Press Release | October 13, 2009

15th Annual Nature Writing Contest Now Underway

The Southern Environmental Law Center is now accepting submissions for the annual Phillip D. Reed Memorial Award for Outstanding Writing on the Southern Environment.  The award seeks to enhance public awareness of the value and vulnerability of the region's natural heritage by giving special recognition to writers who most effectively tell the stories about the South's environment. 

SELC is delighted to announce that best-selling author Lee Smith will be the featured guest at our special event in conjunction with the 2010 Virginia Festival of the Book, held each spring in SELC's hometown of Charlottesville. A native of a small coal-mining town in southwest Virginia who currently resides in Hillsborough, North Carolina, Ms. Smith is a true voice of the South. Her stories are set in distinctively southern landscapes that infuse her characters and plots in a uniquely southern way. She has received, among other honors, two O. Henry Awards, a Southern Book Critics Circle Award, an Academy Award in Literature, and two Lila Wallace / Reader's Digest Awards. Her stories have been featured several times by the Book-of-the-Month Club. On March 20, as part of the Festival of the Book, SELC will host Ms. Smith, who will read from her newly released book, Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger, and talk about her love of the southern landscape. (Check our website for updates.)

SELC's annual Reed Environmental Writing Award has two categories: Book, for non-fiction books (not self-published), and Journalism, for newspaper and magazine writing – and new this year, we will accept online writing that is published by a recognized institution such as a newspaper, university or non-profit organization, and is journalistic in nature.

The primary judging criteria is the quality of writing.  Prizes of $1,000 are awarded to the winner in each of the Journalism and Book categories.  The winners will be announced at SELC's headquarters in Charlottesville during the Virginia Festival of the Book in March, 2010.

All submissions must be received by January 11, 2010.  Nominations can be made by anyone, including the author or publisher. 

  • Submissions must have been published during the calendar year 2009.
  • Submissions must relate to the natural environment in at least one of the following states: Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee or Virginia. 
  • Minimum length of 3,000 words per entry.  Awards may be split between two co-authors in each category; submissions with more than two authors must indicate which two are being nominated.  Each author must meet the minimum word requirement.
  • Send 16 copies to Reed Award, SELC, 201 W. Main Street, Ste. 14, Charlottesville, VA  22902.  Submissions cannot be returned.  Include at least one copy in original format for proof of publication. For Journalism entries, provide a digital version, or email text, to verify word length.  >>Newsroom  >> Reed Writing Award

Judges for the 2009 Reed Environmental Writing Award are:

Joel K. Bourne, Jr. – Contributing writer and former Senior Editor for the Environment at National Geographic; winner of Outstanding Explanatory Journalism award from Society of Environmental Journalists.
Jim Detjen – Director, Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, MSU; founding president of Society of Environmental Journalists; former award-winning reporter for Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nikki Giovanni – Grammy-nominated poet, activist and author of more than two dozen books including essay collections, illustrated children's books, and poetry, most recently Bicycles: Love Poems; Distinguished Professor of English at Virginia Tech.
Janet Lembke – Author of Because the Cat Purrs: How We Relate to Other Species and Why It Matters, and almost 20 other nature books; poems and essays have appeared in Audubon, Southern Review, and The New York Times Book Review.
Will Martin – Nashville-based attorney and businessman; former Deputy Assistant Secretary at NOAA; Senior Fellow for World Wildlife Fund; member SELC President's Council.
Bill McKibben – Author of Deep Economy, The End of Nature and several other books; contributor to The New Yorker, Orion, The Atlantic Monthly and other publications; co-founder “,” an international climate campaign; scholar-in-residence at Middlebury College.
Tara Rae Miner – Managing editor of Orion magazine; formerly on staff with Camas and Headwaters News, as well as the Center for the Rocky Mountain West and the Oregon Natural Desert Association.
Deaderick Montague – Civic leader, teacher and writer; guiding inspiration behind creation of the Reed Environmental Writing Award; Vice President of SELC Board of Trustees.   
Janisse Ray – Poet, activist and award-winning author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, Wild Card Quilt, and Pinhook: Finding Wholeness in a Fragmented Land; founding board member of Altamaha Riverkeeper; Reed award winner in 2000.
Charles Seabrook – Former veteran environmental reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution; author of Cumberland Island and other books; Reed award winner in 1998. 
Donovan Webster – Author of The Burma Road and Aftermath: The Remnants of War; former senior editor of Outside magazine; contributor to New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, National Geographic and Smithsonian.

  • The award is named in memory of SELC founding trustee Phillip D. Reed, a talented attorney and committed environmental activist who helped guide our organization through the early years before his untimely death in 1993.

Are you a reporter and would like more information? Please visit our press contact page for a full list of SELC’s press contacts.