Winners Announced

Environmental Writing Competition September 2018

Poem or Reflection — Your world.

* This competition is now closed but you are welcome to write to the prompt, and read through the published writing and blog posts. * 

Thirty-five years ago, The New York Times defined nature writing as a “historically recent literary genre, and, in a quiet way, one of the most revolutionary.” Writing about nature (and our relationship to the environment) is no longer a new concept, but the genre has become more revolutionary with time.
Dear writers, given your inheritance of this earth and the momentous time brought on by climate change, your voices on this topic deserve to be heard. In a poem or short reflection, write about our home, planet Earth. Perhaps you’ll consider the smog that regularly closes your school, how the environment you live in has changed since you were a kid, or the bird song that wakes you each morning. 
Finding an Approach 
The writer and activist Bill McKibben describes Environmental Writing as "the collision between people and the rest of the world." McKibben is referring to the intersection between humans and the natural world, which might be a helpful way to think about this genre. The word “collision” though, connotes images of unrest, tumult, and struggle; and suggests that we are in some ways separate from the earth and even at odds with nature. 
Another writer, Terry Tempest Williams, gives us a very different way of thinking about the environment: “To be whole. To be complete. Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.” Williams’ writing about the environment is lyrical and personal. But she is also a fierce advocate, her prose crafted with purpose. It is the act of storytelling, she says, that allows writers to “bypass rhetoric and pierce the heart.” In other words, writing about the connection between humans and their home has the power to cross political and social divides.
Our guest judge, Rasheena Fountain, agrees that some of the most powerful writing about the environment lies in personal storytelling. “I dream for the stories of environmentalism to become like diverse choruses where more and more people can find familiarity and comfort,” she says. Indeed, it is your personal experience—your particular view, from wherever you are in the world—that Fountain is looking for in a winning entry.
There are so many ways to write about the environment—so many ways of honoring, exploring, critiquing, loving, and questioning. While the collision lens is certainly applicable to some stories, Williams and Fountain remind us that there are myriad ways of investigating the relationship between humans and the natural world. We’ve collected some of our favorite approaches to serve as models. Each of the excerpts in the “Exemplars” resource shows a different form of humans shaping or being shaped by their environment, and writers writing about it. 
A Note on Form
  • IF YOU WRITE A POEM… Rhythm and description are your engines. Read your draft aloud to yourself, playing with repetition of sounds, the positioning of stressed and unstressed syllables, and pauses and line breaks. As you invite the reader into a particular place, magnify certain parts of the world so the reader can experience them. In addition to imagery and other forms of sensory description, consider utilizing figurative language to shed new light on your subject matter. Look in the Glossary Resource for examples.
  • IF YOU WRITE A REFLECTION… Identify the significance. Your reflection may revolve around a scene or description or joke or question, but at some point make sure you step back and ask yourself: What is powerful about this experience? What has it taught me?  How has it changed me? You may not answer these questions directly in your final piece, but considering the answers will infuse your reflection with significance.   
Guiding Ideas
Regardless of your chosen beat (ethics, politics, technology, climate, health, etc.), chosen style (reflection or poem), or topic (whales washing up on shore, composting in your backyard, disappearing glaciers, the quiet beauty of a great blue heron, renouncing cars for a year, etc.), keep in mind the following guidelines on how to reach your reader when writing about the environment:
  • WHAT’S THE CONNECTION: Throughout the writing process, pause to ask yourself: How do we (I) affect the environment and how does it affect us (me)? This question can help you more clearly grasp the relationship you’re exploring through your writing.
  • WHAT ARE THE STAKES? What is the impact of your topic? Who is being affected and why?
  • WHAT’S THE CONTEXT? What background info does the reader need in order to understand and care about your topic?
  • WHAT’S THE SCOPE? Whether you’re writing about a personal experience or an international issue, zeroing in and zeroing out can help you reach readers. Consider how your personal story relates to readers across the world, for example, or how a global problem is felt on a local level.
  • WHAT’S AT THE HEART? Writing with honesty and compassion will, as Williams says, allow you to “bypass the rhetoric and pierce the heart."
Who is Eligible?  
Young writers ages 13-18  
Max 600 words
Guest Judge
Rasheena Fountain

Best Entry: $100 (winning piece + author interview will be featured on Write the World’s website and blog) 
Runner up: $50 
Best Peer Review: $50 (reviewer interview will be featured on Write the World’s website and blog) 
What’s Different about Write the World Competitions? 

Prizes: The winning entrant(s) will receive $100, and the best peer-reviewer will receive $50.       
Professional Recognition: The winning entry, plus the runner-up and best peer review, will be featured on our blog, with commentary from our guest judge.       
Expert Review: Submit your draft by Monday September 10th and get feedback from our team of experts—authors, writing teachers, and educational professionals.  
Key Dates 
September 3: Competition Opens  
September 10: Submit draft for Expert Review (Optional. We will review the first 100 drafts submitted.)      
September 14: Reviews returned to Writers  
September 18: Final Submissions Due
September 28: Winners Announced  
Upcoming Competition
Our Speech Writing Competition opens Monday, Oct 1st.
Stay tuned for more details!  




Meet Environmental Writing Competition – Peer Review Winner Oscar Locke

October 10, 2018

For our Environmental Writing Competition, Oscar Locke’s peer review of “Through Green Tinted Glasses” offered some wonderful bits of practical advice to help Sofia improve her piece. However, it was his words of encouragement for Sofia that caught the eye of guest judge Rasheena Fountain. In Rasheena’s words, Oscar displayed  “empathy and honest effort to help this writer improve the piece.” In this WTW Blog post, Oscar shares more on his editing process, personal writing goals, and his favorite fellow Aussie author, Markus Zusak.

Read More Here


September 28, 2018

Oftentimes nature writing conjures up images of places that are out of reach to many of us; Thoreau’s On Walden Pond for instance, or marooned polar bears on melting icebergs. But the truth is, there’s nothing more accessible than the environment; it’s the air we breathe, and the ground beneath us–wherever we live, the natural world around us needs our attention and protection. The entries in this month’s environmental writing competition demonstrated this beautifully. We heard about deforestation for the sake of urbanization in the Philippines and one writer’s concerns about the effects of climate change on London’s typically mild weather. Guest Judge Rasheena Fountain shares which of these eye-opening pieces stood out and earned the awards for Best Entry, Runner Up and Best Peer Review

Read More Here

Environmentalist and Activist Rasheena Fountain on Writing About Nature

September 10, 2018

We’re excited to have Environmentalist Rasheena Fountain as our competition guest judge. In our recent interview with Rasheena she talks about how to appreciate, and write about, nature no matter where you are in the world.

Read Blog Post

February Spotlight: The Nature of Nature

February 9, 2018

As our environment becomes increasingly impacted by humans, our relationship to the natural world changes. The nature of this relationship depends on how we behave as individuals and communities—and how we respond to these aspects of our changing world. We came from nature, after all. And while the great buildings of our cities, developing the digital world, and other images of modernity are often without our trees and rivers, the natural world—the earth— remains our true home.

Read More