Canongate has launched the Nan Shepherd Prize for Nature Writing as Oscar-nominated actor Tilda Swinton records the audiobook of Shepherd’s The Living Mountain (Canongate).
Canongate has partnered with the Nan Shepherd Estate and the University of Aberdeen to launch the competition to find the next big voice in nature writing, from communities underrepresented in the genre. The prize is inspired by, and in memory of, writer Shepherd, whose masterpiece The Living Mountain remained unpublished for almost 40 years. Composed during the Second World War, the manuscript was finally published in 1977. It has sold more than 90,000 copies, since being reissued by Canongate in its Canons series in 2008, according to Canongate.
The winner of the Nan Shepherd Prize for Nature Writing will receive a book deal with Canongate – including editorial mentoring and an advance of £10,000 – and the option of literary representation with Jenny Brown Associates. It opens for entries on 24 June 2019.
An initiative led by Canongate Rights Manager Caroline Clarke and Assistant Editor Megan Reid, the prize will provide an inclusive platform for new and emerging nature writers. Applications are restricted to previously unpublished writers who consider themselves underrepresented in nature writing, be that through ethnicity, disability, class, gender, sexuality or any other circumstances. The website for the prize will additionally offer resources intended to demystify the publishing process, such as advice on how to write a non-fiction proposal and information on what agents and editors look for.
Entrants are asked to submit a one-page synopsis and sample chapters totalling no more than 10,000 words, along with chapter outlines and a biographical note. Submissions will be accepted until 10 September with the winner announced in November.
Canongate said: “With the huge popularity of nature writing, it feels more important than ever that all voices are heard. Nature writing is still seen by many as being very white, male, able-bodied and privileged, and we wanted to make it more representative. Nan Shepherd is one of our most beloved authors and was herself largely excluded from the literary conversation in her lifetime. Shepherd has now become a central part of the canon; she was the first female writer to be featured on a British bank note and her work is already inspiring a new generation of writers. Creating a prize in her name feels like a fitting way to celebrate her legacy.”
Erlend Clouston of the Nan Shepherd estate added: “Bravo, Canongate! In these dark days when we are re-assessing our relationship with the earth, each other, and, to be frank, common morality, the more honest, original thinking applied to our place in the universe the better. Nan would be proud to be associated with this project.”
Aberdeen University, from which Shepherd was an early graduate, will offer the Nan Shepherd Prize for Younger Writers. Intended to encourage S5 and S6 pupils in Aberdeenshire to write creatively on the theme of Life and Landscape, it will offer cash prizes to the winner and two runners-up. Full details of both the Nan Shepherd Prize for Nature Writing, and the Nan Shepherd Prize for Younger Writers, including submission requirements and advice, can be found here.
The prize launch comes as The Living Mountain is released as an Audible exclusive download today (Tuesday 28th May), it will be followed by a physical edition of the audiobook and a new hardback on 1st August. The recording will also feature an afterword by Robert Macfarlane and an essay on Shepherd by Jeanette Winterson, read by their respective authors.