Press Release | October 22, 2010

16th Annual Nature Writing Contest Now Underway

Best-selling author Lee Smith and Orion editor join judges panel

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’s Reed Award website

SELC is delighted to welcome best-selling author Lee Smith to our panel of judges for the writing contest.  Ms. Smith has authored twelve novels, most recently Mrs. Darcy Meets the Blue-Eyed Stranger, and has received numerous awards including two O. Henry Awards, an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Lifetime Literary Achievement Award given earlier this month by the Library of Virginia. We also extend a warm welcome to Orion magazine assistant editor Hannah Fries, whose participation on the judges panel this year continues a long-standing relationship between SELC’s writing contest and this award-winning literary magazine.

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 online writing that is published by a recognized institution such as a newspaper, university or non-profit organization and is journalistic in nature.  Prizes of $1,000 are awarded to the winner in each category, who will be announced at SELC’s special event during the Virginia Festival of the Book on March 19, 2011.

  • All submissions must have been published during calendar year 2010, and be received by January 10, 2011.  Nominations can be made by anyone, including the author or publisher.
  • Submissions must relate to the natural environment in at least one of the following states: Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee or Virginia.
  • 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 CD or email the text, to verify word length.

Visit our Reed Award website for details, past winners, and more.

We wish to thank our esteemed panel of judges for this year’s contest:

Marilou Awiakta – Poet and essayist whose writing weaves her Cherokee/Appalachian heritage with science; award winning author of Abiding Appalachia: Where Mountain and Atom Meet, and Selu: Seeking the Corn-Mother’s Wisdom; featured in documentary now airing on PBS, “Built For The People: The Story of TVA.”

Jim Detjen – Director, Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, Michigan State University; founding president of Society of Environmental Journalists; former award-winning reporter for Philadelphia Inquirer.

Hannah Fries – Assistant Editor of Orion magazine, winner of the 2010 Independent Press Award for General Excellence; she received her MFA in poetry from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers; her poems have appeared in numerous literary journals.

David Gessner – Author of Sick of Nature, Soaring with Fidel, and Return of the Osprey; winner of the 2005 Pushcart Prize and 2007 John Burroughs Award for Best Nature Essay; Editor-in-Chief of Ecotone; co-creator of “Bill and Dave’s Cocktail Hour” blog; Associate Professor at UNC Wilmington.

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; University Distinguished Professor 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 oceans conservationist; former Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Affairs at NOAA; board chair of Marine Stewardship Council (London); board member Ocean Conservancy; member SELC President’s Council.

Bill McKibben – Author of Deep Economy, The End of Nature and several other books, most recently Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet; contributor to The New Yorker, Orion, The Atlantic Monthly and other publications; co-founder of, an international climate campaign; scholar-in-residence at Middlebury College.

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, Pinhook: Finding Wholeness in a Fragmented Land; and most recently a book of poems, House of Branches; 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. 

Lee Smith – Author of numerous novels including Fair and Tender Ladies, The Last Girls, and most recently, Mrs. Darcy Meets the Blue-Eyed Stranger; recipient of two O. Henry Awards, an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the 2010 Lifetime Literary Achievement Award from the Library of Virginia.

Donovan Webster – Author of several books, including most recently Meeting the Family: One Man’s Journey Through His Human Ancestry; a former senior editor of Outside magazine, he is also a 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.


“Government, business and environmental organizations all have an important role to play when it comes to protecting the environment.  Yet the most profound and lasting changes will come from ordinary people making better choices in how they live.  An informed citizenry is the cornerstone of our democracy.  We rely on the journalists and writers who tell the stories of our natural world and give voice to the rivers, forests and wildlife.  Each year, the Southern Environmental Law Center provides a valuable public service in honoring those writers whose work contributes to our understanding of our relationship with the Earth with the annual Phillip D. Reed Memorial Award for Outstanding Writing on the Southern Environment.”    
– Al Gore

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