text highlighted that was a result of the lecture.

Email to Tom Seymour 23rd September 16.41

Hi Tom,
Fabulous lecture today.  Big thanks and grateful if you can send me the slides.
I am completing my MA in December this year.  It has been a fantastic experience.  I would like to get my work in to the BJP, the Royal Photographic Society and the Guardian.  
My project is about my experience over the last two years as my wife chose to die in Switzerland in January this year as she became almost totally paralysed with multiple sclerosis and had an assisted death.
I have an exhibition planned for March April at Espacio14 in Spain.  The MS Society is going to include my project in their journal to 26,000 members and is planning a press interview in January.  I am currently working on a 10 minute YouTube video which will have images, voiceover and sound to deepen the experience of the viewer and will be published online.  Cemre Yesil https://cemreyesil.com/ is my curator.
Here is a summary set of the images of ‘every bird i see will be a part of you’ which is one of the last things I said to my wife before she died.
https://www.dropbox.com/s/juddzq26ypzt37d/summary%20image.jpg?dl=0

Thanks again for a really helpful lecture today.

Len

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Tom replied in under an hour.

Email from Tom Seymour 23rd September 17.36

Hi Leonard,

Firstly, I’m sorry for the loss of your wife. And thankyou for your kind words; I’m glad you found the lecture helpful. I have attached the slides.

I would be interested in pitching your very powerful series, congratulations on the exhibition and collaboration with the MS Society, and will have a think about where I could send it.

Let’s stay in touch.

Thanks,

Tom

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I thought the Diana Markoisan description of her work Inventing My Father was really powerful. (Markoisan)

I had a go at describing my project in a similar way and sent it to Tom for comment.

EVERY BIRD I SEE WILL BE PART OF YOU


She was beautiful and my soulmate
Then her legs went
We fought to continue with each new normal
Then the feeling in her lips went
At some point the doctors gave up
I could not accept hopelessness
Her spasms
would make her scream out in the night
I felt such a failure
I wanted to die
Most of our friends deserted us
Then sensations in her body went away
Apart from the pain
I cried and cried and cried
I loved her so much
She wanted to die
She was so
strong
She could do nothing for herself
She died
I wanted to die
I live

Len Williamson 2019 – 2020

Tom replied again within 30 minutes this time.

Len, 
I think this is really powerful; very direct, very unadorned, but also poetic. It allows people to enter your emotional state in which the work was created. The syntax, short sentences and line breaks really contribute to this. 
My only comments would be you might consider referencing the title of the series in the passage. It was one of the last things that was spoken between you, is that correct? That idea in itself – of what you would say as a final thing to someone you love – is something a lot of people would connect with, and it would give the passage a cyclical nature, which a lot of writers aim for.
You might also want to consider describing how she was beautiful to you. You could maybe refer to the impression she left on you on the first occasions you met, for example.
You might also want to think about writing in the first person, and directing it directly to your wife. So, to try writing – ‘Youwere beautiful and my soulmate. First your legs went’ in place of the verbs ‘she and her’. That might allow a further dimension.
Finally, once you work on one draft after another, you can start thinking of moments in which she exhibited strength, and then describe that moment.To imbue the the statement with memories, rather than just statements (although you will also need statements), in a similar way to how Diana writes: “In one memory, we are dancing together in our tiny apartment in Moscow.” That is challenging, because you will want to keep the statement roughly a similar length to what it is now. Think of the statement as like a sculpture; you begin with an outline of a shape and carve it down carefully and incrementally until you have the perfect form.
Again, may I just say I’m sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine what you’ve gone through. I hope you’re able to find solace in the grieving process through creating art; it sounds like you’ve had to exhibit a lot of strength already. I would be happy to help where I can, and my thoughts are with you.
My warmest regards,
Tom

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There can be nothing more powerful than giving a lecture on how to do something and then when recipients use it seeing how it can work. Tom and I will now keep in touch as I run up to the finishing line with the project.

References

Seymour, T. 2020. Photography – Tom Seymour. Available online at https://tomseymourwrites.com/project-type/photography/ (Accessed September 27th, 2020)

Markoisan, D.2013-14 Inventing my father. Available online at https://www.dianamarkosian.com/father . (Accessed 27th September, 2020)

Categories: Final Major Project, Project Development FMP

LEN

I am a Photographer. As well as taking many photographs I am currently studying for an MA in Photography at Falmouth University. I will direct my attention through the lens of my camera for the next couple of years and see what shows up. I see a photograph as a little bit of magic capturing a moment in time. If successful it surprises and engages your emotions. It tells a story about the wonders of being alive or tells us what we need to change to make it a better world to live in. That is enough for me to get going and then like walking a 1000 miles, which I did across the UK in 2010, or walking 200 miles across Cyprus, which I did in November last year, it is one step at a time.

I was a writer. The title of my unpublished book was ‘You Would Have Done The Same.' It is about a successful guy in love with his wife who lets her die when he discovers her in the process of committing suicide. The title gives a clue as to what I think you would have done. The book is 200 pages long. I found it cathartic to write it but after two years of work and reviewing with agents decided it probably needed another 2000 hours to get the whole book up to the standard of some of the pages. Writing is great but it is a lot of sitting down so I decided to get out and walk, play tennis, play bridge, go birding, watch football at Nottingham Forest, Arsenal and Valencia and anywhere else if I can, meditate, cook and eat. I was a writer who has so far failed to become an author.
I was a young man who loved Mathematics and thoroughly enjoyed getting a BSc at Liverpool University. While there I went often to Anfield and the Philharmonic Hall. I was all set on doing a PhD until I went for interview practice at BP and got seduced by the excitement of an International business career. BP was a great adventure building trading teams and businesses in London, Antwerp, Cleveland Ohio and Singapore. Fabulous people and some great challenges and also very hard work, constant jet lag and lots of fun along the way. I married Karen, my stunning wife, and had the most amazing time with her and our three boys Alex, Tom and Dan. She has multiple sclerosis and we have taken on many challenges together but somehow keep creating a new normal against the horrors thrown our way. She is the love of my life.

After BP I decided to coach senior executives and quickly realized I had a lot to learn
about what makes people tick. I had a fantastic 18 months on the International Programme of the Cleveland Gestalt Institute. A great faculty and a
wonderful group of people on the programme. We studied and worked in Dingle, Singapore, Holland, Cape Town and
Lisbon. This also got me interested in the way we think and make decisions so I studied for an MSc in Psychology atUniversity College London in 2010. The
Masters was in Cognitive and Decision Sciences and I found it fascinating what
we do know but also how much we don’t know about how we think and make
decisions.

I loved coaching and making a difference. I got a number of people to hear themselves, remove some of their own chains and free up the way they thought about the world. I remain fascinated by how people react to and engage with the world. My Masters thesis was why do two people given the same information make different decisions? Put simply, it is because each of us are unique in the way we are constructed.

Since returning from Singapore I found English winters tough so moved to Spain where I now live. The people are lovely, the scenery amazing, food delicious and the sun shines all the time. Almost.

All of these experiences will feed in to my time now as a Photographer. Three motivations I am lucky to have are enthusiasm, curiosity and a continuous interest in learning. All the time I look forward to meeting old friends and making new friends and experiencing this wonderful life together.