Win a holiday for two and a travel-writing commission for The Independent on Sunday

On the 40th birthday of Bradt Travel Guides, we have again joined forces to launch the country's leading travel-writing competition. Not only are there TWO holiday prizes – to Canada and northern France – but there's also the chance to write an article in 'The Independent on Sunday'.

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First prize

This is a holiday for two to the beautiful province of Nova Scotia and publication of the winning entry in the travel section of The Independent on Sunday. In addition, the winner will earn a commission to write a feature article about their prize visit to Canada. This prize can be won by either a previously published or an unpublished writer.

Best unpublished writer

An unpublished writer will win a break for two to Pas-de-Calais in northern France, with the opportunity to write a short account of their trip for The Independent's website and a place on a travel-writing weekend run by Travellers' Tales (the UK's leading training agency for travel writing). If the main competition winner is an unpublished writer then the prize will go to the judges' second choice entry by an unpublished writer.

Best young writer

To celebrate Bradt's 40th anniversary we will, for the first time, be including a special category for writers aged 18 to 21. The prize is a place on the Bradt Travel Writing Workshop and five Bradt books of their choice.

How to enter

We have again teamed up with Bradt Travel Guides (bradt guides.com), publishers of pioneering guidebooks for 40 years. The competition is open to all who are resident in the UK. The theme this year is "Meeting the Challenge". Entries must be original, previously unpublished and based on personal experience relating to the theme. Minimum length is 600 words; maximum length is 800 words. The closing date for the competition is midnight on Thursday 29 June.

For full competition rules, go to independent.co.uk/bradcomp2014.

To enter, go to bradtguides.com/travelwriting.

What are we looking for?

For inspiration, the shortlisted entries to our 2013 competition are available at bradtguides.com/travelwriting (along with details of the next Bradt one-day travel-writing seminar in November).

Get started!

The opening sentence is the "hook" with which to catch the reader. Here are some strong first sentences from 2013:

"It's 4am and I'm running for my life."

"The waiting room of an accident and emergency department is as good a place as any to do a spot of sightseeing."

"I sat on the pavement weeping over my giant cardboard box."

Shape and description

Some of the most successful articles start with an eye-catching sentence or two, as above, and then go back to set the scene and explain how the writer got to that situation.

Assuming there's a beginning, a middle, and an end, the middle is where you generally find the best descriptive writing. All good writers have the ability to "paint the picture". With only 800 words to impress the judges, every sentence carries weight.

Wrapping it all up

The closing sentence or paragraph is all-important for your entry. It sums up the story, often returning to the opening sentence. Ideally there is something surprising, shocking, moving, or amusing about it. The following extract is from the last paragraph of the winning tale in the best unpublished writer category in 2013, and is about the pursuit of a young thief:

"I think that the boy is just like the city: a little hard around the edges and slightly wary of the tourists invading his world, but there is kindness there – I saw it – a readiness to stop for a complete stranger and let them in. And over the next few weeks I soften too. I let the city in, right under my skin and then I grow to love it."

The prizes and judges

Canada

First prize is a fabulous eight-day fly-drive holiday for two to Nova Scotia, courtesy of the Canadian Tourism Commission (keepexploring.ca), to be taken by 31 October 2015. The tour concentrates on the best bits of the glorious province of Nova Scotia, with its rugged seascapes, great seafood and friendly locals. The prize includes return flights, accommodation, car hire and a whale-watching tour, and you will be commissioned to write a feature article about your trip to be published in this newspaper.

Pas-de-Calais and Travellers' Tales course

The prize for best unpublished writer is in two parts. First, you will win a four-day self-guided tour for two to the coastal villages and hills of Pas-de-Calais (including ferry crossings with P&O, car hire, three nights' accommodation and evening meals), generously donated by Pas-de-Calais Tourisme (wartimehistory.pas-de-calais.com).

On the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, you will visit key sites on the Western Front and have the chance to write about your trip on The Independent website. And second, you will receive a place on any travel-writing weekend in 2014 or 2015 run by Travellers' Tales (travellerstales.org), excluding transport.

Bradt Travel Writing Workshop

The winner of the best young writer prize will receive a place on a one-day Bradt Travel Writing Workshop (with a panel including Ben Ross, the travel editor of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday) as well as five Bradt books of his or her choice. The next workshop (bradtguides.com/seminar) will be held in November 2014.

The judges

The judges will include representatives from Bradt Travel Guides, Travellers' Tales and The Independent on Sunday. The winners will be announced at an event at Stanfords, the UK's leading travel bookshop.

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