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Congratulations to Kate Newman, Amy Harris, Evan Carpenter, and Sarah Ginter, winners of the “Next Great Storyteller” competition.

BIG STOKES and congratulations to the winners of Nat Geo Traveler and Matador’s Next Great Storyteller Competition! These four writers, photographers, and filmmakers have won free travel and accommodations to the National Geographic Headquarters in Washington DC, where they’ll participate in “Storytellers” day with National Geographic Traveler editors. They’ve also won a year’s subscription to National Geographic Traveler.

The competition was tough. It drew nearly 600 entries of diverse styles and subject areas. And due to the very tight word counts (300 for blog, 700 for article) and limited time / amount of media accepted for photo and video categories, storytellers had to immediately establish scene, dialog, character, a sense of place.

The entries that really stood out were works that didn’t so much showcase the traveler him or herself but instead gave us ground level views into the lives of characters, and the stories of their places and cultures.

After culling several dozen finalists, we passed them on to NatGeo Traveler Editor in Chief Keith Bellows, who selected the following four winners, making comments on each one:


Winner: Kate Newman
Story title: Goor-Jigéen

“Today I’m going to tell you my story,” said Maimouna, dropping her voice. I moved my chair closer to hers: I had been waiting to hear it. “Today I’ll tell you how I became a co-wife.”

Judge’s comment: “Kate Newman’s ‘Goor-Jigeen’ is a nicely crafted piece that offers what we all seek from good travel writing: a story that knowingly reveals the character of a place and its people.”

Photo essay

Winner: Amy Harris
Photo Essay: Easter Island

Judge’s comment: “Amy Harris captures traditional sporting events on Rapa Nui—Easter Island—in one of the few entries that actually tells a story. It will be even stronger when she drops one photo and re-sequences the others.”


Winner: Sarah Ginter
Title: The Burning Ghats of Varanasi

We saw a group of men chanting as they took a body from the stretcher and laid it gingerly on an enormous mound of burning wood. I could see the shape of the body perfectly: the bulbous head, the sharp curve of the shoulders, hips and bruised feet poking out from beneath the gold fabric. Who were these people? However wonderful or miserable their lives were, they are now reduced to human shapes bound in bright cloth.

Judge’s comment: “‘The Burning Ghats of Varanasi’ by Sarah Gintner tightly and graphically explores what happens when Western sensibilities encounter a centuries-old Indian death ritual.”


Winner: Evan Carpenter

Title: Cairo at a Crossroads

Judge’s comment: “Evan Carpenter’s self-narrated slice-of-life look at contemporary Cairo is lively, brimming with characters, well shot and edited—and thoughtfully revealing of a culture in conflict.”

Final notes

Please look for more media about Storytellers forthcoming at NatGeo Traveler. In the meantime, Matador will also be publishing several additional works that were chosen as finalists.

Congratulations once again to the winners, and a big thanks to all of you who shared your stories. If you’d like to be alerted about future contests, the best way is to follow Matador’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as National Geographic Traveler on Twitter and Facebook.



About The Author

David Miller

David Miller is Senior Editor of Matador (winner of 2010 and 2011 Lowell Thomas awards for travel journalism) and Director of Curricula at MatadorU. Follow him @dahveed_miller.

  • Carlo Alcos

    That’s super exciting for the winners…congratulations all! Have fun in DC!

  • Michelle Schusterman

    Awesome!! Congrats, everyone!

  • Joshua Johnson

    Congrats to the winners – but the fun is just starting! I am stoked to hear all about their journey to Nat Geo HQ and how a day with NG editors can up their game. Stoked for everyone!

  • Jkozak86

    Congrats all!!! 

  • Nick Rowlands

    Nice one y’all!

  • Hal Amen

    great work everyone. solid stories here.

  • Onda87

    the video is horrible

    • Carlo Alcos

      Hi, we respect everyone’s right to an opinion…what’s even more respectable is explaining your position.

  • EHA

    A big congrats to all the winners! Can’t wait to read, see, and hear more from all of you in the future!

  • Andy

    Congrats everyone!

  • Daniel Nahabedian

    Great job! Congrats everyone :)

  • Aunt Janice

    The video is WONDERFUL! (I don’t know what Onda87′s problem with it was). AND Sarah Ginter is my niece, so I am very pleased for her! Her grandparents, my parents, would be especially proud. They gave my sister and I our love of traveling, which Sarah (obviously!) inherited! Love you Sarah! Aunt Janice

  • Gavin Lynch

    Where are the essay and blog located?

  • Diana Pavlenco

    congrats to the winners. Can we read somewhere first two winning pieces in order to get an idea? Many thanks.

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