Call for submissions: The Nature Conservancy’s Nature Writing Prize

Australia’s unique landscape has inspired writers for generations. Now with the support of the McLean Foundation, the Nature Conservancy Australia has announced a generous prize for the author of an essay between 3,000 and 5,000 words about place.

The Nature Writing Prize is worth $5,000 and will be judged by The Australian’s literary critic Geordie Williamson and Dr Janine Burke, historian and author of The Nest.

As someone with a long history of involvement in the not-for-profit sector I am always thrilled to see philanthropists supporting Australian writers. I checked the Philanthropy Australia website to confirm that the McLean Foundation is indeed a grant-making member. The foundation’s stated goal is to promote and celebrate the “literature of nature in Australia”. The Nature Conservancy, with more than one million members, works globally to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people.

According to the press release, the winning entry will be that which is “judged to be of the highest literary merit and which best explores his or her relationship and interaction with some aspect of the Australian landscape.”

The prize is offered every two years. The inaugural winner in 2011 was Annamaria Weldon for her piece “Threshold Country” from a field of 130 entries. I have a feeling there will be quite a few more entries this time around.

Your deadline is 16 November 2012. The winner will be announced in March 2013. It’s always wise to  read the guidelines and conditions first. You will need to contribute an entry fee of $25 with your entry form.

On the entry fee, it’s not clear the extent to which the McLean Foundation’s support is paying for the prize money and/or other fees (such as for the judges’ time, the administration and promotion of the prize), or to what extent the entry fees will cover the admin side of things. The May-June issue of Poets & Writers magazine had a special section on writing contests, in which one article examined the economics of writing competitions. Either way I feel this is a generous prize for an essay contest and if the Nature Conservancy raises some money during the process then why should they not? I’d love to hear your views on this topic, actually, so please comment away.

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