Editors love – and hate – writing competitions.
We love them because they give us a chance to discover how different writers approach similar subject matter, the choices they make about what details to include, the images they employ to paint word pictures, the structure they use to tell their individual stories.
We also love them because they bring new writers to our attention – writers who may have other stories they would like to share with our readers.
This year’s competition to find a temporary foreign correspondent for What’s Up Yukon, with the grand prize of a trip for two to Frankfurt, Germany, compliments of Condor Airlines, was a roaring success on both those fronts.
The contest topic, of course, was “Why Europe is a Fantastic Place to Visit”.
Not surprisingly, most of the essays we received talked a lot about food, drink, architecture, history, cultural differences and, of course, the physical environment of different European countries.
Despite some similarity in themes, however, each of the 43 writers brought a unique perspective and a unique voice to the project.
For many, it was an opportunity to re-live fond memories of previous European trips. For some, it involved imagining something they had never experienced before.
What was most satisfying from an editor’s point of view – and the reader’s point of view – was the excellent quality of the writing in general.
If you haven’t read them yet, you can find all the essays we received right here on this site.
OK, OK, I know I should cut to the chase and tell you the winner’s name. I will, I promise.
But first, I want to share a few tidbits about the folks who took the time to put their thoughts down on paper and send them along to us.
Of the 43 entrants, 32 were women. The youngest was 12 years old (we’ve already asked her to do more writing for us). The oldest was … well, we didn’t ask.
Although the competition began in late January, nearly half the entries came in during the final 72 hours before the competition closed. One entry, from Dawson City, arrived at exactly four minutes to midnight on the closing day.
Most submissions came from Yukon, but tehre was one from British Columbia, one from Ontario and one from Portland, Oregon.
A few writers also submitted some really impressive photos along with their stories, although that wasn’t a contest requirement.
But, as an editor, why would I hate a writing competition? Two reasons come to mind.
The first is sheer envy. As an employee of one of the contest sponsors, I couldn’t enter the competition myself, so the dream of a free flight to Europe will remain just a dream.
The second reason is the sheer challenge of having to select a shortlist from so many engaging and well-told stories, so that the Condor Airlines judges could pick a winner.
In fact, instead of choosing 10 finalists, we could only narrow it down to 12. Even that required a lot of re-reading and re-thinking and soul-searching.
Now, let’s hear the drum roll, please.
This year, the judges named two runner-up winners as well as the person who will be the next “foreign correspondent” for What’s Up Yukon. All three are women, and all three live in Whitehorse. One is a lawyer, one a corporate spokesperson, and the other a United Church minister.
Second runner-up winner, with an essay called “Europe? Bring it On!” is Bev Brazier. First runner-up is Janet Patterson, who titled her submission “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”
The winning essay is an evocative, 649-word piece that arrived by email from a hotel room somewhere in Canada just hours before the April 30 deadline.
When we contacted the writer by phone and asked if her passport was up-to-date, her immediate reaction was, “Oh, did I win? Get out! That just complicates my life greatly.”
Still, she’s looking forward to the chance to combine a trip to Paris – where she and her husband lived for a year – with a long hoped-for visit to Croatia.
Now let’s really hear the drum roll for … Fia Jampolsky!
Her winning essay is called “The Burnished Soul of an Old World“. It’s the kind of story that makes editors love writing competitions. I’m sure you’ll agree the judges chose well.
Congratulations, Fia. We look forward to sharing your European travel tales with our readers.
We also hope to read more stories from some of the other excellent writers who took part in this year’s competition. Thanks to all 43 of you for a job well done!