TRAVEL WRITING COMPETITIONS
Entering writing competitions forces you to write to a deadline, theme and word count. Successful or not, it is useful to read the winning entries–past and present–to gain a clearer understanding of what is considered good writing.
Since I’ve been entering competitions I have learned that judges have different preferences for style and content. Some like a good narrative, some expect precise and evocative description, others prefer first person impressionistic pieces, but they all expect an engaging and well-written piece.
Winning is a great way to get your work seen by plenty of people. Submissions are often posted on-line, and winning entries are usually printed in the newspapers or magazines holding the competition. If you’re lucky you might get some feedback from judges too.
‘Just Back’ weekly travel writing competition
The Daily Telegraph runs this free to enter competition. In under 500 words you must describe a holiday experience which will tickle the fancy of the high-brow editorial team. There’s a £200 prize every week (in the currency of your choice) and the chance to win the grand prize at the end of the year of £1,000.
Daily Telegraph Weekly Travel Writing Competition 16/7/2010 – Winner
‘Thanks for a lovely little piece.’ Michael Kerr, Daily Telegraph Travel Editor.
Daily Telegraph Weekly Travel Writing Competition 24/6/2011 – Winner
‘Lovely piece on trekking in India here. A deserving winner of our just back travel writing competition…’ Jolyon Attwooll, Daily Telegraph Travel Writer.
Daily Telgraph Weekly Travel Writing Competition 14/12/2012 – Winner
‘ I am delighted to tell you (again!) that your article has been chosen as the winner in this week’s competition…’ Jolyon Attwooll.
Bradt/Independent on Sunday annual travel writing competition
This annual competition (open to UK residents only) is judged by specialists in the travel industry. In 2011 I was thrilled to reach the final. In 2012 the theme was “A close encounter”. I wonder what it will be in 2013? It’s usually announced in April.
“Searching for mermaids” 2011 – Finalist
‘A well-crafted story with a strong narrative structure, evocative descriptions and a humorous tone that engages the reader right through to the conclusion.
Kate Simon, Travel Editor, Independent on Sunday
‘Searching for Mermaids: a beautifully observed and well structured piece, which expertly weaves drama and description with anecdote and personality. I was there with the writer, on that boat and up that creek, eager for the elusive dugong to make an appearance. And when it did, the description made me smile: “a graceful and stoical giant spud”. Wonderful.’
Donald Greig, Managing Director, Bradt Travel Guides
Discover Wildlife Travel Writer of the Year
Combine travel writing with wildlife in this annual competition from the BBC Wildlife Magazine. The winner is published in the magazine and wins a trip to a fabulous destination.
Guardian annual travel writing competition
Winners of each category of this massively popular annual competition have their entries published in the newspaper (look out for the announcement round about October). Prizes also include fabulous holidays. But, as you’d expect with the Guardian, they don’t choose formulaic travel writing. You must have a clear and strong voice with your own story to tell. You must be a UK resident to enter. Read the Guardian’s ‘Tips for travel writing’.
Transitions Abroad annual travel writing contests
TA focuses on volunteering and interaction with local communities, running competitions for ex-pat travel, narrative travel writing and student travel. You are encouraged to add photos to your text. $500 first prize for each competition. In 2012 I’m thrilled to say I came third in the Narrative Travel Writing contest.
Mountain Council of Scotland annual literary competition
This literary competition has been going since 1996. The subject matter must have a connection with any aspect of mountaineering, rock climbing, walking or ski mountaineering/touring. It can be fiction or non-fiction, weird or wonderful. Judges look for originality.
Mountain Council of Scotland Literary Competition 2011 – 3rd Place Liz Cleere’s Trekking in the Shadow of Kanchenjunga was enjoyed for its “interesting, alternative-to-travel-writing approach”, which was “filled with names, people, families and workplaces”.’ Judges comments
Pure Travel annual travel writing competition
In association with Geographical Magazine this worldwide free to enter competition has a first prize of £1,000. All entries are posted on-line for public viewing. The judges short list ten entries which are made available for public vote. A professional travel writer then chooses the winner from the top three. The criteria for shortlist selection flummoxed the Itinerant Writers Club in 2012, so I contacted the editor of Geographical for his thoughts on the subject.
If you join the myWanderlust forum you’ll find regular writing (and photography) competitions and opportunities to express yourself. And a chance to get your name in print in this prestigious travel magazine.
World First travel insurance specialist
Post up your ‘first world’ experiences in less than 400 words for a chance to win a Kindle (or Amazon vouchers) in this monthly competition. After a breather in summer 2012 it will be back in the autumn.
“It’s fair to say that picking a winner was no easy task. Just ask Jane Labous (The Independent, The Times and BBC Radio 4). It took Jane’s sharp eye for a story to help pick the winner from an impressive shortlist. And that winner was Liz Cleere.”
Leap Local Annual Travel Writing Competition
The website is dedicated to finding and promoting local travel guides and experts. The annual travel writing competition, open to all, offers a $500 top prize. To submit an entry you must also post up your recommendation for a local guide. I didn’t win in 2011, but they liked my story so much they asked me to lengthen it and add some photos. It was published in their on-line magazine under the WTF? Weird Travel Files section. Sushil Tamang, the local guide I wrote about was short-listed too, so he is now on the map. So sometimes winning isn’t everything! .
Walkopedia Travel Writing (and Photography) Competitions
Walkopedia ran a competition for the best travel writing about a walk or hike. The competition is now closed (I was thrilled to come second) but subscribe to the website for other competitions.
Writers Abroad Anthology
Writers Abroad publishes an anthology every year and invites submissions from ex-pats (and former ex-pats). The theme for 2012 was “Relationships around the world”. My story about Nazar, a friend from Cochin, was selected for the anthology. It is available to buy through Lulu (all proceeds go to the charity Books Abroad.)
The British Guild of Travel Writers
Travel writing competition for new writers. If you’ve never been paid for anything published in the field of travel ever, you can enter this annual competition. The theme for 2013 is “People and Places”. The winner earns a free place on a Travellers’ Tales overseas writing course. Keep checking the BGTW website for announcements of new competitions.
Nature Writer of the Year
If nature is your bag, try this competition from DiscoverWildlife.com. The winner is published in the magazine and wins a trip to a fabulous destination.
10th Glass Woman Prize Annual Literary Competition
Writing for women, about women, the Glass Woman Literary Prize is awarded every year. ‘While your story “A Rajput Gentleman” didn’t win one of the money prizes, it was one of the ten top contenders. Out of 960 entries, that’s quite an accomplishment and I hope it means something to you… congratulations on a beautiful story full of hope.’ Beate Sigriddaughter, by email
There are other ways of garnering feedback. Try uploading stories, experiences and observations to the many travel websites.
In the Your Travels section of The Telegraph website you will find a prize offered for ‘Your Views‘ on its weekly output in the Travel section. Write up to 200 words and win tickets from easyJet. The newspaper also asks for tips on specific destinations. The best tip, in less than 150 words, wins a holiday. (I’m off to Jordan in October courtesy of Ryan Air.)
The Guardian asks for Readers’ Tips every week. Half a dozen or so pieces are printed in the newspaper on Saturday, the favourite winning a prize. Sign up to Been There and get posting.
I like Wanderlust Magazine’s website as it has an active forum, where everyone — including the magazine staff — gets involved. To receive feedback from Peter Moore (author and Web Editor) is really precious, and knowing that Lyn Hughes and her editorial team regularly trawl myWanderlust is a real incentive to try your best.
“Liz Cleere continues in her role as unofficial ambassador for the Indian Tourist Board with another fascinating account of its hidden corners. This time, the tiny state of Sikkim. I always find myself checking the price of flights to India after reading Liz’s pieces…”
“Liz Cleere takes us to Sadla Island in Eritrea this week. And in her indomitable fashion, puts this forgotten destination on the top of your must-visit wish list.”
“The indomitable Liz Cleere recounts a breathtaking bus trip to Asmara. Liz has quickly become a mainstay of myWanderlust and I for one look forward to reading her latest adventure each week, Keep up the good work Liz.”
“This week we’re challenging the wordsmiths amongst you again. Inspired by this fantastic experience by Liz Cleere about her Rajput Gentleman we want to hear about your memorable encounters.”