Student wins Telegraph travel writing competition

Bath Spa student named overall winner of Telegraph travel writing competition

Tuesday, 16 April, 2019

MA Travel and Nature Writing student Jan Courtney has been named as the overall winner of The Telegraph’s Just Back writing competition for 2018.

Jan first had her 500-word article about her journey to the foggy Faroe Islands published in the national newspaper in May 2018, winning a £250 prize. Despite strong competition, Jan’s piece has now been chosen as the very best Just Back story of the year, securing her a further £1,000 in a currency of her choice.

Talking about her achievement, Jan said: “This was my first attempt at any travel writing competition and I was so pleased to win the weekly competition. To then be chosen as the overall winner for 2018 is such a surprise and an honour for me. It’s given me a huge confidence boost and encouraged me to make my voice heard, whether I'm writing about the wonder of trees in my home patch near Ledbury, or the exploitation of women around the world.

"I am drawn to remote places in the North Atlantic and so have requested my prize money in Icelandic Krona and Norwegian Krone. I hope to travel there again soon to capture its wildness in poetry and prose."

Investigating the natural world and contemporary travelling is a key element of the MA in Travel and Nature Writing course at Bath Spa and students are encouraged to advance their skills in creative non-fiction writing.

Jan added: “The MA in Nature and Travel Writing has given me a wonderful opportunity to explore my relationship with places and my love of the wild. I have enjoyed the freedom to experiment with a whole range of writing genres and explore my sense of self within it.

“The course leaders Stephen Moss and Gail Simmons have been exceptional, providing us with very rich opportunities to explore and develop as writers. They have introduced us to some tremendous authors, agents and editors. Gail, who is by profession a travel writer, kindly helped me craft my winning 'Fog' piece when I returned from the Faroe Islands. I am very grateful to her and my fellow students for being such knowledgeable 'critical friends'.

“The course has also given me the confidence to start my first book 'Hitting Bedrock' which explores the themes of moving from invincibility to invisibility and back again, I hope as an older woman. Being in nature facilitates both healing and change. I am also writing a collection of short stories called 'The Cocktail Cabinet'; each story starts with a recipe for a cocktail. We are introduced to a character whose life is an alchemy of the alcohol, bitters, and aromatics of the recipe. Each is a taste, a glimpse of the complexities of the human psyche.”

Alerting Jan to the news that she had been chosen as the overall winner of the travel writing competition earlier this year, Adrian Bridge, Deputy Travel Editor of The Telegraph, said her piece was “quite outstanding”. We couldn’t agree more – congratulations, Jan!

You can read Jan’s winning article, ‘Why the Faroe Islands needs 37 words for fog’, on The Telegraph website.

Interested in studying MA Travel and Nature Writing?

The Travel and Nature Writing Master's at Bath Spa University focuses on learning to write from your own experience in the field. You’ll develop your writing skills and techniques, learn from established writers, and examine the history, context and genres of travel and nature writing. Visit the course page to find out more.

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