Michael Jacobs Travel Writing Grant 2020

Michael Jacobs Travel Writing Grant 2020

Fundación Gabo, the Michael Jacobs Foundation, and the Cartagena Hay Festival announce: Michael Jacobs Travel Writing Grant 2020. Apply here to the grant (make sure you change the language to English).

» About the grant

I think every good travel book should be the product of an internal need and often of an unexpected intuition.
Michael Jacobs.

After Michael Jacob’s passing in 2014, Fundación Gabo and the Cartagena Hay Festival—which have enjoyed a decade-long partnership—decided to jointly organize the Michael Jacobs Travel Writing Grant as an homage to the British writer. The Grant is again primarily financed by the Michael Jacobs Foundation, an independent charity set up by Michael's widow and brother in order to honor his memory, and to promote travel writing on Spain and Latin America

This grant’s purpose is to provide an incentive for travel journalism. The sixth edition will award 7,500 American dollars to a travel book or article project that takes Spanish Latin America or Spain for its subject, to be published in Spanish or English.

In selecting the winner, the jury will consider the narrative quality and the journalistic depth of the projects. For Michael Jacobs, travel journalism went beyond the mere anecdote, and this grant therefore seeks work capable of awakening the five senses and opening the mind of the reader.

From its first edition, this grant has made visible new journalistic references in the field of travel writing: Álex Ayala Ugarte, from Spain, winner in 2015 with the book Rigor Mortis: La normalidad es la muerte; Federico Bianchini, from Argentina, winner in 2016 with the book Antártida: 25 días encerrado en el hielo; Diego Cobo, from Spain, winner in 2017, with the series Huellas negras: el rastro de la esclavitud; Sabrina Duque, from Ecuador, with the book VolcáNica, crónicas desde un país en erupción; and Ernesto Picco, from Argentina, with the book Un pequeño país aparte.

The winner will be officially announced during the Hay Festival Cartagena taking place from January 30th to February 2nd 2020.

» The grant

7,500 American dollars as an incentive to finance the research and writing of the article or book. The sum includes the taxes to be paid by the beneficiary and the sponsoring institutions. It will be disbursed in the following way: a third ($2,500) when the winner is announced and two thirds ($5,000) once the work is finished and has been handed over to the publisher.

The winner will be invited to serve as jury for the next edition of the Michael Jacobs Travel Writing Grant.

Previous winners have also visited Frailes, the Spanish village in Jaen (Andalusia) where Michael Jacobs had a house and did a lot of his writing. They have been given a possibility to present their winning project during the Jornadas Literarias Internacionales (International Literary Days) which have taken place in recent years over three days at the end of August, and have also had the chance to meet with, and exchange ideas, with some of the earlier winners. 

If he or she wishes to take advantage of this and courtesy of the Asociación Manolo el Sereno (MAELSE) in collaboration with Fundación Inquietarte, both based in Frailes, the winner will be offered accommodation for a stay in the village, although flights, meals and personal expenses will not be included.

In addition, and for the first time in 2020, a Paris-based member of MAELSE, will offer the winner a full week's lodging in his apartment located in Paris's 9th District.

Journalists and writers of any nationality may apply as long as their work is in travel writing set in Spanish Latin America or Spain, written in Spanish or English.

An autobiography of a maximum of 800 words (in Spanish or English) in which the writer describes their experience in travel journalism and their motivation for requesting the grant. Conventional resumes or curriculum vitae will not be considered.

A detailed presentation of the project (article or book) that includes a project description, timetable, and expected itinerary.

The article or book must be written in Spanish or English. The project does not necessarily have be finalized, since the project seeks to support a project in development. However, at least a fragment of the work must be submitted for the jury to evaluate the author’s narrative dexterity.

A piece by the author published in print or digitally. The candidate must have at least one article or book published at the moment of applying.

IMPORTANT: Applications will be accepted until Monday December 9th 2019 at 11:59 a.m. (Colombian time). They must solely be made through the application form of Fundación Gabo’s website.

» Jury

Ernesto Picco (Argentina) – Michael Jacobs Grant Winner 2019

He is a professor and full-time researcher at Universidad Nacional de Santiago del Estero (UNSE) since the year 2010. He had previously worked for eight years as a radio broadcaster and journalist for El Liberal newspaper, in Santiago del Estero, on very local issues: domestic policy at the Parliament and Government House, some police cases, and some other bit about rural inland areas. He occasionally worked as a special envoy in other countries. He went to Cuba to cover the news on the régime and the journalist trade in the island, to the Dominican Republic to write about an environmental summit, and to Uruguay on the trail of an international corruption case involving several governors, his city’s local governor being one of them. Also, he wrote about the Falkland Islands a couple of times from afar.

He has a Ph.D. in Social Sciences from the University of Buenos Aires, after publishing a thesis on the relationship among the media, the State and the Catholic Church.

He currently works as a freelance reporter and has published a number of articles in national magazines such as Revista Crisis, Revista Anfibia, Tucumán Zeta, and Subida de Línea. In 2014 he won the Crónicas Interiores Award, organized by the Regional Union Luz y Fuerza and Revista Anfibia, for a story about two murders committed by the provincial police. In 2015 he was shortlisted for the Nuevas Plumas Award, organized by the University of Guadalajara and Escuela de Periodismo Portátil, for his story about the death of forty prisoners in a riot at a male prison in Santiago del Estero. The same year, he was nominated coordinator at UNSE Radio, where he works on issues related to scientific dissemination and local and national news. The university publishing house will soon publish his work Aquí pasa todo esto, a compilation of thirteen articles about Santiago del Estero. He has been looking for stories that keep him traveling and visiting other places ever since.

Jon Lee Anderson (United States)

He began his career as a journalist in Peru in 1979 as a member of the weekly The Lima Times and since then has specialized in Latin American politics and modern conflicts, including those in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has developed his own school of profile writing, having developed portraits of important global personalities such as Fidel Castro, Gabriel García Márquez, Augusto Pinochet, King Juan Carlos I of Spain, and Hugo Chávez. His books include Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life (1997), The Lion’s Grave: Dispatches from Afghanistan (2002), and The Fall of Baghdad (2004). He has also written articles for The New York Times, Financial Times, The Guardian, El País, and Harper’s Magazine.

In 2013, Jon Lee Anderson received the Maria Moors Cabot Award which every year is granted by Columbia University in New York. Since 2000, he has been a teacher at the Fundación Gabo and since 2014 a jury of the Michael Jacobs Travel Writing Grant.

Daniel Samper Pizano (Colombia)

He began his career at the age of 19 writing for El Tiempo, a paper where he later became a columnist. He has a PhD in law from the Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, a masters in journalism from the University of Kansas, and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. In 1986 he was forced to exile himself to Spain. There he has been a correspondent, reporter, columnist, and editor of the magazine Cambio 16 and collaborated with other publications.

He is a professor of journalism and frequently participates in courses and workshops. He is also a television screenwriter, the official biographer of the group Les Luthiers, and a member of the Colombian Academy of Language. He has published over thirty books and obtained numerous awards for this journalism, among them Maria Moors Cabot, Rey de España, Simón Bolívar, and honors from the Madrid Press Association.

» About Michael Jacobs

“Travel literature can enhance our understanding of the world in a unique way. Having the potential to span so many different forms of writing—from fiction to autobiography, from journalism to history—it allows authors to explore ideas and disciplines with a freedom that would not be possible within a more academic context.”

This is what Michael Jacobs had to say about the great passion to which he dedicated a great portion of his life: travel writing. Jacobs was born in Italy in 1952, spent his youth in England, and later traveled to different parts of the world, investigating and writing about Spain and Latin America. He became a notable Hispanist and a passionate devotee of Spanish culture.

Although he studied art history at Courtauld Institute, he decided to leave behind that career to write. After writing several books on art, he published Andalucía, the first of many books dedicated to this region of Spain. He later took up residence in a small town called Frailes in the province of Jaén, the subject of The Factory of Light: Tales From My Andalucian Village, an account of his first five years in this village of two thousand people.

In 2003, he published Ghost Train Trough the Andes, a tale of his journey through Chile and Bolivia, recreating his grandparents’ love story on a train trip across the Andes, between Antofagasta and Potosí.

Michael Jacobs’ appeal in the Spanish-speaking world was so great that the small town of Frailes became his Macondo. Perhaps that explains why the day that he met Gabo at the Cartagena Hay Festival inflected his life. They spoke about Gabo’s memories of the Magdalena River, an obsession of Jacobs’. That meeting with García Márquez moved the Englishman to travel the waterway the next year, a journey recorded in his book The Robber of Memories. This, his last book, is not only a portrait of the most important fluvial artery in Colombia but also a nostalgic reminiscence of his relationship to his parents and his childhood.

Today, Jacobs is a global benchmark when it comes to travel writing and his work is a staple of travel writing canons. Michael Jacobs passed away in London on January 11, 2014, leaving behind an unmatched and evocative legacy.

» Selected bibliography

- Andalucía

- Between Hopes and Memories: A Spanish Journey

- In the Glow of the Phantom Palace: Travels between Granada and Timbuktu

- The Factory of Light: Tales from my Andalucian Village

- Ghost Train Through The Andes

- The Robber of Memories


» Winners of the Michael Jacobs Travel Writing Grant

2015 – Álex Ayala Ugarte (Spain)

Rigor Mortis: La normalidad es la muerte

This book of sixteen stories gives account of a journey across the Bolivian plateau in the footprints of death. From the region of Chaco to the high waters of the Titicaca, Ayala paints a portrait of death and how human beings accept it in the midst of Bolivian cultural diversity. The book was published in 2016 by Editorial El Cuervo.


2016 – Federico Bianchini (Argentina)

Antártida: 25 días encerrado en el hielo

Making it to Antarctica is hard, but it’s much harder to make it out of Antarctica. Bianchini writes of the uniqueness of the lives of the men and women who carry out research on one of the Argentine bases on that frigid, virgin continent. What was meant to be a weeklong stay turned into an almost month-long confinement. The book was published in 2017 by Editorial Tusquets.


2017 – Diego Cobo (España)

Huellas negras: el rastro de la esclavitud

This work of journalism comprises a series of pieces on the consequences of the trade of African slaves in places such as Gambia, Jamaica, Colombia, and Cuba.


2018 - Sabrina Duque (Ecuador)

VolcáNica, crónicas desde un país en erupción

This book recounts how many nicaraguan towns live near volcanoes when they are not on eruptions, a proposal that breathes journalism and answer the basic requirement of the travel chronicle: to offer a new way to see the world. The description of a country through its everyday life with the hostility of nature is an idea that, according to the jury, will allow to both refresh and renew travel literature.

» How to apply

To apply to the Michael Jacobs Travel Writing Grant, follow these steps:

1. Click here to apply to the grant (make sure you change the language to English).

2. Begin session on our new application platform. If you do not yet have an account, sign up with your email address, Facebook, or Google account.

This is the new registration platform that the Fundación Gabo has implemented to improve the experience for applicants. If it is your first time on the platform, you must create a new account.

3. Fill out the form on the platform and attach the documents mentioned in Requirements.

4. Click “Enviar” (Send).

For more information or help, write to us: eosorio@fundaciongabo.org

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