The 2012 Bradt/IoS Travel-Writing Competition
Julia Bohanna was named as the winner of the 2012 Bradt/Independent on Sunday Travel-Writing Competition at an awards ceremony at Stanfords travel bookshop in London’s Covent Garden.
She received the top prize for her tale “A Wolf in the Mountains” , which describes an unexpected encounter on a path above Lourdes. Julia’s story was selected as the overall winner by a panel of judges from The Independent and Bradt Travel Guides, and the prize presented by Simon Calder at the awards event on 4 September.
Julia is a fiction writer, and when travelling she loves to absorb new places and characters in the hope they will spark stories. She found Lourdes a strange and fascinating town, and spent much of her time trying to stop her grandmother filling both their suitcases with bottles of holy water. Julia lives with a child and chickens and writes the arts and books pages for The UK Wolf Conservation Trust’s magazine.
Jonathan Lorie, director of Travellers’ Tales, announced the winner of the unpublished category. That award went to Jo Forel for her quirky piece, “The Whale”, about the aftermath of a landslide in Peru. Jo is a Londoner who recently returned from a month-long adventure in South America.
Julia wins a week-long trip for two to Abruzzo, Italy, generously provided by Railbookers, along with a commission to write a story for the Independent on Sunday about her trip. Jo wins a place on her choice of any Travellers' Tales writing weekend in London or overseas over the next 12 months.
Bradt Travel-Writing Workshop
For those interested in learning about the art and craft of travel writing, there are still a few places left on Bradt’s annual Travel-Writing Workshop, taking place in London on 16 September. The panel of experts includes The Independent’s travel editor, Ben Ross, who will be offering his tips on how to get your pieces published. For details, go to our Events page.
Hilary Bradt on this year's entries...
In Tom Stoppard’s play, The Real Thing, the writer Henry says ‘[Words] deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little...’ That’s what I love about judging our travel-writing competition. The best entrants put the right words in the right order so skilfully that my world is indeed nudged.
There were 250 entries to the competition this year, and 27 of these made it on to our long-list. The five judges met last week in London to decide which of these entries were the very best and should make it to our final short-list of six from which the overall winners would be chosen. When the right decision is so important, some sort of structured scoring system helps, so each entry was allocated marks for story, shape and language, with adherence to the theme ‘A Close Encounter’ an ever-present consideration. There was also an additional point available for ‘wow factor’.
There were some terrific stories, but the authors’ task was easier in those instances – we were swept along with the excitement. Then the advice ‘show, don’t tell’ became a consideration; we wanted a feeling of the place and characters as well as a gripping story. And we always looked for a good shape with an effective last sentence (these skills are taught at our annual travel-writing seminar in September).
We know how much it matters to give each promising entry the detailed analysis it deserves. With five judges involved, opinions were bound to vary but we reached a consensus on the six short-listed entries surprisingly easily. It would be fair to say that none was perfect, but they all told their stories so well – avoiding cliché and finding original phrases to bring the scene alive – that we came away satisfied we had made the right selection.
The six short-listed writers for 2012 were:
Julia Bohanna for A Wolf in the Mountains
Zoe Efstathiou for A Stranger’s Smile
Jo Forel for The Whale
Claire Morsman for Eyes Closed, Full Speed Ahead
Eithne Nightingale for Here Come the Clowns
Ella Pawlik for A Pestle and Mortar in Paradise
Other writers whose pieces were in any one of the judges’ top-ten lists when we convened to make the final selection were ranked Highly Commended. They are:
Gabriella Alexander, Jean Ashbury, Roger Betteridge, Sal Burbage, Linda Calvey, Fiona Galloway, Margaret Histed, Richard Lakin, Mhairi Quiroz-Aitken, Antonia Mitchell, Hannah Oakes, Wendy Skelton and Ian Wood.
The following long-listed writers are Commended: Jane Allcroft, Paul Ayres, Vicki Brown, Tom Franklin, Julie Ramsden, Clive Semmens, Eleanor Updegraff and Henry Wismayer.
The two winners will be revealed at the Awards Evening at Stanfords bookshop on 4 September, with the overall winner awarded a holiday in Abruzzo, Italy – kindly donated by Railbookers – and a commission from the Independent on Sunday to write an article about the trip. The best unpublished writer (or second-best, if the overall winner is an unpublished writer) receives a place on a writing course donated by Travellers’ Tales.
The winners in 2011 were...
Simon Duncan and Dawn Curtis. The Disappearing Beach was voted best entry overall. Simon won a trip to Turkey courtesy of Anatolian Sky Holidays and the Turkish Culture and Tourism Office. He also won a commission from the Independent on Sunday. Unpublished entrant, Dawn Curtis, wrote The Art of Stillness. Dawn won a place on an overseas travel-writing course through Travellers’ Tales.
Simon Duncan was commissioned by the Independent on Sunday to write an article published in August 2012 and he has written an article for Bradt that you can read here.
The finalists in the 2011 travel-writing competition were:
The Art of Stillness by Dawn Curtis
In the Holy City of Sanliurfa by Eithne Nightingale
Goodnight Afghanistan by Helen Watson
The Disappearing Beach by Simon Duncan
Summer in the Valley by Sylvia Dubery
Searching for Mermaids by Elizabeth Cleere
There were 23 entries that reached the competition long-list.