Travel writing for free?

This is a chain of posts and comments from my Facebook page and thought it was worth sharing with a  wider audience. Thanks to all the writers / journalists/ bloggers who commented … I have removed names and links to their FB page to stop spam etc

Here also is a rant from Harlan Ellison (I love ranters who I agree with :):) )

Heather Hapeta has shared a video with you on YouTube
Harlan Ellison — Pay the Writer
A memorable (and timely) rant from the upcoming feature documentary on Harlan
Ellison, “DREAMS WITH SHARP TEETH”. Go to for
more excerpts!!
See the full trailer here:

From  Heather Hapeta‘s Facebook page earlier this year.

“Recently I was asked to write a monthly travel column for a NZ online fashion mag. For no reward  – they seem to think it’s worth $1500 a month in promotion for me!

As I tell my travel-writing students ‘you will find it hard if not impossible to get published’ … and, ‘don’t give your work away’! I’m wondering what others think of this “it’s worth blah blah blah

replies ……

LW  Promotion? So another mag can see that you write well and offer you are job for no money? I never work for free; that is called a hobby. Just my thoughts.

SET Agree – what is it that you would be promoting via the column?

Heather Hapeta yes that’s my gut feeling LW .. would be writing on travel topics .. so only promoting wherever I write about I guess .. plus the links to my pages. Its not like I’m a tourism company and promoting that.

NA Knowing how many visitors the site receives and from where would be interesting. How are they calculating that magical $1500?

HB Once you do stuff for free, you establish your market value. You’ll always be doing stuff for free after that.

DM I was once offered cash to write about a company’s new car but knew it would kybosh any future career. ‘What if it’s no good?’ I asked. ‘Oh you can’t criticise it and we’d have to have editorial sign-off.’ they said. I said they must be joking and never heard from that particular PR bloke again, though I’ve driven and written about several good, bad and indifferent cars from the company since. A hundred quid was a lot money in those days, too.

MH Myllylahti There is not such a thing as free labour. That is just pure exploitation.

Heather Hapeta They sent me all their site stats .. although they have more Facebook ‘followers’ I have 3 or 4X the #s on twitter/WordPress etc . but I’m 99% sure no is my answer. .. thanks everyone

DH  Good decision

DM  Tell them you’ll accept that $1500 each month on a cheque?

LH  Heey Hugh….YOU’RE SO RIGHT! Embarrassingly….I’ve only just come to work that out now?? Classy! HA HA HA HA! Working for Pro bono is definitely a habit I have to break!

Heather Hapeta LH why do you do pro bono work?

LH  Hmmm…Hi Heather…I have a neurological condition….and therefore a patchy work record ie Employers were anxious about employing me because they were worried that they would have to deal with my bad memory and organisational skills ( hmm they are…BAD…) so I did pro bono work to try and say to the journalism, communications, PR and Marketing industries that I am capable of writing articles….BUT Capital Community Newspapers have stopped taking work from me now anyway ( there new editor says they wont take freelance work now!) so doing pro bono work might be over anyway!

Heather Hapeta LH  do articles etc on your own blog for them to see your skills :):)

LH  Hi Heather! Yes….Thank you…..I wasn’t whinging about life as a journalist ( though reading my last post may give this impression!) I will do something like this….I’ve just been made redundant from NZUSA as their communications person ( they ran out of money for the role) so I will have to do something like this, I think to get into another comms role! This is the first week of unemployment after 7 months….and its all a bit….Daunting ( is that the word??)

Heather Hapeta very daunting!

PHW  Cash is king. Tell them to read Adam Smith. (

BK I did pro bono work in radio copywriting as a sort of foot in the door training thing. I got paid work out of it, from the radio station – they’d get me in when people were sick. So it can work. But that was quite a lot of years ago now.

AG It’s awful, isn’t it. I was recently asked by a website to write one 300 word lifestyle article per week. The writer of the ‘most shared’ article on the site per month would receive $25 while the writer who had the most shared articles overall per month got $50. Depressing.

BK  And that model of course encourages people to write lowest common denominator, clickbait, trollbaiting stuff.

Heather Hapeta You have all convinced me to go with what I knew was right. Will write a blog re the issue and send it to the company

JB  Tell them if it’s only worth $1,500 promotion then it’s not really worth your time?

DBK I wouldn’t do it for nothing just like they wouldn’t sell advertising for nothing. Tell them to get stuffed – you can SELL your work; how can they qualify their statement regarding value? Is the by-line likely to attract more work? I doubt it. But keep trying elsewhere and if you need advice email me off this page….I’ve had a lot published over the years and been paid well for it. Incidentally do you belong to Travcom?

BK And if Vinny Eastwood can self-promote his “journalism” and get such high numbers, so can you. You don’t need them to raise your profile.

Heather Hapeta David Burke-Kennedy yes I’m with Travcom … also sell my work in many international places …airline mags newspapers etc but it’s getting harder and harder!

DBK y yes it is…but don’t devalue your work by giving it away unless there’s a really good reason. Hope that’s not like telling an experienced writer how to suck eggs…

Heather Hapeta I was querying it as Travcom now allows articles that have not been paid for to enter the comps .. in trade for free trips. So think giving work away is more common than we think. Was testing the waters really … glad lots of staunch people out there!

JT  NEVER give your work away…unless it is for charity. My brother, photographer Rob Tucker, used to charge peanuts for his work, until his wife took over the books and quadrupled his charges. He never looked back.

AC Go with your gut, Heather. It’s not worth anything at all to you if no one pays.

AL Absolutely, Heather – they’re trying to make it seem like they’re doing you a favour by publishing your work. Of course, the truth is the other way round – where would their magazine be without content?

JB  Going back to what Brigid said about a foot in the door … what say ye KJAs to a request from a place you’d really like to work for? Still yeah but nah?

BK  I think the circumstances of the job market have changed quite a lot and you would need very clear boundaries about how little free stuff they would get for their non-buck. Because more and more outlets are looking for content they don’t have to pay for, in order to cut costs.

JB  Sorry my own experience: was unemployed, started doing a column for free for the editor of a paper that I admired, just to keep my profile up, the publisher then read the columns, remembered me from years of conferences, had an empty slot, said thanks and hired me. So, fa’afetai Samoa Observer! It’s not the NYTimes but I never wanted that anyway, small island papers is where I started and what I still love to bits – plus SaOb is feisty-as for a *small* paper (huge by island standards) ….. point being, if it’s for an outlet you love, take a punt, they may just have an empty slot. Or one may come up? 2 senes worth from Samoa.

AL I think the situation for Heather is a bit different (feel free to correct me, Heather!) in that she is an already established writer and the magazine wants to publish work in an area in which she is already known. If they were saying ‘let’s give it a whirl for a couple of months and then we’ll pay you’ that would be a bit different I suppose, but this looks more like ‘let’s give it a whirl and you can keep working for us for nothing’. Having said that, Jason, I started a 30-year-plus career in radio by working for nothing every weekend… and like you, when a paid position came up, I got it!

JB Ah, sorry Heather, was talking in general terms, rather than being Hapeta-specific, but should have said so .. thanks Allen, exactly what you said.

JW  I don’t think you should do it for free. Unfortunately it lowers the bar for everyone trying to make a living. I have a parallel experience as a musician. I got asked to play for free twice in the last fortnight with the benefit to me of ‘getting my name out there’. I explained politely that I have been performing professionally for 20 years now. If people want something for free then they could at least acknowledge that you would be doing them a service and not pretend they’re doing you a favor.

KM  Sounds like bollocks. Ask for $500 a month or get stuffed.

FL  I left a job recently and a former journalism student of mine was interviewed for the position. She was asked to write an article for the paper – I wonder if she was paid for it? She’ll find out this week if she’s got the job. I was asked to write an a…See More

PHW If you want exposure, file for Salient. And do it well. There. I said it.

MS I am finding more and more that the less you get paid for your skills, the more people seem to want from you and often the more troublesome the client. As hard as it is, I’ve said No to a couple of things lately. Interestingly, jobs paying properly came along to fill that space…

PHB It goes without saying I hope that as professionals we refuse to be commission stories without offering payment.


Oil, oil, oil, death and courage

Oil, oil, oil, death and courage.

Freedom of speech and Courage Day – read the above article – published in The Press, Christchurch New Zealand .. the link is to my blog!

Religion, atheists, books and travel

On my recent trip I spent the 14-hours in the air from Wellington, New Zealand to Kuching, Sarawak (East Malaysia, Borneo) reading Alain de Botton’s book HEATHROW DIARY and despite spending many times in airports, it made me aware of nuances I had not perhaps been so conscious of.IMG_3278758846670

Then, instead reading one of the many books on old Malaysia and Borneo on my Kobo, I returned to one already started on my e-reader, RELIGION FOR ATHEISTS. a non believers guide to the uses of religion, also by de Botton.

Interestingly this has also tied in with my travels here, and resonates with past travels.

A kiwi for many generations, both maternal and paternal lines escaping the Irish famines, the Scottish clearances, and the Cornish tin mine closings of the 1800s (in today’s terms both economic migrants and refugees) the kiwi way of life absolutely seems the norm. That is, I live in a secular country where in the recent census nearly 50% of us declared” No religion” on the form: a number that would be much higher if not for our migrants who of course bring their religions with them.

During these travels, like many other – such as in Europe, Israel, Southern USA and many other places – I am aware if how religion plays such a huge part in people’s lives outside New Zealand, an awareness made more acute by the many Chinese temples here in Sarawak and the fact that Ramadan has just started.

Have you read either books?

Have they, or any other books on the topics, influenced you with your travel observations?

For me they have both just made me more conscious of both travel and religion and like local food, remember what an integral part it is with travel – no wonder I’m a passionate nomad, aging disgracefully as I move around the world.

Off to Malaysia Lah.

Hibiscus nat flower malaysiaweb 020_16A
Hibiscus. National flower, Malaysia

Yes, today I’m off to Malaysia Lah – and, as I said in my book – Naked in Budapest: travels with a passionate nomad,– it’s my favourite Asian country!

So why “lah” and why “favourite”?

To lah or not to lah that is the question. Many Malaysians add this ‘non-word’ to sentences, peppering it around , flavouring their words just as you do with the spice.

For explanations of all the meanings attributed to the word see here.

Some include these

Coaxing: Come on, lah; don’t be like that-lah; please-lah
Forceful: Shut up-lah! Get out-lah!
Apologetic: Sorry-lah
Fed up: Enough-lah!
Definite: Of course-lah; sure-lah
Agreeable: Okay-lah

We Kiwi also add a sort of non-word to many sentences – ours is ‘eh’ pronounced ‘ay’, like the letter ‘a’ and it’s used to tag question or emphasise a statement – not nearly as versatile as the Malaysian Lah!

However, my parents, clear-speaking Christchurch folk, were horrified when their North Island born grandchildren moved south with the casual ‘eh’ added to their comments and queries alike – they considered it very ‘lower-class’. It was ‘regional’ but it has slowly moved to the South Island but it’s still not so common there – and many people throughout NZ still consider it a sign of a lack of education and or money.

And, now, why ‘favourite country’? Well, my first visit to Asia, and Malaysia was in the late-90s, landing in Singapore, on my way to Thailand where I was keen to see the gold temples and Buddha’s. Malaysia was really just a two-week route north. I thought it would be ‘just another colonised country’ and gosh was I wrong!

As a Kiwi (New Zealander)I got a 3-month visa as I crossed the border, bused to Malacca and promptly fell in love with the country, the food and the people: Think Assam Pedas a spicy-sour fish for breakfast, sweet-corn ice-cream, great sights, history,  friendly people of different ethnicities and religions, and of course  their “Open Homes”.

These open homes are a truly Malaysian way of celebrating all festivals or celebrations including religious and ancient events, when everyone is invited to someone’s home for a great meal.  Staying in Malacca for ten days meant I was there for the Hari Raya celebrations (end of Ramadan) and much to my surprise was welcomed into the home of the Deputy Health Minister.

I tell much more about my time in Malaysia in my book, but to finish this blog, I can tell you I finally had to make a rush to the Malay-Thai border on the last day of that 3-month visa, hating leaving, and knowing I would return.

I’ve been back a couple of times but this is my first visit to East Malaysia (Sarawak & Sabah on Borneo) and for the next 2 months I’m looking forward to seeing both the differences and what’s similar – follow my adventures here and on social media.

Heather Hapeta: the kiwi travel writer

See here for my social media links – so you can choose how to follow my travels, the food, the creatures, and the nature of this tropical island 🙂

Congratulations to all travel writer winners … sadly my name is not on this 2012 list

Wellington Writer and Auckland Photographer Scoop the Top Prizes at the Cathay Pacific Travel Media Awards
13 May 13

Wellington’s Sharon Stephenson won the Cathay Pacific Travel Writer of the Year Award and Auckland’s Babiche Martens took the Cathay Pacific Travel Photographer of the Year Award, presented Tuesday 7th May at the Travel Media Awards Gala Dinner at the Heritage Auckland’s Grand Tearoom.

The Cathay Pacific Travel Media awards are organised by Travcom (New Zealand Travel Communicators) to celebrate excellence in travel writing and photography.

Stephenson took top spot with her story "Roman Holiday – Food and Flirting" published in the Dominion Post.  Stephenson is a Wellington-based freelance writer, editor, copywriter and PR consultant.

The writing judge was William Fraser, based in Hong Kong, editor-in-chief of the six Cathay Pacific and Dragonair magazines and digital products, former editor of Qantas magazine, founder of Australian Financial Review magazine and Boss magazine.  He is a former literary and food editor who has worked in magazines, newspapers, book publishing, radio and television.  Fraser said “The winner of the Cathay Pacific Travel Writer of the Year award is someone I would relish setting out with. This is a writer who has clearly already done the necessary research to be knowledgeable about the destination. But is also prepared to go with the flow when necessary and surrender to the spontaneous opportunities that travel throws up. The writer also has the necessary joie de vivre so essential in a travelling companion. But more than anything else, this was a writer with a sense of humour.

“Roman Holiday is a con brio piece of writing that from the outset made me smile and then laugh out loud. While relatively concise, it is entertaining and amusing, and the exuberant verve of the writing and enthusiasm for the subject – her unabashed enjoyment of Italian food and waiters – propels the reader through the piece. It has enough information to allow readers to follow in her footsteps and is a welcome reminder that travel can, and probably should, be fun. She enjoyed her holiday and so did I.”

William Fraser judged all travel writing categories excluding the New Travel Writer of the Year award, which was judged by Metro staff writer Steve Braunias. Steve has won the Cathay Pacific Travel Writer of the Year Award three times, and he describes his latest book, Civilisation: 20 Places at the Edge of the World, as “a kind of gothic travel book, set in Mosgiel, Tangimoana and other destinations which are at once bland and amazing”.  The winner of the AA Directions New Travel Writer of the Year Award is Brian Luby of Dunedin, for "Tunnel, Laughter and Giants".  Braunias said “Brian’s story was about a hole in the ground. Writing about a tunnel was an ambitious task – it could so easily have been a small bore. But Brian’s genuine sense of wonder is infectious. He takes the reader with him, back to the 1870s when the 72 steps of tunnel were first dug, then to the present day, when he dares to compare it to the Grand Canyon. Who dares, wins. I loved every syllable of this witty and thoroughly engaging piece of writing.”

The winner of Cathay Pacific Travel Photographer of the Year Award is Babiche Martens, a photographer for the NZ Herald.

The photography awards were judged by: Bela Trussell-Cullen, a veteran magazine designer and art director, who has worked for many years on Metro and North & South and who is currently art director of New Idea magazine; Aaron K, an Auckland-based commercial photographer with over 13 years of industry experience. He’s also a past president and the current executive director of the Advertising and Illustrative Photographers’ Association; and Tony Bridge, a professional photographer, artist and photography educator based in Hanmer Springs.  The Cathay Pacific Travel Photographer of the Year Award was judged on the entire portfolio of images entered in every award category.

Aaron K said “We chose Babiche Martens as the winner because we found her portfolio very contemporary and original. In a medium that can attract cliche’s Babiche’s unique vision was refreshing. She has been innovative with her choice of subject matter and composition, while also demonstrating excellent technical control and consistency. All of her images were perfectly exposed, resulting in strong saturated colours. We feel she has an educated eye that pushes the boundaries of the travel photography genre."

Stephenson and Martens each win a return economy class ticket, upgradeable on a space available basis, to Hong Kong travelling with Cathay Pacific plus three nights at the renowned Peninsula Hong Kong which is celebrating 85 years of Peninsula hospitality in 2013.  The winners will also be hosted by the Hong Kong Tourism Board to experience the marvels of Hong Kong.



Cathay Pacific Travel Writer of the Year:

Winner:   Sharon Stephenson

Auckland Airport Award for the Best Magazine Travel Story

Winner:    Venetia Sherson, for "Autumn in Tuscany", published in NZ Life & Leisure magazine, Jan/Feb 2012

Runner up:     Miranda Spary, for "Turkish Delight", published in NZ Life & Leisure magazine, March/April 2012

Runner up:   Steve Braunias, for "With the Springboks", published in Metro Magazine, January 2012

Westpac Award for the Best Newspaper Travel Story

Winner:    Sharon Stephenson, for "Roman Holiday – Food and Flirting", published in the Dominion Post, August 2012

Runner up:   Michele Hewitson, for "Gone to the Chiens in the City of Light", published in the NZ Herald, November 2012

Runner up:   Venetia Sherson, for "High Rise Journey to the Dark Side", published in the NZ Herald, November 2012

Heritage Hotels Award for the Best Travel Story about New Zealand

Winner:  Mike White, for "Old Gold", published in North & South magazine, November 2012

Runner up:  Joanna Wane, for "When Wally met Sally", published in North & South magazine, May  2012

Runner up:   Sarah Lang, for "A River Runs Through It", published in North & South magazine, April  2012

Interislander Award for the Best Story about a Journey

Winner: Steve Braunias, for "Great South Road Trip", published in Metro magazine, April 2012

Runner up: Robin Charteris, for "Travels with the Beast", published in the Otago Daily Times, March   2012

Runner up:   Steve Braunias, for "The Train", published in Metro Magazine, June 2012

British High Commission and Tourism Ireland Award for the Best Travel Story about Britain and/or Ireland

Winner: Colin Hogg, for "A Writer’s Trail", published in the NZ Herald, June 2012

Runner up: Sharon Stephenson, for "Knocking on Heaven’s Door", published in the Dominion Post, March 2012

Runner up:    Jill Worrall, for "Where Monks’ Memories Linger", published in the Timaru Herald, August 2012

NZ Maori Tourism Award for the Best Travel Story about a Maori Tourism Experience

Winner: Mike White, for "Once Upon an Island", published in North & South magazine, June 2012

Runner up: Pamela Wade, for "Parihaka: Keeping the Peace", published in the NZ Herald, January 2012A

Runner up:  Liz Light, for "A Weekend in the Hokianga", published in North & South magazine, October 2012

Rhys Brookbanks Memorial Award for the Best Travel story published about Canterbury or highlighting Christchurch

Winner: Jane Warwick, for "Phoenixes and All That", published in NZ Life & Leisure magazine,November 2012

Runner up: Mike White, for "A Weekend in Little River", published in North & South magazine, March  2012A

Runner up:  Paul Rush, for "Bridged Waters Troubles Over", published in the Dominion Post, November 2012

AA Directions Magazine Award for the Best New Travel Writer

Winner:    Brian Luby, for "Tunnel, Laughter and Giants"

Runner Up:    Linda Maser, "for A Bangkok Adventure"

Highly Commended:    Hugh Blomfield, for "Sabah’s Turtle Island"

Highly Commended:    David Patterson, for "The Brussels Experience"

Highly Commended:    Karen Prebensen, for "Salt of the Earth"

Cathay Pacific Travel Photographer of the Year

Winner:    Babiche Martens

Runner Up:    Tessa Chrisp

Auckland Airport Award for the Best Travel Image taken in New Zealand

Winner:    Joshua Windsor, for his image published in NZ Geographic magazine in November 2012 of a rock climber  scaling the challenging Babylon Crag while on holiday in Fiordland.

Runner Up:    Fay Looney, for her image published in Taranaki, Be Here,  Be Surprised, September 2012 For her image of Opunake Beach, travellers  mid-winter photo shoot

Runner Up:    James Heremaia, for his image published in Our New Zealand,  summer 2012 The Northern Explorer passenger train crosses  the Waiteti viaduct south of Te Kuiti

FUJIFILM X Award for the Best Travel Image taken Outside New Zealand

Winner: Tessa Chrisp, for her image published in NZ Life & Leisure magazine, Jan/Feb 2012 Vanuatu’s low lying Maskelyn islands, dug out canoe

Runner Up: Peter Graney, for his image published in the Rotorua Review  in October 2012 Chickens arrive for slaughter by Moto at the Orasay markets, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Runner Up:    Amos Chapple, for his image published in the Guardian, Tourists at Danyia Landform, Zhangyzi, China

AA Directions Magazine Award for the Best Travel Image with People

Winner:    Tessa Chrisp for her image published in NZ Life & Leisure magazine, Jan/Feb 2012 Malekula Island Vanuatu, locals in a ute

Runner Up:    Babiche Martens, for her image published in the NZ Herald in May 2012 A driver focusses intently on the rear vision mirror

Runner Up:    Amos Chapple, for his image published in the Guardian, A Kurdish man guards road working machinery.

NZ Maori Tourism Award for the Best Travel Image Capturing the Essence of Maori

Winner: Peter Drury, for his image published in the Waikato Times in March 2012 Waka and crews salute international dignitaries at the 116th Ngaruawahia regatta held at the Turangawaewae marae

Runner Up:    James Heremaia, for his image published in the Taranaki Daily Mail in May 2012 The tangi of the iconic soloist Hui Kahu

Runner Up:   Liz Light, for her image published in North & South magazine in October 2012 Rod Penney and his horses on Mitimiti beach, Northland.

Heritage Boutique Collection Award for the Best Unpublished Travel Image

Winner:    Lindsay Keats, for his image of boys playing soccer in Quarzazate, Morocco

Runner up:    Liz Light, for her image of dawn beauty, Chilka Lake, Orissa, India

Runner up:     Karin Charteris, for her image of a family group travelling to market in Udaipur, India.

For further information or to source winning photographic images contact Travcom administrator Helen DaviesPh: (09) 624 5707 or email see the winners’ photographs and stories click on

Writers Walkway: Wellington Waterfront

Last week I attended the launch and unveiling of four new quotes on the Wellington Writers Walkway – and the honouring of  the writers and their city, or the city their quotes mention.

These tributes to the city by the sea are dotted  around the  Wellington waterfront as typographical sculptures in wood and concrete.  Use your smartphone to guide you around the sites and learn more about the writers behind them. See it here. ( or download the brochure or pick it up at the Wellington i-site centre.)

It was also wonderful  to meet 3 young woman travellers, from Malaysia, who said “it’s great that you  honour your writers this way”. Funnily, one of the woman lives in the city I land at in my Borneo trip (Kuching, June – August 2013) and who I now will meet for a coffee after I’ve been the Rainforest World Music Festival. As the CEO of the Sarawak  State Library, it’s no wonder she noticed the group of us wandering the waterfront and we were glad they joined us.


The writers honoured at this launch were: Joy Cowley, Elizabeth Knox, James McNeish and Jack Lazenby who’s pole and quote  is behind the visitor-students to Wellington. Read more about them on the Writers Walkway website or on the New Zealand Society of Authors one.

DSCF5225 (1024x768)DSCF5228 (1024x768)DSCF5230 (1024x768)

DSCF5231 (768x1024)