Ahead of the longlist announcement next week, Janice Booth, preliminary judge of the New Travel Writer of the Year competition offers a few initial thoughts…
“Another year, another travel-writing competition: which, as it has for the past 20-odd years, produced a widely varied crop of entries that the judges are guaranteed to enjoy reading and arguing over! The writing varies, of course, but much of it is excellent; every year you find fresh, vivid and original descriptions for familiar things that could easily have slipped into cliché. The stories feature well over 30 different countries, and locations as diverse as Mumbai and Marrakesh or Annapurna and Antarctica. Reflecting Covid restrictions, more of these than in previous years are relatively close to the writer’s home.
Incorporation of the theme (‘It was strangely quiet’) varies too, with some really well-shaped and thoughtful entries where it is paramount and others where it appears too much as an afterthought. It’s worth remembering what the entry rules stipulated about this:
‘Entrants are invited to submit an original piece of writing of between 600 and 800 words that focuses on this topic. It is not compulsory to include the phrase within the body of the piece itself, but the piece must very clearly adhere to this theme.’
So it does need to be integral to your entry, rather than just dropped briefly into an unrelated story that could have been written for something else, and some entrants let themselves down over this. I’m sure they will do better next year!
We judges have a feast of reading ahead, and entrants can be confident that not a line they’ve written will be ignored. We’re very aware of the care and effort that you’ve put into your entries, and any ‘fly on the wall’ at the final judging meeting would (we hope) feel the same about the judges.
Don’t forget to check back here later on in the month to find out who has made it onto the longlist!