If - and I don't pretend to understand this - travel writing for the sheer joy of it doesn't come easily, I urge you to investigate this year's Bradt/Independent on Sunday Travel Writing Competition. The prizes and the prestige of winning this competition should prove motivation enough for you to swallow any doubts and show your worth. Go on...let your mind wander, employ the setting sun as your muse and, balancing laptop on a wobbly bench overlooking the ocean or leaning your scrap paper on the coffee-stained drop down tray on the commuter train home, let your own brand of atmospheric prose flow.
I truly believe that the less intimidated you are by the established travel media the better. Become a counterfeit Bill Bryson or plastic Michael Palin and readers will skip your piece, finding more life in the tv listings.
Respect established travel writers, of course. They've spent lifelong careers inspiring and informing their readers; flying, sailing, walking and writing it all up. What's not to respect? But fresh travel writing talent is conceived of passion and a unique voice that challenges cliches, taking readers with them to the heaving or serene heart of a far flung field, festival or falaffel stall. No fluff or bubbles; this is travel writing and not holiday brochure copy writing.
Next thing you know, Hilary Bradt will be congratulating you on a fine piece of writing and the Independent is heralding you the new Louis Thereoux ... you'll soon be over run with commissions for articles and guidebooks. Enjoy your new life and buy me a beer when we're on that dream research trip to Fiji together!
Who's it for? Published and unpublished writers
Theme: 'The heart of the city'
Word count is 800 words max.
First prize: a commission (a 1,200-word article for The Independent on Sunday) and a research trip (for two) to Kyrgyzstan
Prize for unpublished writers: a travel-writing course in the Spanish city of Granada, with Travellers' Tales
Deadline (get going!) noon, Friday 16 May 2008
Visit Bradt's website for the ins and outs
Read last year's winning article here Read more!