We’re delighted to announce the winning entry in our Travel Writing Competition. Described by professional travel writer Jeremy Lazell as ‘it chuckles quietly along, cajoling you to listen” is the piece from S Ellisar “Flat and Out in LA” – congratulations!
S Ellisar will receive £1,000 (1,500 USD) and says “I am really excited to have won. Not only did my original travel disaster make me fall in love with LA, now it's gotten me the big prize just in time for Christmas!” S Ellisar will also have her piece published in a forthcoming edition of Geographical magazine, which we will add to the blog.
Feedback from our chief judge Jeremy Lazell
“Show, don’t tell,” is the mantra of creative writing courses across the literary globe, and in Flat and out in LA, this year’s stand-out winner, S Ellisar shows it like a pro. “The air smells like garbage,” she writes, while “a single homeless man is lost in angry conversation with himself.” This is the simplest of prose, with no clumsy spelling-out of how these details make her feel. Yet the message is clear: this is no place to get a flat tyre.
What I also love about this piece is how rapidly we are thrown into the scene. No distancing intro here, just straight onto the ghetto-streets of LA: “The hole in the Winnebago’s tyre is the size of a 50p coin...” Written throughout in the present tense, the piece has a terrific immediacy.
It’s also witty, but not in the clunky fall-guy way that scuppers so many travel accounts, both amateur and professional. Rather, it’s the language that’s witty – it chuckles quietly along, cajoling you to listen. I particularly admired the nautical metaphor running throughout her references to the Winnebago: “I should,” she says, “be sailing into the passenger pick-up area at LAX [but am] instead about to go down with the ship in uncharted territory”.
Finally, for me, the real joy of Flat out in LA is that the moment described is what travel is all about. It’s not about the Grand Canyon or Beverley Hills, it’s about the vast acres of aggravation in between, and the moments of quiet magic they often conceal. That’s S Ellisar’s greatest gift as a writer, I think: she has a joyful, perceptive eye for the stuff in between, winking away right up until that final, wonderfully redemptive sentence.
Travel Writing Competition 2013
A huge thanks again to all those that entered the competition this year – the response was amazing! And if you want to be the first to hear about our exciting competition for 2013 sign up for alerts via our RSS feed and Facebook and twitter too.