I Must Be Off! Travel Essay Contest -- Submissions Now Closed!

A little digital clock in American Samoa has just flipped over to July 16, meaning that submissions for the 2015 I Must Be Off! Travel Essay Contest are now officially closed and the judging may commence. With more than 300 submissions from writers in 43 countries, this year's contest has been the biggest yet; we're climbing a mountain of travel writing. Actually, we've been reading your work for the last couple of months--and each time we open an essay, we do so with respect and appreciation for your experience. What adventures you've had! The hard part for us now is to choose the best, and there are so many great writers among you. In the end, what we're looking for is compelling writing.

What happens now?

We will be announcing the list of semifinalists in the coming week, so be sure to keep an eye on I Must Be Off!. If your name appears on this list, you are still in the running; if your name appears on this list, you are an amazing writer. We loved your piece. You've created a sense of place that rises above the ordinary. Your command of the language is stunning. You have something to say that grips your readers and doesn't let them go. I wish we could have 30 winners in this competition, but we can't. We have to narrow it down.

Finalists will be informed by August 1.

The top essays will be published at I Must Be Off! in August without indication of the winners or the ranking chosen by this year's judge, Catherine Sweeney. We do it this way because at I Must Be Off! there is also a Readers' Choice Award based on the number of unique hits and comments tallied on September 30, and we don't want the Readers' Choice Award skewed by the results of the main competition. Catherine Sweeney's choices will be made public on September 30 as well, so mark this date on your calendar.

Good luck to you all. And thank you again for allowing us the opportunity of reading your work. If you have not made it into the semifinalist round, please don't be discouraged. The competition has been overwhelmingly fierce this year. As a writer myself who submits a lot and gets rejected a lot, I know rejection is an opportunity to look at my story again with new eyes. Sometimes rejection is just the beginning of a great story.

Keep traveling. Keep writing.

I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's writing has appeared in Indiana Review, Night Train, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly: the Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, Contrary, [PANK] blog, Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, Bootsnall Travel, Chicken Soup for the Soul and over 100 other good places. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011 and the winner of the Ginosko Literary Journal's Flash Fiction Award in 2015, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice.         



  1. Congrats and good luck to all the semifinalists!

  2. Looking forward to reading the finalists!

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