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.”
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.”
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.