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The Wanderlust Writing Challenge 2020: Everything you need to know

Miss travelling, but always wanted to try your hand at travel writing? The Wanderlust Writing Challenge is now closed – but you can still use our tips and inspiration to kick start your article...

Share your story about meeting the locals for the Wanderlust Writing Challenge 2020 (Shutterstock)

Please note: The Wanderlust Writing Challenge is closed for entries. We will announce the winning stories in due course. Scroll down to enjoy our travel writing prompts, tips and inspiration

These last few months have been strange, to say the least. Particularly since we’re all staying at home, unable to do the things we love most, including travel.

We’ve been celebrating our previous adventures and the excellent trip providers behind them with the #WishIWasThere campaign, but now we want to celebrate more of what makes our travels so special: the locals and fellow travellers we meet on the road.

So, we’ve now launched the Wanderlust Writing Challenge 2020. 12 days of inspiration, writing tips, writing prompts and personal stories from the Wanderlust team to help you craft your story - followed by a short window to submit your entry.

Hopefully, it’ll help stave off some of that stuck-in-the-house tedium, too…

The theme and word count

A tuk tuk driver in Thailand shares directions with lost visitors (Sutterstock)

A tuk tuk driver in Thailand shares directions with lost visitors (Sutterstock)

The theme of the challenge is: the kindness of strangers. We want you to think back to an experience you had on your adventures, with a local or fellow traveller, and craft a 500-word travel story around it.

There are few rules to this theme. Your story can take place anywhere in the world, even in your home country, as long as it’s somewhere you’ve travelled to. It can include other details about the place, the country, your trip - but it must be connected to or based around travel experiences you’ve had with someone you don’t know, or just met, on your adventures.

Perhaps a kind stranger helped you navigate a market, or saved you from getting horribly lost? Maybe you were awed by a sanctuary owner in Borneo, or a quick chat with a local in a Paris café made a real impact? Whatever your tale, we’d like to read it.

How the challenge works

It’s very simple, really. The challenge begins on Monday 1 June 2020 and lasts for two weeks. From Monday 1 June onwards, we’ll be sharing inspirational, informative and hopefully rather useful travel writing tips and prompts on wanderlust.co.uk for 12 days.

If you're looking to get started with our advice, writing samples and information, here's the latest:

Monday 1 June: Your first travel writing prompt
Tuesday 2 June: 10 expert tips for writing travel articles
Wednesday 3 June: Quiz: Famous literary destinations
Thursday 4 June: 9 inspiring pieces you should read
Friday 5 June: How to bring your experience to life
Saturday 6 June: The most fascinating portraits of people
Sunday 7 June: How to write about people in your entry
Monday 8 June: Our virtual Q&A took place!
Tuesday 9 June: 7 of the best UK literary walks
Wednesday 10 June: 7 common travel writing phrases to avoid
Thursday 11 June: How to use dialogue in a travel story
Friday 12 June: Quiz: Travel quotes: Who said what?

We share them in our regular newsletter, too – sign up hereThere’ll then be a brief submission window, when you can submit your entry.

The prize

Want to be featured in a future issue of Wanderlust?

Want to be featured in a future issue of Wanderlust?

The winning writer will have their entry published in Wanderlust magazine and on wanderlust.co.uk. Three runners up will be published on wanderlust.co.uk, too.

The winner also enjoy a 45-minute one-on-one mentoring session with our very own Lyn Hughes, to chat about whatever you like: getting into travel writing, how we make the mag, where your travels should take you next, your favourite trips, the list goes on.

How to submit your story and submission guidelines

Submissions open on Saturday 13 June at 10am, until they close on Sunday 14 June at 7pm. During this window, you can email your story to: writingchallenge@wanderlust.co.uk

Stories entered outside of these times and dates will not be accepted. Stories sent to other Wanderlust email addresses will also not be accepted. Unfortunately, due to the current COVID-19 lockdown, we can’t accept entries via post.

To qualify for entry, your submission must be sent to writingchallenge@wanderlust.co.uk on the above dates.

Your story must be submitted in English. Submit your entry in the body of the email. Underneath your entry, please put the final word count in brackets, like so: (500). Make sure it is in a readable font like Times New Roman or Garamond, size 12 or above.

Please don’t include your Twitter handle or any of your social media information in the body of the email. Just your story is fine.

Any entries that are unreadable, are not submitted in English and do not meet these guidelines will unfortunately not be eligible and will not be read. 

Entry criteria

Who can enter the Wanderlust Writing Challenge? (Shutterstock)

Who can enter the Wanderlust Writing Challenge? (Shutterstock)

For your story to be eligible for publication, you must be an amateur travel writer.

What do we mean by amateur? Well, if you’ve been paid for any form of travel writing, or teach writing in any form, then you’d be classed as professional.

Why just amateurs? We want the challenge to be fun for everyone, and it might be disheartening for a novice travel writer with zero experience to 'compete' against a seasoned pro.

However, everyone is welcome to follow along with the challenge, give the daily prompts a go and share their progress with us via social media.

If you’re a pro, why not help out challengers with a top tip or two, or your own ‘kindness with strangers’ story, on social media? We’ll be following the hashtag #WanderlustWritingChallenge.

For further information about who can enter, please read our T&Cs.

Who will be reading your entry

The team behind Wanderlust will be scouring through the entries, post-challenge. The team includes Wanderlust’s editor-in-chief and co-founder Lyn Hughes, and digital editor Elizabeth Atkin.

What we are looking for in the entry

Locals chat in Buenos Aires, Argentina (Shutterstock)

Locals chat in Buenos Aires, Argentina (Shutterstock)

We are looking for interesting travel stories, that are suited to the theme of the challenge: kindness of strangers. We are looking for stories that are captivating, that celebrate what we love about travel, and celebrate fellow travellers and local communities.

We would like to see creativity, easy-to-follow storytelling, interesting descriptions of the people you met and the place you met them in, and your unique point of view. We are looking for entries that follow the guidelines close to the letter, which makes it easier for us to scour the entries.

Questions?

Do I have to follow along with the prompts and articles? No, it’s optional to follow along with our prompts, tips and advice, and you are not required to have attended the virtual Q&A. You can just take the theme and submit your story during the submission window if you like. But they’re part of the challenge, and that is, what we think, makes it fun – so we hope you’ll enjoy them!

Do I have to submit a story to take part in the challenge? No! If you don’t want your story to be considered for publication, and you’d rather just follow along in your own time at home, and use the prompts and tips, etc, to practice travel writing privately, that’s absolutely fine. We hope you find them useful. You can chat to us on Twitter and Instagram (both @wanderlustmag) and tag us using #WanderlustWritingChallenge to let us know how you’re getting on, if you want to.

I can’t think of a kind experience I’ve had/I don’t interact much while I’m travelling. Can I still enter? The 12 days of inspiration will help jog your memory, and come up with ideas for stories. The theme is ‘kindness of strangers’ – but it can be as simple as a fleeting interaction with someone, such as a friendly market stall owner. It can be as simple as exchanging a smile with a stranger, and the impact it had on you and your trip. If needed, you could write about multiple experiences, and connect those stories together.

Does it have to be 500 words exactly? 500 words is the maximum. Entries should not exceed 500 words. Aim for 500 words. Try not to go lower than 450 words, so you can practice weaving lots of lovely details into your writing.

Will I get feedback on my story? Unfortunately, unless you are the winner or one of the runners up, we won’t be able offer feedback on your story.

We expect there will be a few hundred entries, and the team at Wanderlust mag is surprisingly small! We really wish we could, but the idea of the challenge isn’t just about the end result – it’s about trying new things, getting creative, and improving your travel writing. If you’ve even put a tiny bit of effort into shaping your story, questioning yourself and looking to improve, you’ve achieved the main purpose of the challenge.

However, there will be lots of opportunities to chat to us about the challenge on social media and on Zoom – in our virtual Q&A and on Twitter using the #WanderlustWritingChallenge. We’ll have Q&A opportunities on Instagram – and a dedicated post on Facebook about the challenge, too.

If I submit my story, do I still own it? Yes, of course you do. You are the writer and owner of your story and the entry. By entering it, you give us non-exclusive rights to publish the piece of writing you submit. Please read the T&Cs before entering.

Which issue of Wanderlust magazine will the winning story be featured in? A great question. Judging will be complete by the end of July, if not before. We expect to publish it later in 2020. The winners and runners up will be published online, on wanderlust.co.uk, shortly after that issue goes on sale.

Can I submit photos with my story? Unfortunately, no. This is the Wanderlust Writing Challenge, so we don’t need to see any travel photos. We hope you will keep an eye out for the Travel Photo of the Year competition, which will open later in 2020. 

How many stories can I submit? In the spirit of the challenge, which is to provide some relief from lockdown, and to help you explore your abilities as a travel writer, we will only accept one entry per person.

I don’t want to/can’t email during the submission window, but I still want to take part. Help?! The submission dates aren’t optional. We’ve chosen them to help us keep track of the number of entries, and to give entrants time to think about what they want to write, soak up the advice, chat to us on social media using #WanderlustWritingChallenge and stay true to the spirit of the challenge, which is to be fun, creative and inspiring.

That said, if you’re busy or worried, there are lots of ways to schedule emails to send on a specific date. Google ‘how to schedule an email’. Note: At your own risk, of course. We can’t be held responsible if it goes wrong!

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