The Renegade Writer’s Query Letters That Rock https://books.google.com.pk/books?isbn=1933338091 Linda Formichelli, ‎Diana Burrell – 2005 – ‎Reference The Hunza king claims they usually come true. On the Chitral side, the area was dominated by the … The. Writer: Paul. Raffaele. I never went to journalism school, instead being trained as a broadcast journalist by the Australian Broadcasting … There’s more to the story. On the Gilgit side, a couple of hours up the mountain is the legendary kingdom of Hunza where people are said to commonly live to 100 or more. The present king still lives there, and I could bring in the angle of some of the world’s hardiest people living in this area, which reflects the tough nature of their favourite sport, polo. They have a Wizard Of Hunza, the latest in a line of powerful shamans who stretch back beyond when Alexander the Great’s troops came here. He performs a prophetic ritual, going into a trance and communing with the queen of the snow fairies who gives him a prophecy. The Hunza king claims they usually come true. This is an excerpt from The Renegade Writer’s Query Letters That Rock. It includes a fabulous query for Smithsonian as well as comments from the writer and the assigning editor. Enjoy! [The e-mail contained two more fleshed-out story ideas.]

http://www.therenegadewriter.com/2010/12/22/query-that-rocked-for-smithsonian/

THE WORLD’S MOST EXCITING POLO MATCH ( Taking place July 7-9)

This is an adventure story of the highest order, weaving in, briefly, the fascinating history of polo with a suspenseful and enthralling tale of the rough and tumble annual battle between two traditional rivals, tough mountain men and ponies on the roof of the world. The story would be told in such a way that the reader really cares who will win and sees it through to the nail-biting climax. It also takes readers to some of the most remote people on earth living much as their ancestors have for more than two thousand years. There is potential for many stunning pictures

The roar of ten thousand spectators mingled with the thud and screech of tribal bands greets the arrival of the polo teams from Chitral and Gilgit in Pakistan’s fabled Northwest Frontier Province as they race out onto the flat grassy field in the Shandur pass, 12,000 feet above sea level, a place locals call ‘halfway to heaven.’ Normally pasture land for yaks, the setting is as spectacular as the game itself with the pass dominated by giant Hindukush snow mountains, 40 of them soaring over 20,000 feet and with the biggest, Trichmir, at more than 24,000 feet.

Best regards, Paul

THE WORLD’S MOST EXCITING POLO MATCH ( Taking place July 7-9)

This is an adventure story of the highest order, weaving in, briefly, the fascinating history of polo with a suspenseful and enthralling tale of the rough and tumble annual battle between two traditional rivals, tough mountain men and ponies on the roof of the world. The story would be told in such a way that the reader really cares who will win and sees it through to the nail-biting climax. It also takes readers to some of the most remote people on earth living much as their ancestors have for more than two thousand years. There is potential for many stunning pictures

The roar of ten thousand spectators mingled with the thud and screech of tribal bands greets the arrival of the polo teams from Chitral and Gilgit in Pakistan’s fabled Northwest Frontier Province as they race out onto the flat grassy field in the Shandur pass, 12,000 feet above sea level, a place locals call ‘halfway to heaven.’ Normally pasture land for yaks, the setting is as spectacular as the game itself with the pass dominated by giant Hindukush snow mountains, 40 of them soaring over 20,000 feet and with the biggest, Trichmir, at more than 24,000 feet.

Nestled amid some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the world, the pass is an historic place, one of the landmarks of ‘The Great Game,’ where British and Russian spies in the 19th century played a risky game of realpolitik with the region’s kings and rajahs. Alexander the Great’s troops passed through here on their long journey of conquest, and many stayed to marry mountain girls and settle. Today, it is a volatile land with Afghanistan crowding it on the north, west and eastern borders and China overhead.

Polo in the West is a sport of the very rich, but in these remote valleys it is the national sport of a pony-loving people with each tiny village and town fielding their own teams which play the year round. Tillers of the field, carpenters, schoolteachers, yak herders take to the field with nobles, the aristocracy of polo determined by who is the best player.

The teams play polo closest to its original form. The tough, highly skilled mountain men and their rugged ponies play much the same way as they have for over eight hundred years, the game introduced here by Ali Sher Khan, a descendant of Ghenghis Khan. Unlike modern polo, there are hardly any rules, no referee and the six-men teams go at each other with a wild passion that often results in injury and sometimes death. They use their sticks not only to hit the ball but also to belt the arms and shoulders of their opponents. If a player breaks an arm or leg during a match, he has it quickly strapped and returns to the game.

No one plays this ancient and exciting sport better than the teams of Chitral and Gilgit, the region’s two major towns, rivals for centuries separated by 120 miles of narrow high mountain pathway with the Shandur Pass at the mid-point. The annual match is so eagerly anticipated that more than 10,000 spectators flock to the pass from the two towns and mud-hut villages in nearby and distant mountains and valleys.

Most people here still live and dress much as their ancestors have since biblical times. Settled on the slopes and rocky outcrops at the pass, a natural grandstand, the Chitral supporters are kept on one side of the field, Gilgit fans the other with a medieval-like bazaar in between. Because of their fervour for the annual match, several hundred riot police are on hand to prevent any fighting between rival supporters.

Polo began in Persia in the 6th century B.C., and as it spread across Central Asia the war-like tribesmen took to it with a passion, using it as a training game for cavalry units. With as many as 100 players on each side, it was like a miniature battle. That zest for the game has never subsided.

Getting to the match is risky enough for the players and their ponies. To reach the field at the Shandur Pass they must make a five-day journey along narrow crumbling pathways that snake across the high mountains with drops of a thousand or more feet.

Ideally, I’d hire a pony and ride along the mountain pathways to the pass with the polo players from one of the teams. Each player is allowed just the one pony for the match, and to acclimatise them as they climb higher each night they play practice games when camp has been made along the trail.

We would meet the major players and follow them through the thrilling final match, between the best players of Chitral and Gilgit. It ends with a victory dance by the thousands of supporters of the winning team who are borne off the field on eager shoulders, heroes through the valleys for the next twelve months.

My friend, Prince Siraj Ulmulk, a grandson scion of Chitral’s last king, will ensure that I have the best possible access. I’d also be able to stay at his home, a former palace, to get an idea of how the high and mighty lived in this high and mighty place.

There’s more to the story. On the Gilgit side, a couple of hours up the mountain is the legendary kingdom of Hunza where people are said to commonly live to 100 or more. The present king still lives there, and I could bring in the angle of some of the world’s hardiest people living in this area, which reflects the tough nature of their favourite sport, polo. They have a Wizard Of Hunza, the latest in a line of powerful shamans who stretch back beyond when Alexander the Great’s troops came here. He performs a prophetic ritual, going into a trance and communing with the queen of the snow fairies who gives him a prophecy. The Hunza king claims they usually come true.

On the Chitral side, the area was dominated by the Taliban during their rule across the border, the rugged mountains of Afghanistan being just a few miles away, and the influence of Islamic fundamentalism in the town is still strong. As well, in the mountains perched above Chitral are the Kalash, the original tribe on which the Kipling story and movie starring Sean Connery and Michael Caine, The Man Who Would Be King, are based. They are a colourful people, a small band of pagans living within a sea of Muslims, and are fiercely independent.

Of course, these are side plots giving give the story more colour, but at centre of the story is the mad, wild, fierce polo match on the roof of the world.

[The e-mail contained two more fleshed-out story ideas.]

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