Janice Booth, a preliminary judge of our 'New Travel Writer of the Year' competition, offers some early comments on this year's entries.
"And then it happened" – the deadline arrived, the last few entries whizzed through the darkness into our mailbox and the process of judging them can start. This is our 15th year, and reading the entries remains as exciting as ever. Just for fun I've run through the alphabet, and this year's locations start with every letter of the alphabet except D, X and Y (but perhaps I can cheat with Deutschland and the old Yugoslavia, which I remember driving through in the 1970s, with my Serbo-Croat phrasebook at the ready). Now the entries will pass through various stages of judging, until we (judges) all meet in London next month, argue fiercely, defend our favourites, criticise mercilessly and eventually produce a shortlist of three! The standard is always high, and this year's winners – as in previous years – will certainly deserve their prizes.
The theme – or lack of one – this year took some of you aback. Possibly it's harder to wrap an entry meaningfully around a single phrase or sentence than it is to base the whole piece on a specific theme, and in a few cases "and then it happened" didn't relate quite enough to the entry as a whole. But most of you rose well to the challenge, which, after all, is there so that you can demonstrate your writing talent!
It's always very evident how hard and carefully you work at your entries. A lot of the pieces just scraped into the word limit, at around 780–795 words, and I can visualise authors trimming desperately at the last minute in order to fit all their best phrases in. Others felt, rightly, that their story ended naturally at about 700 words, and sensibly weren't tempted to embroider it beyond that length. We take all this into account.
So now your work has finished, ours has just started, and you just need to be patient! Watch the website for updates. We love reading your entries, so our thanks to all of you for giving us this pleasure. We're always sorry that there can't be more winners, but of course in a sense you are all winners, just for having made the effort to enter. We hope that you enjoy it too.