SO YOU WANT TO BE A TRAVEL WRITER?

Could you write a winning travel article that brings a destination alive?
The British Guild of Travel Writers has announced that as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations, it is launching a new travel writing competition for unpublished travel writers in partnership with Traveller magazine.

The Guild (www.bgtw.org), founded in 1960, is the premier professional association for bona-fide journalists, editors, photographers, and radio and film broadcasters working in the travel field.

“The Guild has supported excellence in travel writing for half a century now and we want to celebrate our special year by championing new travel writing talent,” says BGTW Press & PR Co-ordinator Sarah Monaghan. “The winning entry will be a beautifully written piece that is a celebration of a world destination, be it an exotic location or one closer to home.”

The competition

The competition is open to all writers aged over 18 who have not been published [paid work] in the travel field. Entrants should submit an 800-word article with the theme: A Very Special Place. Closing date is 31 December 2009.

Traveller is recognised as the UK’s most literary travel magazine and editor Amy Sohanpaul has this advice for entrants: “Good travel writing shows a strong sense of place. We are looking for a first-person narrative written in article form, in which the writing sings and the reader is both transported and transformed by the writing.”

The prizes

First prize comes courtesy of Travellers’ Tales, the training agency for travel writing and travel photography, and the winner will enjoy a four-day travel writing holiday in the intoxicating city of Istanbul, with return flights from airline Pegasus.

You will discover the city while practising your writing skills with a small group of fellow writers under the expert tuition of tutors such as Anthony Sattin, the distinguished Middle East expert, and Jonathan Lorie, former editor of Traveller and founder of the Travellers’ Tales Festival (the next one takes place in London on 19-21 February 2010). See http://www.travellerstales.org/

Second prize is a trip to Berlin courtesy of WEXAS, The Traveller’s Club, in association with Hotel Berlin and Lufthansa. The prizewinner will enjoy a two-night stay in a double or twin room at the Hotel Berlin on a B&B; basis, plus two return economy flights from the UK with Lufthansa.

Third prize is the winner’s selection of 10 travel guides from award-winning publisher Bradt – whose guides Michael Palin has described as ‘expertly written and longer on local detail than any others’. See http://www.bradt-travelguides.com/.

Prize giving

The winners will be announced in February at a prize ceremony at a leading London hotel, during the launch of the British Guild of Travel Writers’ Yearbook 2010 attended by hundreds of the UK’s top travel writers, photographers and travel industry representatives. The winning entry will be published in the Spring 2010 issue of Traveller and on the Guild website, http://www.bgtw.org/.

The judges

The competition will be judged by:
•Sarah Monaghan editor of Gabon Magazine and winner of the British Guild of Travel Writers’ Trade and Tourism Award 2007
•Amy Sohanpaul editor of Traveller and The Traveller’s Handbook, and a judge of the prestigious Thomas Cook Travel Book Awards
•Jonathan Lorie director of Travellers’ Tales and the Travellers’ Tales Festival, and editor of The Traveller’s Handbook
•Peter Hughes founding editor of ITV’s Wish You Were Here? and the British Guild of Travel Writers’ Travel Writer of the Year 2008

How to enter

Entries may be posted or emailed. To preserve anonymity when judging, you must not write your name on the article itself. Please follow these instructions:

•Email entries should be sent to secretariat@bgtw.org  This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it with the subject line ‘Guild Travel Writing Competition’. Your entry should be a Word document attachment, with a two-word tagline but without your name and address. A separate Word document should be attached giving the two-word tagline and your contact details, including email address and telephone number.

•Postal entries should be sent to BGTW Secretariat, 26 Needwood House, Woodberry Down, London, N4 2TN. Do not put your name and address on the article, but give it a two-word tagline. On a separate piece of paper, write this two-word tagline and your contact details, including email address and telephone number.

Terms and conditions

1.The competition is open to all writers over 18, both UK and non-UK residents, other than current employees, or regular contributors, or their immediate families, of the BGTW, Traveller, Bradt Travel Guides, Travellers’ Tales and Stanfords. No purchase is necessary. By entering the competition, participants agree that their name and place of residence may be released if they win a prize; that should they win the competition, their name and likeness may be used by the sponsors for pre-arranged promotional purposes.

2.Writers must be unpublished in the field of travel writing. This means never having been paid for any piece of travel writing that has appeared in print or on the internet.

3.One entry per person. Entries cannot be acknowledged or returned.

4.The article must be 800 words and submitted with single-line spacing in 12-point font. If submitted on paper, it should be printed on one side only, on A4 paper.

5.Entries may be posted or emailed. To preserve anonymity when judging, you must not write your name on the article itself.
   Please follow these instructions:

•Email entries should be sent to secretariat@bgtw.org This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it with the subject line ‘Guild Travel Writing Competition’. Your entry should be a Word document attachment, with a two-word tagline but without your name and address. A separate Word document should be attached giving the two-word tagline and your contact details, including email address and telephone number.

•Postal entries should be sent to BGTW Secretariat, 26 Needwood House, Woodberry Down, London, N4 2TN. Do not put your name and address on the article, but give it a two-word tagline. On a separate piece of paper, write this two-word tagline and your contact details, including email address and telephone number.

6.Your details may be shared with the competition partners unless otherwise requested by you on the sheet of paper or email containing your contact details.

7.All entries must be received by the closing date of 31 December 2009.

8.Your entry must not have been entered in any other competition or have previously been published either in whole or in part.

9.The article must be the original work of the entrant who must be the sole copyright holder.

10.The writers of the winning entries agree, by entering the competition, that Traveller and BGTW shall have the exclusive right to first publication in print and online format.

11.There is no cash alternati
ve and prizes will not be transferable.

12.Once the winners are announced in February 2010, entrants other than the winners may use their pieces in whatever way they choose.

13.The judges’ opinion is final. No correspondence will be entered into.

So there you are – a great opportunity! Go for it!

Rock, punk and alternative music bars in Tokyo

There are a few places I’m absolutely KICKING to get back to in Tokyo. Some I discovered myself, some were shown to me by friends, and some I even found from a guidebook (what’s the odds o’ that?)

I’m into alternative indie music, so anything that plays punk, ska, mod, grunge, britpop, madchester, industrial, goth, metal, or nu-metal gets my vote. So…

1. HOD Punk Bar
This stands for Hair of the Dogs (sic) – but you have to crane your head up to the (very red!) ceiling to see this. I found this one wandering around the Golden Gai area of Kabukicho (map here). My heart started beating wildly when I saw the Ramones poster on the door:

I’d heard that some of the bars in the Golden Gai area don’t welcome foreigners, and so it was with some slight trepidation that I opened the door. But surely punk conquers all, doesn’t it? Indeed it does, my friends!! I was immediately taken with the smiling behawked owner, Tohru, and amused by his pet turtle De Niro.

Before long, even with my extremely limited Japanese, I had sat down, been given a cold beer and a book containing multitudes of punk and ska songs to pick and choose from. UK Subs, Dead Kennedys, Sex Pistols, The Specials, Bad Manners – even the aussie band the Porkers! I was in my element, and spent far too many yen on far too many beers, stumbling out the door as dawn approached.

Yes, the bars in the Golden Gai often stay open til 4am or so. Bliss for pissheads! Luckily for me, my hotel was right nearby, and as I’d earlier seen the GG area from a window near my hotel lift, even when drunk I could negotiate my way home.

I have been back quite a few times since, and ALWAYS have a great time there. Other people drop in, Japanese and western, and you have to shuffle around cos it’s like 6 metres square or something, but it’s all a part of the fun really. Even if I’m on my own, I never feel lonely in the city while I can drop in here.

2. Bar Mother
This one is also in Shinjuku, Kabukicho, 2 streets before you get to the Golden Gai area (map here). Some Spanish guys I met in HOD showed me this one.

This really ties with HOD for my fave place. I like that it plays a lot of different alternative music – Faith No More, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Blur, Madness, Rob Zombie, Prodigy, Marilyn Manson, The Damned, The Cult, Nick Cave and even softer stuff like Goldfrapp. It’s slightly longer than HOD but pretty narrow, and decorated with skeletons hanging from the ceiling.

…and has skulls and spooky Day of the Dead stuff all round the joint…

When the Prodigy’s new song “Omen” came on back in March, the place WENT OFF!!!

3. GODZ metal bar
This one is around the corner from Bar Mother, and plays metal. REALLY LOUDLY! If you ask for the right ones with picture discs, you get to see the video on-screen (like I did when I requested AC/DC). A Japanese friend showed me this one – although her requests of Slayer and Swedish death metal were far more heavy metal than my taste. But hey, if metal floats yer boat, you’re gonna LOVE this place.

4. Garageland
Here’s one in Shibuya, just for something different, although it is a punk bar. Well, it also plays ska, new wave, mod and goth – the barman heard my friend and I talking and put on the Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, then Sisters of Mercy! Same deal, you get a book and pick what you want to hear. However, it is a bit bigger than the ones in Shinjuku; it can seat maybe a dozen people and have a few more standing. It’s up a few floors, and we only stumbled upon this one by the poster downstairs,

which upon closer inspection made me laugh:

It says “I heart big dumps”!!

That’s probably enough for one post, but there are several other places worthy of a visit that I’ll share in the near future. What are your fave places to listen to alternative music in Tokyo?

Footnote: for more on Golden Gai, go to www.goldengai.net
It’s in Japanese, but Google translate is your friend 🙂