By Emma Carey, Caitlin Evans and Holly Mahoney
To say that the past year in lockdown has been difficult is an understatement. Our social routines and usual forms of entertainment were stripped from us and the entire population had to divert their time and effort towards new passions and hobbies. However, something was there for us, unchangingly, throughout every lockdown: nature. Daily walks along the seafront, across lush fields, crunching through woodland or in neatly trimmed rose gardens, each provided a beautiful and much-needed escape from the four walls we were stuck in. Naturally (pun intended), writers both experienced and budding began to draw from this inspiration, and nature writing soared in popularity.
The prize industry consistently endeavours to keep up with and reflect writing trends of the now, so it’s no surprise that the new Nature Writing Prize is seeing rising recognition. Showing true dedication to publishing and nature, the prize has the dual sponsorship of The National Trust and Gaia Books, an imprint of Octopus Publishing Group for Hachette UK. The prize aims to recognise and celebrate voices of working class and under-represented backgrounds through their note-worthy and awe-inspiring nature writing.
Director of Communications for the National Trust, Celia Richardson commented on the prize, saying, "Like nature, writing is for everyone. We’re very pleased to support this prize which supports nature writing by people who see themselves as working-class, giving a platform to unsung writers and untold stories. The pandemic has thrown into focus the everyday human relationship with the natural world. Now more than ever, we need a breadth of voices exploring that enduring connection."
The Nature Writing Prize was founded in 2020 by well-known UK nature writer Natasha Carthew. Renowned primarily for her poetic prose, Carthew has several published books under her belt, The Light That Gets Lost, 2015; All Rivers Run Free, 2018. Born Between Crosses is her most recent book published in April 2021, which tells the story of the lives of rural working-class women.
With a special place in her heart for the calm and healing properties of nature, Carthew wanted to break down the barriers and create a writing prize that was authentic and accessible to all working-class voices, from those living in the countryside, to those in the city and everything else in between.
“It's important to me that this prize is accessible, breaking down barriers and providing a platform to celebrate the diversity that exists in nature writing, whether it's non-fiction, poetry, field notes, memoir or travelogue; celebrating nature whilst providing a platform for underrepresented writers.”
The launch of the prize indeed could not have come at a better time. Amid the world fighting the battle of a pandemic, nature has always been the silent friend to find solace and serenity. The unprecedented times have allowed humankind to look at life differently and really appreciate the beauty of nature in all its glory, especially how it brings us peace during times of uncertainty. Relationships with nature have changed, and this prize offers a platform for those to express their re-evaluated connection and appreciation.
“The best nature writing conveys a clear sense of place and focuses on the natural world and our human relationship with it.”
Humankind’s historic disrespect of the natural world will come as a shock to nobody, with the fast-moving ball of climate change hurtling towards us. However, the increasing call for books celebrating and exploring nature demonstrates a shift in the societal discussion of the natural world and our environment. This is not only evident from the establishment of the New Nature Writing Prize itself, but also in the presence of nature-centric books throughout the literary prize sphere. Exemplifying this is Max Porter’s Lanny and Dianne Cook’s The New Wilderness as two novels exploring nature, both in very impactful but different ways, gracing the Booker prize lists in recent years. What then sets the new Nature Writing Prize for Working Class Writers is its dedication to accessibility. While in its celebration of nature writing, the Booker is inclusive of progressive social causes, what it may be considered lacking in comparison, is its accessibility to writers, particularly those self-identifying as working class.
The Nature Prize for Working Class Writers demonstrates an important movement within literary prizes towards the celebration of natural writing and the importance of humankind’s relationship with nature. The prize’s commitment to accessibility further established it into the new wave of literary awards, that project the voices previously undiscovered, through a plethora of literary mediums. In this respect, we at The Publishing Post are very excited for the announcement of the winner of this award later in the year.
If you are interested in entering submissions of 1,000 words, in your preferred literary form, the deadline is 7 June and entries can be submitted via email.