Immrama Competition aims to discover Ireland’s Best Young Travel Writers
A writing competition aimed at discovering Ireland’s best young travel writers has been announced by the organiser’s of the Immrama Festival of Travel Writing, which is set to take place in the heritage town of Lismore in County Waterford this June 12th to 16th 2019.
Young writers are now invited to enter the fourth annual Immrama Young Travel Writers Competition. The competition is open to primary and secondary school students who are now invited to submit entries based on the theme of ‘Letters to Home’; Secondary school level students in the form of 500 word short stories and Primary school level students (5th & 6th class) a 250-word ‘Postcard to Home’.
Judges for the competition include Stephen Kavanagh, CEO of Aer Lingus, Debbie Byrne, MD of An Post, Pól O’Conghaile award-winning Travel Writer and Phil Cottier, CEO of The CX Collection. The winner’s piece will be published in Aer Lingus Cara Magazine and the prizes include a Chromebook and an Amazon voucher worth €100 for students and a voucher one-night bed and breakfast in Cliff House Hotel for the winning student’s teachers. The closing date for competition entries is May 17th 2019. Submissions can be made via www.lismore-immrama.com/
The seventeenth annual Lismore Immrama Festival of Travel Writing has a stellar reputation for celebrating and sharing world-class travel writing and the 2019 festival line-up offers another all-star line up of internationally renowned writers and broadcasters with a keynote address from Coast’s Neil Oliver and Adventurer Sarah Outen and the host of the annual literary breakfast is Author Rosita Boland.
Neil Oliver will speak at the festival on Saturday afternoon, June 15th. The archaeologist, historian, author and broadcaster Neil has travelled and explored every corner of Great Britain, most famously through hosting eight series of the BBC Two programme Coast.
Hosting her keynote address at 8 pm on June 15th Sarah Outen, who is the first woman and the youngest person to row solo across the Indian Ocean and also the Pacific Ocean from Japan to Alaska British athlete and adventurer Sarah Dilys Outen MBE FRGS. Sarah has traversed oceans alone in tiny rowing boats, spending months in solitude; has biked continents in extreme seasons and kayaked remote island chains and she has written two books ‘A Dip in the Ocean’ and ‘Dare to Do‘ and her film ‘Home‘ of her London2London: Via the World journey releases this year.
Earlier on Saturday one of the founding members of De Dannan Charlie Piggott will be discussing music and travel. The always ‘hot ticket’ event, the literary breakfast on Sunday morning June 16th will be hosted by the multi-award-winning journalist and author Rosita Boland. Rosita is widely travelled and her book of essays, Elsewhere; one woman, one rucksack, one lifetime of travel, will be published by Doubleday this May 2019.
To open the festival on Wednesday, a screening of the documentary ‘Congo – An Irish Affair’ will take place; a poignant study of the Irish-led 1961 UN peacekeeping mission to Katanga. On Thursday, June 13th author Dr Robyn Rowland will share personal stories, exploring war, change, family and friendship – in Ireland, Turkey, the Balkans and Australia. On Friday, June 14th journalist and author Lerato Mogoatlhe who has been writing about Africa for more than 10 years Lerato Mogoatlhe will share tales from her book ‘Vagabond’.
Workshops, free speaker events and fringe are also on offer; for full details and for festival tickets see www.lismoreimmrama.com or call (058) 53803.
2018 competition winners
In the 2018 competition’s senior category, eligible to students in fourth to sixth year the winner is 17-year-old student Jessie Oyenuga from Loretto Kilkenny. She will be presented with her prize for her 800-word short story titled ‘First Flight’.
The winner of the Junior Category eligible to students from first to third year is Ella O’Rourke age 13 from Colaiste Chiaran, Croom Co. Limerick. Ella will be presented with her prize for her 800-word short story titled ‘Taking Flight’.
The 2018 Winning stories
First Flight By Jessie Oyenuga winner of the Senior category
Lizzie tentatively opened her eyes to the muted glow of her lamp, casting lazy shadows on the walls of her narrow, cluttered room. She took sluggish steps toward the bathroom, frowning tiredly at the shrieks of incoherent chatter from her older sisters stomping around their house. Tottering through the hall, she stumbled into her parents’ bedroom and blinked at the whirlwind of chaos tearing through it. Half packed suitcases littered the floor, with cascades of clothing and toiletry draped along their dresser. Sniffing disdainfully, she spun on her heel and headed back into her room. Clambering over the mounds of books scattered across her soft, maroon carpet, she launched herself onto the bed and shut her eyes.
Ten minutes later Lizzie sulked drowsily as her mother hurriedly bundled her into thick, fluffy layers and worn, oversized boots, and pushed her out the front door. Heavy darkness obscured the twinkling stars occasionally peeking out from behind their inky, shapeless blankets of clouds. The engine ran steadily in their large battered car commandeered by her impatient father, his eye rolling somehow visible in the dim light. It was only after the crisp, cool air of the early morning tugged on her tousled hair that it occurred to her. After months of saving, and weeks of preparation, they were finally off to visit their family in Nigeria, on the vast, mysterious continent of Africa. The journey to the airport was hazy. Through the window pane she watched the long stretches of road race by, as the car whizzed past dark building after dark building. Her excitement grew steadily with each passing hour, the dusky dawn gradually brightening as if moved by her unrestrained joy.
The sky formed a clear, pale turquoise by the time they arrived at the bustling airport. She grabbed her mother’s hand, gawking at the flood of stern faced adults striding purposefully through the crowded halls to their various destinations. Wafts drifted from the numerous restaurants feeding the throngs of waiting passengers. After an arduous trip through security they finally reached the airfield. Large, looming steps awaited them at the foot of the airplane. Lizzie stared up in awe as her father guided her up the steps. The interior was striking. Soft lights dotted the curved ceiling of the plane, illuminating the faces of each seated passenger. Lizzie was gently steered towards the window seat as her parents scrambled to get them settled and ready for take off. Sighing, she plopped down. Her fingers slid across the window, wiping cool condensation from the glass. She swung her feet impatiently. After a few more agonising seconds, she climbed to her feet and peered behind her to thoroughly examine her surroundings.
Tall men and women in moss green uniforms moved leisurely down the centre of the aisle. Practised smiles burst across their immaculately touched up features as they offered menus to the settling passengers. Lizzie watched curiously as they eventually lined up in even intervals, grabbing their equipment with familiar ease as the pilot’s voice resonated throughout the aircraft. That curiosity turned to horror as they warned of possible danger. The longer she fidgeted there, the more the danger loomed. She opened her mouth to voice this mounting anxiety but it was too late. It was time. All of a sudden, a deep rumbling erupted from below, accompanied by a steady vibrating sensation that spread throughout her entire body. Her mam and dad were seated a few chairs away, with sisters filling up the seats between them. The microscopic gap between their seats seemed to expand into vast, endless pits of space. Clenching the armrests on either side of her, Lizzie looked to her mother for comfort. She responded with a cheerful smile and encouraging wave. Scowling she turned away, squeezing her eyes tightly as she felt the plane begin to inch forward. Slowly, it began to glide down the smooth gravel, inch by agonising inch until suddenly it surged forward, zooming down the endless runway, speeding through the air, and then they were flying. She felt the difference instantly. First a startling pop in her ears and then a slight, sudden upsurge from the ground. Next, a breathtaking, staggering weightlessness.
Being airborne was unimaginable. Breaking through the layers of rising cloud was indescribable. Witnessing it all for the first time was unforgettable. Lizzie spent the majority of the long, twelve hour flight with her face plastered against the window, her earlier anxiety forgotten as she took in the fluffy whiteness blanketing the red streaked sky beneath their tiny airship. What little sleep she managed to get was rudely interrupted by the sudden crash of the landing, the harsh jolt reopening her ears to the deafening sounds of the colossal engines. Drained beyond words, she shuffled sleepily out of her seat and into her mother’s arms as she led her down the steps. Later, her brain struggled to process the explosion of culture that was Nigeria.
She wondered at the brightly dressed women in silk headscarves calling out in the crowded markets. She savoured the rich aromas of unique spices that permeated the entire atmosphere. She tuned into the musical sounds that flowed from the mouths of people who looked so much like her, but were different. But nothing would strike her as much as the end of her very first flight. In that moment, the darkness had surrounded them once more, only this time it was different. A thick oppressive humidity enveloped the weary passengers as they looked up at the inky black sky, dusted with tiny white glimmers that were both familiar and foreign. It was only then, as they stood swaddled by blistering heat at midnight, that she truly began to comprehend the idea of a different continent halfway across the world from the place she called home.
Taking Flight By Ella O’Rourke winner of the Junior category
Today is the day. The butterflies start – more like resume – as soon as I wake up. My name is Luna, and I’m sixteen. I’ve lived with Chris for as long as I can remember – he adopted me when I was a baby. I’ve always known about being adopted; it’s just common knowledge to me. Meeting my biological mother only became a thought to tamper with a few years ago, and a few months ago, back in late February, Chris found her. Somehow. Her name is Cedar and we started FaceTiming; soon afterwards, she invited us to stay at her house in the Netherlands.
Chris was doubtful at first – I think he was afraid of losing me. But I kept hinting and downright asking, and soon I got him to book our flights. It’s August now hence I don’t have to worry about missing any school, so we’re staying in Amsterdam for two weeks. Finally the day is here. From the moment I wake up, my mind is spiralling, terrifying questions stacking themselves in looming towers, threatening to topple over and crush me. I tend to be dramatic about these things.
All of the possibilities have been running round in my brain since I first talked to Cedar, and now they’re running faster and wearing scary warping masks. I am utterly terrified. But strangely… excited. I tried to sleep on the plane, but surprise surprise, my head – my messy, messy, head – kept me awake and gnawing my fingernails. When we land, I almost back out. I almost turn to Chris right away and tell him I’m just not ready. I close my eyes. I feel Chris put his hand on mine on the arm rest. I lean back and look at the back of the seat in front of me. “It’s okay, don’t be scared. I’m here with you right now. I always will be,” he says softly as people start moving to get bags from the luggage hold, pulling on coats and holding their children’s hands. I feel like a child.
My mind is racing, I don’t even remember reaching my arms out to him, but he hugs me back tightly, firmly, almost like he’s pulling me away from something or saving me from drowning. When we let go, I know I’m as ready as I’ll ever be with Chris at my side. We’re standing in ‘Aankomsten’ – Arrivals – where Cedar should be waiting for us. Cedar. Mom? No, that feels wrong. I’ve only known her for six months. She’s just Cedar. The woman who happened to put me up for adoption. I’m staring straight ahead, because I know that looking around or looking for Cedar will just make me more afraid than I already am. After a few minutes, we hear a voice calling our names from a few yards to our right.
A light, laughing voice, a relieved and happy call. I close my eyes, which seems to be my default action in stressful situations. I feel Chris move away from me. I can do this. I open my eyes wide and paste a huge smile on my face. I start walking toward Cedar and Chris. The second I see her, my smile becomes real. Before I know it, there are tears on my face and streaming down my neck. I’m running, laughing, the whole airport disappears and all that remains is Cedar, with her nose just like mine and her bright green eyes like mine, and the way her forehead creases when she smiles. Just like mine. Then we’re hugging, locked in an iron embrace. I’m nestling into her shoulder, still leaking tears, and she smells like home and nostalgia, she feels like comfort. She pulls me at arm’s length away from her. “Hello, Luna.” “Hi, Mom.” The word comes easily to me.