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Travel Writing Scholarship 2013 - The Winner

CHINA | Monday, 13 May 2013 | Views [33843] | Comments [16]

First of all, thank you all for waiting so patiently as we completed our deliberations on the final shortlist. Each year, you seem to make the job of judging just a bit more difficult - and this year was no exception. As well as taking us on your personal journeys, you have truly elevated our standards of what comprises a great up-and-coming travel writer. For that, you should all be very proud of your talent and efforts.

Thank you to everyone who applied and for sharing your travel experiences with us, particularly our shortlisted entries who were all highly commended by our judging panel. 

Please join us in congratulating the winner of our 2013 Travel Writing Scholarship to China...Andrew Commins!

Congratulations Andrew, start packing your bags for Beijing!

Andrew is headed to Beijing to meet Rough Guides mentor, Martin Zatko, and help update The Rough Guide to China. Then he will explore some of the hidden, (and not so hidden) charms of the city with a Beijing local and international travel journalist. Finally, Andrew will spend three days with Hias Gourmet getting well acquainted with the history, art and technique that accompanies the Chinese love of their cuisine.

UPDATE! Read about Andrew's adventures on assignment in Beijing.

Winning Story:

What's in a name? by Andrew Commins

Judges' comments: This piece is written with flair and perception. The slow pace and exact details manage to convey the writer's sense of awe and the impact this encounter will have on the direction of his own life. Comparisons between his own “personal monotony” and the bravery of the Maasai warrior he meets are at times light and amusing – and the contrast of the leaping warrior Jonathan vs reliable office Jonathan bring the story together nicely. Sharp observations and a real sense of admiration and longing make this a genuinely moving story too.

Second Place

A Bargain by Jurriaan van Eerten

Judges Comments: An insightful, clever piece, this piece is built around simple yet effective observations that effortlessly pitch the reader into the midst of a nervy encounter in the mountains of Nepal. The short sentences help create tension while at the same time reveal elements of the scene: the whirring engine, the boy with the rifle, the crispy bills. The narrative – framed by radio silence within the Jeep – dips a little in the fourth paragraph but is otherwise tightly paced, and at the end you're almost sharing in their relief as they leave the roadblock behind.

Third Place

Anatomy of a Wail by Bonnie Etherington

Judge's Comments: This was a powerful, visceral piece from a writer clearly not afraid to tackle a difficult theme. The use of imagery was strong, setting the scene – "a dying fire", " charred" food – from the outset. Underpinned by a keen sense of observation, it created an evocative and moving – if bleak – vision of a community in mourning.

The Shortlist

(in alphabetical order)

Snake Eyes by Ann Nguyen

You buy cow? by Bernadette Olderdissen

Ad Infinitum by Cassidy Parker

Passenger to Passenger by Charne Quayle

Everything is nice now! by Christina Lynn Rock

Flesh and Blood by Daniel Tessier

Best Luck Pig by Darrah Lustig

In Search of Balut by Dave Barger

The Boy Who Sees Beyond the Shadows by Ellen Keith

You Raksha My World by Joshua Magno

River notes by Karen Mike

On Witnessing a Tibetan Sky Burial by Kelley Foyt

Next stop, Home. By Kerissa Naidoo

What have I let myself in for? by Lawrence Edmonds

The 38th Parallel by Lindsey Edson

First Hours by Michael MacKenzie

Welcome aboard by Robyn Perros

True North, South and Free by Sen Zhan

Real Life by Stephanie Wong

Lasting Impressions by Susan Kemp

The view around me by Theodore Buscemi

Cali Salsa Nights by Zachary Skerritt

Travel. Learn. Create.

For all of you aspiring creatives, check out our Scholarships page and sign up to hear about our latest opportunities, tips, advice and interviews with industry professionals in the fields of photography, travel writing and filmmaking.

And if you're lucky enough to be mentored by one of our industry professionals, it could kick start your career!

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Congrats to the winner. These are all good reads.

  Dante Javier Go May 14, 2013 3:37 PM


Wow, congratulations!! ^_^

  MGGINNY May 14, 2013 3:45 PM


On behalf of everyone who entered, would just like to thank World Nomads for the professional and incredibly communicative way you handled yourselves.

  Greg May 14, 2013 4:07 PM


I did not realise fictionalized accounts also qualify as 'travel-writing'. Of course one's imagination has to be stretched and clever use of metaphors etcetera is great, but a story where even my name is fictional is a bit too much. Then I could have written just any story.

Otherwise, great writing! Congratulations to winners!

  What indeed is in a name May 14, 2013 11:17 PM


ur right^ if the author's is name 'jonathan' (which the judge states he shares with the warrior), who is andrew??

  gen May 15, 2013 12:50 AM


Even though I didn't win, I'm so proud to be on the shortlist at least, that's already more than I dared to hope for :) Thanks, World Nomads, for this great opportunity year after year. Will hopefully retry next year :) Congrats to the winners and all the shortlisted.

  Bernadette May 15, 2013 12:57 AM


Congratulations to the winner and all the people on the shortlist!! And a big thank you to World Nomads for this opportunity, I'll definitely try my luck again next year!!

But, just a question for my next entry, since the winner isn't named Jonathan does that mean we are allowed to create a fictional piece of work? I was under the impression that the entries were supposed to be about actual travel experiences. If not then I'll definitely create one for my next entry!

  Anusha Ghosal May 15, 2013 9:10 AM


I think people are taking the 'office Jonathon' literally. He's likening the name to that of someone that would work in an office environment, not his actual name.

Lovely piece of writing that talks to the core of every traveller that's made a local connection and been moved to reflect on their own lives.

  No..I'm Jonathon May 15, 2013 11:09 AM


Finally,the long wait is over!!! CONGRATULATIONS to the winner, the placers, and the short-listed aspirants!!! :)

  Mary Rosalie May 15, 2013 1:16 PM


Well done to the winners! And thank you to everyone for inspiring me with all your wonderful stories! I will definitely keep writing!!

  Kate L May 17, 2013 6:49 AM


congrats Andrew!!! :D
you deserve it!!! :)

  farionthego May 18, 2013 5:38 AM


why the winner is always caucasian, is that because they perform "better english"

  swikiti May 21, 2013 5:06 PM


Dear judges,

I could not help noticing and found it extremely disappointing that 90 % of the winning applicants, even the authors of the shortlisted stories proved to be from Anglo-Saxon countries, although this competition was announced as available for the residents of each and every country in the world.
The reason is clearly that these people have English as their mother or first language, so they are able to produce works with much more advanced writing skills.

So being form a low-status country and not having such a high command of the English language, even though some of my works have already been published in my mother tongue in my country, even though I composed a work for this contest that is based on an authentic travel experience, I do not stand any chance in this competition - just like many of my fellow-applicants who are just as talented as the winners -, and I think it is a bit sad.

I think the judges should consider this point next time, or maybe - as National Geographic is open to explore different cultures - they could consider make this contest available in other languages as well, so that works of high literary merit could truly be recognized from all over world. I have actually seen this method work in other international contests.

Kind regards,
A disappointed applicant

  Just a reflection May 23, 2013 5:47 PM


#12 & #13,

Every year, someone brings up this point. As all of our Travel Scholarships are conducted in English, applicants must have a strong command of the language. However, this is a global opportunity and an applicant's country of residence has no bearing in the judging process (judges do not even know the nationality of the applicants until after the shortlist is chosen).

We realize that there are many talented writers out there - who could craft better stories if they were allowed to submit in their native languages. Unfortunately, if we opened it up to one other language, we would have to open it up to all other languages (of which there are thousands). We neither have the time or the resources available to to conduct the scholarship in multiple languages, at this point.

I would recommend that you keep applying to our Travel Writing Scholarship, but also keep an eye out for opportunities in your native countries as well - as great stories do seem to transcend language.

I do hope you can appreciate where we are coming from and that we are not trying to exclude anyone from this scholarship. We create these opportunities to inspire travellers to follow their passions and improve their craft - no matter where they are from.

Kind Regards,

  scholarships May 24, 2013 9:29 AM


Hi Everyone,

Phil Sylvester is our Head of Content, here at World Nomads. He's been a journalist in print and broadcast for around 30 years, so he knows his way around a sentence construction site.

Phil is also one of our judges in the annual Travel Writing Scholarship, and penned this piece on being a better writer: http://bit.ly/18xEFRZ


  scholarships May 29, 2013 11:22 AM


I think I can accept the judges' reasons, andrew deserves to win
so did hanna

  swikiti Jun 1, 2013 8:01 PM

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