2021 longlist

The 2021 Nan Prize longlist featured eighteen new nature writers, from nature in the London's hood to queer gardens, to celebrations of the diversity of our soil and stories of memory, migration and belonging. Read on to discover more about the longlisted writers and their projects.

Niellah Arboine is a writer, editor and freelance culture journalist born and raised in south London. She is an original member of gal-dem and currently the lifestyle editor there. Her work can be found in House & Garden, Guardian, Vogue, Time Out London, and you can find her nature essay in Daunt Books’ In the Garden.

Who Gets Nature?

Niellah Arboine

With one in eight households in Great Britain having no access to a garden, Who Gets Nature? reimagines and rethinks what we know about gardening, land ownership and the politics of food growing in the UK right now, while asking who truly gets access to nature. Through personal accounts and expert voices find out more about seed sovereignty, land stewardship, the mental health benefits of nature, community gardens and the Black people’s historical contribution to Britain’s botanical landscape.

Nikita Azad (they/she) is a Punjabi-origin bilingual writer and researcher who lives between Punjab and Oxford. They research and write about the body, the natural world, gender and the self. They are a doctoral candidate in History at the University of Oxford where they research the history of the body in British-colonial Punjab. Their creative nonfiction and academic writing has been published (or forthcoming) in The Willowherb Review, Quince Magazine, The Tribune, The Quint, History Workshop Journal, The Indian Express, Asian Journal of Women’s Studies and Punjabi Tribune among others. Their first booklet, Dakhalandazi, a collection of essays on gender and the body in Punjabi, will be published in 2022.

Pilgrim at the Tree of Time

Nikita Azad

Growing up in a low-income household in a patriarchal community, Nikita Azad did not have any access to the natural world of Jalandhar, their hometown in the state of Punjab, India. Their class and considered gender – an imposed girlhood – prevented them from developing an intimate relationship with nature. In Pilgrim at the Tree of Time, Nikita will immerse their body in the natural worlds of their adopted nation, the UK, and their homeland, Punjab; they want to reclaim their body in nature and nature in their body. Through braided essays that pay attention to nature that is ailing but also healing, Nikita will reflect upon questions of interspecies ethics, embodiment and personhood, as well as that of human and environmental justice. In their journeys and thoughts, Nikita feels inspired by the fifteenth century poet, traveller, and Sikh Guru, Baba Nanak, whose mentor was nature themself.

Helen Baczkowska is a writer and ecologist living in rural Norfolk. Her writing explores the histories, both natural and human, of place and draws on stories of class and power in landscapes. Helen grew up in Norfolk, then in a Scottish new town and finally near Nottingham and has worked as a dry-stone waller, fruit picker, in managing woodlands. Her writing draws on these experiences and on her family background, which includes Welsh colliers, domestic servants and Polish refugees. Helen spent most of her twenties engaged in direct action against ecological destruction, often living in squats and camps in the path of road-building. She is the author of Twyford Rising: Land and Resistance, an oral history of Britain’s first direct action road protest camp at Twyford Down in Hampshire, England.

Common Place

Helen Baczkowska

In the summer of 1969, Ann Baczkowska drove from London to Norwich with her toddler. Ann’s purpose was to register an area of common land in Norfolk, ensuring that the acres of woodland, grassland and gorse were protected from ploughing or building. For her daughter, Helen, this was the beginning of a life lived among commons – land that belongs to one person, but where others have rights to graze animals or gather fuel. Common Place examines contemporary enclosures, both legal and illegal, and more recent histories, such as the changing fortunes of Greenham Common, are interwoven with Helen’s experience of direct-action protests. At the heart of the book are questions about place, dispossession and belonging in Britain; framed by Helen’s relationship with the Norfolk common she lives near, why her mother, a working-class Welsh woman, decided to protect it and how Helen’s Polish father sought refuge there after escaping from war-torn Europe.

Tia Bannon is an actor and artist from Ladbroke Grove, London. She trained at RADA. HoodRat is her writing debut.


Tia Bannon

Tia Bannon is bringing nature writing to the hood. Growing up on an estate in West London she is on a mission to reclaim our nature, celebrating the natural world right on our doorstep. Why is it we’re encouraged to think that the only nature worth valuing is that in far off places? HoodRat is an ode to the less favoured bugs and animals of society: to the boil-footed pigeons that peck rabidly at chicken bones dashed by a passer-by, the foxes trying to rival Mariah Carey and the seagulls who encourage us to take up space, by any means necessary. It is a book that weaves her interactions with our widely shunned vermin friends, alongside the intersections with class, race and identity, growing up as a mixed-race woman in a multi-layered British society. There are lessons of growth and pain, love and discovery. There is food and family, loss and soiled bed sheets. HoodRat is about exploring what it means to truly belong, to become yourself and what can we learn from the world around us.

Rhiannon Bull is a writer, illustrator, and forager based in Edinburgh. Her nature writing has previously been published in Summer: An Anthology for the Changing Seasons, edited by Melissa Harrison, and she was shortlisted for the 2016 Bath Short Story Award, with her submission published in the annual anthology. She is currently working on fiction and non-fiction projects that explore queer experiences of the natural world.

Healing Ground

Rhiannon Bull

When Rhiannon Bull moved from Essex to Edinburgh, she made an improbable decision: to take a course in herbal medicine in spite of debilitating health anxiety. Having previously managed her anxiety through totally disconnecting from her body and health, learning about medicinal plants forced her into painful confrontation with her old fears – but also presented a way to heal. Weaving personal narrative together with topics including hysteria, witchcraft, myth, literature and women’s land rights, Healing Ground provides an honest account of Rhiannon’s own experiences discovering how wild plants can support the body, and of how foraging can allow everyone to access a little of the ‘nature cure’ – even if all you have to work with are weeds.

Karen Jane Cannon is a poet and author. She has written two poetry pamphlets – The Curfew Bell (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2021) and Emergency Mints (Paper Swans Press, 2018). She was a finalist in the Mslexia Poetry Competition in 2017, was shortlisted for The Bridport Prize in 2019 and commended for the Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine in 2021. Karen is a PhD candidate at the University of Southampton researching poetry, vision and landscape. She lives in the New Forest, Hampshire.

Wild Sight

Karen Jane Cannon

Wild Sight is a vision of landscape from the perspective of visual impairment, and a re-evaluation of the way we view the natural world and those within it. It aims to disrupt the privilege of contemporary nature writing and to create a dynamic new way of seeing nature. Wild Sight is a narrative of accessibility, inclusivity and connectivity – seeking ways to move beyond the safe tourist route into wild spaces, a deep exploration of place. Within Wild Sight, Karen Jane Cannon aligns the fragile habitat of her eyesight with that of the natural world and considers the use of technology as prosthesis to extend the capability of her vision.

Jenny Chamarette is a writer, mentor, researcher and curator/artist living in South East London, where she works out of the studio at the foot of her garden. After fifteen years working in UK universities, she turned to fiction and non-fiction as a means of recovery from long-term illness. She has published in Litro magazine and was previously shortlisted for the Fitzcarraldo Essay Prize 2021.

Q is for Garden

Jenny Chamarette

Q is for Garden explores the millennia-old relationship between sexuality, culture and cultivation. It is a book about queerness, gardening and the connections between the two. Drawing on the colonial histories of botany and plant science, Q uncovers hidden tendrils of queer life, both natural and ornamental, human and plant-based. Written during periods of regional national lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, the stories that unfold are both geographically constricted in the present moment, and far-flung into the past. At the heart of the book is the author’s own self-enquiry, seeking to understand her queer relationship to land in viral times, through experiences of illness, recovery and political transformation that have severely constricted her freedom of movement. Inevitably, Q is for Garden includes reflections on culture wars, adaptation to climate change, and the affinities between queer communities and ecological thinking. It is therefore a story about transition, recovery and nature-connection, about being trapped and being held in place by the earth beneath your feet.

Izzy Dignum is a recent graduate from the University of Cambridge, having spent three years learning about herself, chalk and literature. She grew up in Wiltshire and has since returned there. She currently works in PR and Marketing.

The Swallows Will Return Next Year

Izzy Dignum

Part coming-of-age narrative, part haphazard gardener’s almanac, The Swallows Will Return Next Year explores the necessity of leaving a landscape and a life in order to love them both. Tracing childhood, adolescence, and adulthood from Wiltshire downland to Cambridge fen, Izzy Dignum reckons with survival against the most unlikely of odds. An account of place-making and the garden as memory-space, it is about family, love, and choosing legacies.

Jennifer Jones is a writer, children’s author and scientist based in north-west England. She is passionate about the natural world and loves communicating that passion to anyone who’ll listen. Jennifer has published her research in many scientific journals, as well as creative non-fiction in magazines including Bird Watching and in e-zines including The Pilgrim, The Clearing and Bloom in Doom. She is currently an Honorary Research Fellow in soil science at Liverpool John Moores University.

A Teaspoon of Soil

Jennifer Jones

It is said that one teaspoon of soil contains as many organisms as there are people on the earth. Soil is a forgotten system, yet there is so much to celebrate in what it gifts us. A Teaspoon of Soil highlights all that soil provides for us and illustrates reasons for celebration. Personal and professional experiences from Jennifer’s life as a soil scientist are incorporated throughout together with interviews with people engaging variously with soil. Bringing together stories from around the world, A Teaspoon of Soil will demonstrate the diversity and wonder of soil, and will allow readers to see soil in a new light.

William Keohane is a writer from Limerick. His poems have appeared in Poetry Ireland Review, the RTÉ Radio 1 Sunday Miscellany and Queering the Green, an anthology of post-2000 Queer Irish poetry. His essays have been published in Banshee. In 2019, he was shortlisted for the Hennessy Literary Award in the Emerging Poetry category. In 2021, he was shortlisted for the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award, and was one of ten poets selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions series. He holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Limerick.

slowly, slowly

William Keohane

slowly, slowly is a book about the nature of transition. As an Irish writer, the landscape of home features prominently in William Keohane’s work. The trans body, too, is itself a landscape: a post-operative, healing chest with nipples like sinkholes, and red mountain scars; the blonde facial hair that blooms, slowly, after the first few months on testosterone, bright like Irish gorse, like prairie canola. Transition is often viewed as a linear movement from one state of being, one gender, to another. In slowly, slowly, William shows that it is a process, involving versions of self co-existing, ideally, but not always, in concordance with one another. The body of the past lives on in memory, while the present body fluctuates, depending on how it is perceived by others. This is akin to water, which moves, changes, is stagnant, flowing. Water exists in different states, as solid, liquid, gas, but fundamentally, is unchanged. It remains the same element and, for this reason, water flows through every page.

Dr Anjana Khatwa is an award-winning Earth Scientist, presenter and advocate for diversity in natural heritage spaces. Anjana is a passionate storyteller, searching for hidden clues locked away in rocks, fossils and landscapes to reveal the extraordinary mysteries and stories about life on earth. For over twenty years, Anjana has worked as a learning and engagement professional in the natural heritage sector helping people of all backgrounds connect with the landscapes around them. She lives in Dorset, close to the Jurassic Coast, in a house filled with rocks and fossils.

The Rock Whisperer

Anjana Khatwa

The Rock Whisperer is a love story about rocks. Through revealing their hidden emotions and humanity, Anjana Khatwa connects us to their intensely powerful origin stories that for too long have remained overlooked and forgotten. As the Rock Whisperer, Anjana has spent much of her life existing in spaces where she has challenged and puzzled those around her. From her unexpected presence in the geoscience and natural heritage sector to the social challenge she presented to the South Asian community, Anjana would be an anomaly in both spaces. A woman of colour, who fit into neither world but who would find a way to survive and succeed. The Rock Whisperer is a book about how rocks have shaped and transformed not only our landscapes but also Anjana herself. It is a story brimming with urgent questions about who is missing from our natural spaces and why that is. It is about self-discovery, surviving trauma and how an obsessive love for rocks allowed a heart and soul to heal from heartbreak and injustice.

Shauna Laurel Jones grew up in the Colorado Rockies and studied art history in California. She then spent a decade in Iceland, where she immersed herself as a writer, translator and educator in Reykjavík’s vibrant art scene before earning a degree in environmental studies. Since 2018, Shauna has lived with her partner Helen and daughter in London. Her recent essays have been published in Orion and Carve magazines.

The Gaze That Hovers

Shauna Laurel Jones

The Gaze that Hovers is an exploration of aesthetic, ethical, cultural and personal encounters with birds. What do swans, romantic but ravenous, mean to farmers in Iceland? Why are feathers so important to drag queens as they transcend expectations of gender? Ultimately, what is the relationship between the enduring appeal of birds and the urgency of addressing the sixth mass extinction? For Shauna Laurel Jones, whose complex identities, geographies and interests have sometimes left her unsure of her place in nature and society alike, it is the poetry of birds that has helped her find her way again. Jones draws on memoir, observations, interviews and research to demonstrate that not only is it possible to integrate aesthetic interests with ecological concerns, it is also a necessity. This sensibility linking cultural history and natural emergency – a way of regarding the world that accounts for all its poetic and brutal complexity – is the gaze that hovers. And birds, uniquely, can guide us there.

Wendy Pratt is a poet, author and workshop facilitator living and working on the glorious North Yorkshire coast. Her latest poetry collection was one of the winners of the 2021 Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet competition. She is also the founder and editor of Spelt magazine, a print magazine which seeks to validate and celebrate the real rural experience through creative non-fiction and poetry.

The Ghost Lake

Wendy Pratt

The Ghost Lake is an exploration of landscape in the context of rural experiences and working-class identity. The ‘ghost lake’ is Paleolake Flixton, an extinct lake in North Yorkshire which was created by glacial movement. Inhabitation of this lake goes back thousands of years, with internationally important archaeological discoveries at sites around its shores. The lake has gradually soaked away into the earth leaving only a watermark, a ghost of itself. Using specific landscape points around the lake, the reader is taken on a walk which explores concepts of belonging through landscape; destruction of ecology; how we live with our ancestry; farming and biodiversity from a working-class perspective; examining the difficulties of coastal towns; alcohol and opioid addiction and despair; reduced life expectancy and how rural communities face these challenges alongside the joy of being deeply connected to a place of incredible natural beauty. The ancient lake people live on in The Ghost Lake, and the lives of the modern-day lake people are absorbed into that slow moving river, that body of stories that exist just under the surface.

Grace Quantock is a writer and counsellor. She writes narrative non-fiction at the intersection of creative arts, social justice and marginalised bodies. She has been awarded the The London Library Emerging Writers Award and was shortlisted for the Writers’ & Artists’ Working-Class Writers’ Prize 2021. Quantock has been published or has essays forthcoming in the Guardian, Metro and New Statesman; she has also appeared in the New Yorker Online, The Times and Marie Claire. She lives in Wales and is passionate about nature journaling and calligraphy.

The Selkie Papers

Grace Quantock

The Selkie Papers: Field Notes on Finding Boundaries draws from Grace Quantock’s personal and therapeutic work, exploring her experience of learning to access the outside world while finding boundaries after trauma. While Grace crosses borders of limits and stereotypes, she need boundaries to access the natural world safely. As she moved from being housebound to being out in the world, she mapped her process of coming back to her body after trauma, emerging into the world in a body that’s marginalised and maligned. While bed bound, Grace had forgotten what grass felt like, or that stars existed, and rediscovering them was a delight. But she emerged into the struggle of building boundaries after trauma in an environment that disallowed them. In The Selkie Papers, Grace draws on the natural world to support her in finding a way to live well in her body. Through the Selkie legends of seal women’s stolen skins, she takes a psychotherapeutic and lived experience approach to unpacking the process of implementing boundaries. It’s a journey through finding meaning and herself in the wilds.

El Rhodes grew up in a working-class, multi-ethnic family on streets named after the rural community they’d tarmacked over. Usually an archaeologist and part-time carer for her elderly father, she began writing original prose at the start of lockdown, and her work has now been widely published in journals, anthologies and competitions. She writes a regular column on rural issues for Spelt magazine, and has been nominated for the Best British and Irish Flash Fiction list (Biffy50) and the Best of The Net (BOTN) in 2021.

My Family and Other Folklore

E. E. Rhodes

Part naturalist almanac, part design for life, part chronicle of the power of story, My Family and Other Folklore intertwines twelve wildly varied lives, across three centuries. Each of the protagonists are faced with the threats of racism, poverty, conflict or loss, but through steadfast belief in the power of nature, myth and magic, they alchemise their experiences into more hopeful lives. The lyrical language and compelling storytelling are suffused with a radical joy that runs counter-culture to a world that lionises both cynicism and despair. Forged in nature and gilded with original letters, drawings and recipes, this narrative is a parable of transformation through magical resistance.

Rachel Sloan is a British-American Jewish art historian, curator and writer. Born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, she has called the UK – first London, now Kent – home for most of her adult life. Her short fiction and nature writing have appeared in Moxy, Stonecrop Review, STORGY and Canopy: an anthology of writing for the Urban Tree Festival (2021). Her short stories have been Highly Commended in the 2020 Bridport Prize and runner-up (Prose) in the 2021 Urban Tree Festival writing competition.

Taking Root

Rachel Sloan

Rachel Sloan grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, raised with an unquenchable curiosity about the natural world and with stories of the struggles of her Eastern European Jewish great-grandparents. As an adult she herself became an immigrant, by choice rather than necessity, building a life in Britain and trying to put down roots in a place that didn’t always reciprocate her love. When she came close to losing her right to remain in the UK after Brexit, Sloan found herself looking at and engaging with the landscape around her in unexpected ways – in London, the home she nearly lost; in Poland and Romania, the countries from which her family fled at the turn of the twentieth century; in Chicago, her childhood home; and in Kent, where the COVID-19 pandemic immersed her more deeply in nature than ever before. Taking Root is a book about memory and migration, language and belonging; it is about the importance of acknowledging and honouring our interconnectedness to each other and to the natural world.

Nicky Watkinson writes fiction, creative non-fiction and drama. Her work has been published by Polyester, 3 of Cups, Another Gaze, and more, and has been longlisted for the Life Writing Prize 2020. She is particularly interested in formal innovation and experimentation, and in work which explores queerness, aesthetics, disability, trauma and identity.

My Body is a Ritual / My Body is an Exorcism

Nicky Watkinson

My Body is a Ritual / My Body is an Exorcism is an essay collection which interrogates the idea of the ‘nature cure’ – asking not only whether nature can cure us, but what we want to be cured from, and why. Combining nature writing with memoir, the essays form a collection which reflects on the multifaceted experience of being embodied, and offers new ways of thinking about the body and its relationship to the natural world.

Marchelle Farrell


Moving between Trinidad and an idyllic English country garden, this lyrical and reflective book is about the search for home.