BackArts & Culture » Music & Art » “Long way home” - Asia - Europe Short Story Contest

"They called her The Big Girl, sometimes The Lost Girl, but among themselves The Strange Girl. In her own world she was a little girl. But she stopped being little when she went travelling and decided to stay for a while in another world?"

This is an extract from one of the 10 short stories shortlisted for the competition “Long Way home”. Everyone that has been travelling or backpacking will associate with this passage by Ethel Kings a series of personal experiences, images and perceptions that they have gone through while living and travelling in countries completely different from their own.

The stigma for instance that if you have been in more than 3 countries for a long period of time, you must be lost otherwise why you wouldn’t stay at home with your family? The endless guessing game that people when, by just looking at you or hearing your accent, expect to know your country of origin, and the consequent shock in their face when they realise that their assumptions were wrong. The numerous stereotypes attached to cultures and their people can seem hard to shake off. Or the futile attempts to describe to our grandparents the new country that has become our new home.

These are some of the ‘feelings’ and ideas that emerge from the ten short fiction on the theme “Travel”. It is a rare and somehow reassuring experience to read a fictional piece of work that resonates so deeply and so personally. Who hasn’t witnessed a similar story to what Jaishree Misra’s character experiences when, on a visit to Europe, her endearing, less travelled mother from India believes that Vienna is in Italy?

Having travelled and also lived in four countries on three different continents, I could see, while reading, parts of myself or experiences that my friends have been through.

The creative writing competition - “Long way home” - was launched by the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) and the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival (UWRF). Last year, around 483 entries were submitted to a group of judges, selected by UWRF, who evaluated the stories and shortlisted 10 of them (from Malaysia, the UK, Bulgaria, Brunei, India, Estonia, Australia and France-Malta).

One of the main topics in the stories, that interested ASEF, is to show Asian perception of Europe and vice-versa.

The competition’s aims are to present new ways of looking at identities, traditions and local cultures in contemporary societies; to pursue cultural understanding and to support upcoming writers from ASEM member countries.

Readers can now vote online for their favourite fictional work until the 1st September. Two winners will then be announced (one from Asia and one from Europe) and a prize of SGD 1000 will be awarded to each winner.

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