So the public have voted and the three most popular entries were forwarded to Jez Lazell, a professional Travel writer, for the final verdict. After a weekend of deliberation he has chosen this years winner to the PureTravel Writing Competition 2014, in association with Geographical magazine.
Jez Lazell writes:
Our winner this year is Bears And How To Beat Them by S Fabes, a tale of an encounter with a bear – or so it seems – while camping in British Columbia. “Stephen, it’s inside!” it begins. “My God, it’s inside! INSIDE!” And with that, the reader is immediately thrust into the action, dragged into the author’s tent as he rifles through his things for bear spray. It’s a simple but compelling start.
Having set the scene, S Fabes takes us back to the moment he and his girlfriend bought the bear spray in Vancouver. “The man behind the counter,” he tells us, “had on a camouflaged jacket which meshed well with the gravity of his expression and serious beard”. I like the wry humour here, but also enjoy the way it augments the description, rather than obstruct it. This is a crucial and deceptively tricky thing to pull off.
Although the prose in this story is fairly straightforward, it is not without the odd poetic flourish, and these work really well as a contrast to the thread of humour running throughout. “A week of wide-eyed freewheels followed; next to us the Georgia Strait and the low humps of the gulf islands with their crowd of pines.”
Another aspect to S Fabes’ writing that swung things in his favour was his wonderfully clear sense of structure: the story has an engaging beginning, an entertaining middle and very strong end. So having left us hanging in the first paragraph with a bear inside the tent, the author compels us to read on: I defy any reader not to read to the end in order to find out what happens with the bear. It’s a simple device, but it’s really effective – and there’s a fun twist at the end.
Our winner, Steve Fabes says:
"I'm currently punching the air in a Hong Kong internet cafe. I'll be back on my bike soon, heading to Mongolia for the winter. The Pure Travel win means a lot. It's a privilege to be published in Geographical, of which I'm a big fan, and the prize money will be invested in noodles as I pedal my way home to the UK from Mongolia."
Steve, it transpire, is currently on an epic journey, cycling across the 6 continents. As you read above, he's currently in Hong Kong about to head to Mongolia as he starts the long ride back to the UK. You can read about his exploits, as well as follow his progress, by visiting his blog Cycling the 6.
Congratulations to Steve. His article was one of the favourites of the judges at PureTravel and Geographical, and also came first in the public vote. A worthy winner. The prize of £1,000 will hopefully buy him lots of noodles (and a warm blanket or two..) on his trip across Mongolia. The article will be published in Geographical magazine in the spring.
Congratulations to the other two short-listed articles - The Reluctant Butcher and Cumbre 0 Muerte .The Reluctant Butcher deserved particular mention for scoring so high when writing about a subject most people would shy from.
And thanks again to all who entered this year’s competition – again the standard was high and we had tremendous fun poring over all the entries.