2023 longlist

From an incredibly strong year of submissions, we are delighted to announce the 17 longlisted titles for the 2023 Nan Shepherd Prize. Each offers a unique perspective on our relationship with the natural world – with writing encompassing land rights, rewilding, conservation, mental health, neurodivergence, wellbeing, art, displacement, exile and immigration.

Thank you to everyone who submitted and made it so hard to narrow the list. If you were not longlisted, you might find this resource on next steps useful.

Louis Bailey is a writer, researcher, print-maker and night runner based in the North West. His work explores aspects of endurance and resistance in the face of stigma, adversity and trauma, and has been published in a range of peer-review journals, and by Routledge and Taylor & Francis.

The Night Run

Louis Bailey

The Night Run draws on the unique landscape of the Dark Peak – a foreboding, lunar-like expanse that is home. Steeped in the mythologies and legends of the moors, the resulting book will reposition the landscape not as bucolic and ‘pure’ but as inherently and unashamedly awkward and queer. It will take as its starting point Louis’ own shape shifting – of gender, class, and through illness – to embrace darkness, the unknowable, and the practice of ‘failure.’ Positioning the trans body within and of the natural world – embedded in ancient soil – here becomes an act of defiance against contemporary anti-trans accusations of ‘unnaturalness'.

Caroline Beck has worked as a gardener, a nurse, a radio feature-maker, a cut-flower grower, a book-festival chair and a horticultural journalist. A random enough CV set down on paper, but the thing that links her life’s work is the need for close observation and patient listening to understand what’s really going on. She’s lived in Weardale, a remote dale in the North Pennines, for nearly 25 years, land that's been quarried, blasted, mined, disfigured and exploited for centuries. But in its slow regeneration Caroline has seen that such overlooked landscapes could hold valuable clues to how we adapt to climate change and provide a powerful antidote to the narrative of species loss and ecological decline.

This Is Not A Wasteland

Caroline Beck

The northern Pennines were W.H. Auden’s favourite place in the world, a queer, mythical landscape potted with quarries, mines, moorland and limestone. It’s a landscape and a people that have seen huge upheavals in the last 100 years since Auden walked it, full of contradictions and mythology. This Is Not a Wasteland explores this land through the lens of Auden’s writing, capturing its beauty and flaws, and reflects on how a new generation seek to take root and preserve a northern way of life.

Meg Bertera-Berwick is a researcher, gardener, and writer of narrative non-fiction living in Glasgow with her partner and their dog. Her work has appeared in Vittles and Potluck Zine, and her newsletter, Pod by Pod, explores political intersections of gardening, land injustice, and living with neurodivergence/ disability in the city. She received her PhD in post-colonial criminology from the University of Glasgow in 2019. Originally from Massachusetts, she has lived in Scotland since 2012.

Lang: The City Many Times Before and After

Meg Bertera-Berwick

In ten interconnected essays, Lang charts Meg Bertera-Berwick’s experiences moving through the urbane wild of Glasgow as an unknowingly autistic person, tracing the lost history and archaeology surrounding Langside’s sandstone tenements. It’s a fascinating exploration of a past just out of reach, and a heartfelt plea to engage with caring for the land around us in the face of social and systemic pressures.

Fiona Brewis is a hearing-impaired 25-year-old woman from Edinburgh currently working as a Ranger. She is keen to share her experiences of working as a young disabled woman in a manual-labour based role in the nature conservation industry. She grew up in a house in the woods in Roslin Glen, an environment which instilled in her a desire to work outdoors in a career dedicated to protecting natural spaces. She has worked for three years in a range of nature-based organisations, where she learned of many laws which inhibit the restoration of nature or which encourage unhelpful practices in the industry. She hopes to bring these constraints to light so that legislators can be educated on these issues and hopes that her writing brings a new perspective to the nature writing genre.

Tube Forest

Fiona Brewis

Fiona worked for two years at the largest tree-planting charity in the UK, which aims to restore 30,000 acres of native broadleaf woodland. She arrived at the charity with naive ideas about what it means to ‘restore nature’, but she is forced to reckon with the moral and pragmatic complexities of putting theory into practice, the bureaucracy, hypocrisy and lack of investment into practical issues. Fiona asks the question: is working in the UK nature conservation sector the best way to restore nature? Written with all the sense of the ridiculous needed to cope with pressure to plant 300 trees per day while fighting against landowners, PPE made only for men and legislation that requires the use of pesticides on newly planted ‘wild’ trees, Fiona outlines the need to update land-related laws to tackle the biodiversity crises.

Dan Connaghan grew up in the southern USA and moved to Ireland as a teen. He studied ecology and conservation biology and currently works on issues related to environment, climate and gender for a UN Agency focused on rural poverty and food security. His past roles include working on peatland conservation, searching for populations of Red Throated Diver as a Praeger Grant for Natural History recipient, ecological consultancy and working as a postman. He is an avid banjoist, vegetable fermenter, and freelance ecology writer in his own time. He writes fiction and non-fiction, exploring ideas of value, extinction and neurodivergent experiences of nature. His past essays have been published in Unapologetic and Wings magazines.

Earth Diving

Daniel Connaghan

A love letter to the Irish landscape and a one-man search for the elusive Red Throated Diver – an ancient bird that features in creation myths across the world and a species whose population is in decline. Earth Diving confronts the challenges and shortcomings of conservation, as well as the author’s own relationship to it and their family. A deeply thoughtful book, it wrestles with big questions about what nature is, how we can and should relate to it, and how that relationship must change. With clarity and awe for the natural world, this book offers an insight to the frontline of conservation efforts.

Linda France was born in Wallsend, Newcastle upon Tyne, and now lives near Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland. She is the author of ten poetry collections including: The Gentleness of the Very Tall, a Poetry Book Society recommendation and longlisted for the Los Angeles Times Book Award; Reading the Flowers, longlisted for the inaugural Laurel Prize and The Knucklebone Floor, winner of the 2022 Laurel Prize. Linda was named the inaugural Environmental Poet of the Year 2022–23 in the Michael Marks Awards for her portfolio of poems Letters to Katłįà. Linda’s poem ‘Bernard and Cerinthe’ won the Poetry Society’s 2013 National Poetry Competition. Her recent poetry collections are included in the Writers Rebel Library. Previous experiments with writing prose have seen the light of day as 'Genealogy for Beginners' in Newcastle Stories and 'The Lost Garden' in North Country. She is a recipient of a 2020 Society of Authors Cholmondley Award and was Journal Culture Awards Writer of the Year 2021. She has a Creative Practice PhD in Women, Landscape and Ecology.

A History of Abandonment

Linda France

A History of Abandonment charts Linda’s discovery of an abandoned wet woodland where rewilding takes place, making it a hub for birches, heather, gorse, brambles and much more. Written in an arresting second-person style, this hybrid book blends poetry, field notes and memoir to interrogate the meaning of ‘abandonment’. Moreover, it invites us to consider how abandonment can enable us to be free and wild.

Viktoriia Grivina is a writer and cultural researcher from Kharkiv, Ukraine. She writes personalised essays and short stories. At the moment she is working on Khastoria: Kharkiv Legends, a series of short scripts and stories that make use of the genres of sci-fi, magical realism and absurdist comedy to reflect on her home city of Kharkiv and the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. Her current PhD study at St Andrews University is dedicated to the mythological and aesthetic transformations of cities in times of war.

Potatoes and Other Hobbies

Viktoriia Grivina

Potatoes and Other Hobbies is a distinctly original set of stories about growing up and running wild in the recently independent Ukraine of the 90s. Starting in Kharkiv, it expands outwards to the sunny grasslands of the Wild Field and the Black Sea; it takes place in family allotments and state-owned apple gardens, overgrown construction sites and during city-wide blackouts; it is an ode to gardening, traveling and the idiosyncrasies of family life, all set against a bittersweet nostalgia for a landscape left behind.

Stephanie Hirtenstein is a writer, sea swimmer and mother in deep West Cornwall. Her writing practice entails in-the-moment observations, rooted in place. Her core interest is in storied human-driven extinction, or near extinction, and the reimagining of a rewilded landscape. A Creative Writing PhD student at the University of Exeter, her critical research explores the intersection between neurodiversity and biodiversity. Her creative work is a story about an undiagnosed autistic girl struggling with a world of confusing demands and expectations and an escaped wolf. Her story ‘The Seagull’ was published in a Riptide special edition book. ‘The Great Mr Lemon’s Chough’ is due to be published by Mor Media. Her non-fiction has been published in Dialect, The Great Margin and The Listener.


Stephanie Hirtenstein

A blend of research, memoir, folklore and history, Fragmented proposes the need to conserve Cornish woodlands. Stephanie recounts the walks she takes in these woodlands with her son Bear. Both mother and son are neurodiverse, and in these woodlands Bear is able to share his thoughts. As they sojourn in the woods, they explore the unique history of the Cornish landscape and the unique tales specific to each woodland. A sanctuary for them, this book considers what is at stake for those who are neurodivergent when a habitat is at threat.

Annie Lord is an artist and writer based in Edinburgh. She studied sculpture at The Slade before developing her work to encompass writing, storytelling and community-based practice. Annie’s art explores how we interact with the physical world – transforming plants, animals and minerals into objects of artistic, scientific and domestic value. Her site-specific storytelling pieces have been performed at Edinburgh Science Festival, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Summerhall, Deveron Projects and Hidden Door. In 2020 she was commissioned by Art Walk Porty to create The Neighbouring Orchard, an ongoing artwork creating a community of 160 apple trees across Edinburgh’s coastal suburbs. A short book about the artwork was published by Art Walk Press in Autumn 2022 and a further 40 trees will be planted in winter 2023. In 2022 she was shortlisted for the Quiet Man Dave Flash Non-Fiction award. Annie completed her Masters in Creative Non-Fiction at Manchester Writing School in 2023.

Morphoses: On Nature’s Processes and Processed Nature

Annie Lord

This is a book about three substances – carbon, calcium and collagen. All are substances that are intrinsic to the human body, all are substances we extract from the natural world, and all are used in the production of art. In this fascinating book, Annie Lord explores them with an artist’s eye and curiosity. From carbonising wood to contemplating humanity’s earliest mark-making, she reveals the great wealth that these materials have to say about the interconnectedness of the human, vegetable and animal worlds.

Toni Lötter is a mother, poet, organic grower and forest school leader from East London. Descended from Bethnal Green silk weavers and dyers, she inherited her bone-deep need to tend the land and care for our wild kin from her pigeon-fancier dad. As a natural dyer, she works with the wild plants (weeds) she meets growing out of pavement cracks on the same streets her family has walked for generations, colouring cloth with their hues to turn into a quilted map to document lives overlooked. She writes narrative non-fiction rooted in how nature in urban landscapes can be a source of inspiration and solace for working-class people. And how queer ecologies can be the mirror for our own marginalisation, and joy. Her poetry has been published by Black Bough Poetry and The Landworkers Alliance. (If she's not home when you call, you'll probably find her rescuing tired bees from kerbsides.)

The Dye Path

Toni Lötter

The Dye Path is a quilted memoir of a place, a craft and a rediscovery of self. It follows a mother and her three young children as they move back to the neighbourhood in East London that her family have lived in for generations. Often struggling for cash and childcare as a single parent, while coming to terms with her newfound queer identity and neurodivergence, she finds community and comfort in natural dyes – foraging, gardening, mixing and researching them. The use of overlooked herbs and scraps opens her eyes to the possibilities in her surroundings, the understated beauty in the everyday and the wisdom of previous generations.

Zoe Grace Marquedant (she/her/hers) is a writer. She received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College and her MFA from Columbia University. Zoe has participated in artist residencies at Farm Studio and Dogo Residenz für Neue Kunst. She was also a Research Ecologies & Archival Development fellow at the School of the Commons. Her work has been featured in the Cool Rock Repository, Coffin Bell, Olney Magazine, The Schuylkill Valley Journal, as well as in other publications. Currently, Zoe is a contributor and columnist for Talk Vomit.

Making A Living

Zoe Grace Marquedant

Making a Living asks questions of what wild may mean in today’s world and over time. The essays in these books ponder questions of domestication, cultivation, bioethics, anthropomorphism, and what it means to be animal versus human. Following the author in her travels across continents and through a series of jobs, mostly with horses, it takes in the birth of thoroughbreds, a rare disease targeting feral horses, two-headed genetic mutations, the disappearance of monsters, bioengineered lambs and more. In doing so, it considers what the nature of wildness really is, and what we can learn from it.

Kirsteen McNish is a writer whose creative work intersects with people, place, landscape, and unusual settings. Her writing encompasses caring and lesser heard voices through the prism of the natural world. She writes a regular column for online arts magazine Caught By The River, amongst other publications.


Kirsteen McNish

Diviner is a love song to Kirsteen McNish’s daughter, born with Down’s Syndrome, who transformed Kirsteen’s life and brought her many unexpected gifts. Learning to notice the world at a different pace, she began to consider what care means: both for her daughter and for the natural world at risk. Moving away from London to the place where her partner was raised in Dartmoor, her family begins to create itself anew, focusing on re-settlement and return, deep quiet connections with place and how isolation from the mainstream or being ‘apart’ often creates unique illuminations and insights and connections with the earth.

JLM Morton is a writer and poet based in Gloucestershire, where she grew up. Her work explores rural identity and belonging, ancestry, place and practices of care, repair and solidarity across human and other-than-human worlds. Winner of the Laurie Lee, Geoffrey Dearmer and International Dylan Thomas Day prizes, her work is published in a range of journals including in The Poetry Review, The Rialto, The Sunday Telegraph and most recently in the multidisciplinary ethnography Living with Water (Manchester University Press, 2023). Juliette’s latest collaboration is Glos Mythos (Dialect Press, 2023) with the satirist Emma Kernahan and cartoonist Bill Jones, a pamphlet exploring their shared fascination with the ways ideas about archetypes, folklore and myth gain popularity during times of adversity. She loves the risks and rewards of working across disciplines and with collaborators from different artforms. Her first poetry collection Red Handed is forthcoming with Broken Sleep Books (2024).

Source Material

JLM Morton

In Source Material, JLM Morton swim-walks and trespasses the length of the River Churn, from its source to its confluence with the River Thames. The route gives abundant opportunity to consider questions of access and ownership, to history both local and global – from ancient rites to rave culture – to nature and its degradation, and to the feeling of deep connection to a place. A feeling not of possessing the river, but of belonging to it.

Isabel Palmer was born into a family of WW2 Veterans to a mother who was widowed in the battle for Normandy. Her early life was spent in Wales and on the banks of the river Wye in Herefordshire. A lifelong wild swimmer, when she discovered that her son was to deploy to Afghanistan, leading foot patrols and detecting Improvised Explosive Devices, she entered the European Triathlon Championships, winning silver medal. Caught between two generations of war veterans, she has been a psychiatric nursing auxiliary in a military hospital, a teacher and a workshop facilitator for Help for Heroes veterans and Chelsea Pensioners. She became Poet in Residence at the National Army Museum in 2018 on winning the inaugural National Army Poetry Competition and works with school groups and members of the public around Remembrance Sunday each year. She has published two poetry pamphlets and one full collection of poetry.

Wild Swimming

Isabel Palmer

Every river, lake and sea Isabel Palmer has ever swum in has also been the River Wye. That’s the river where generations of her family have been tethered. Where her father and brothers returned after the Second World War. The river her son left when he, too, joined the military. This book is both the history of a family shaped and scarred by war, and a deeply personal story of being drawn to water – and the distraction, reassurance and life to be found there.

Ruth L. Satsi is a teacher, writer, mother and amateur radical botanist born in rural Thailand, based in Yorkshire/Chiangmai, Thailand, currently working in Chengdu, China, with the University of Leeds. Her writing explores how plants have profoundly shaped human experience both personally and culturally and how the honouring of plants’ liveliness and animation is part of the Thai tradition.

She is the author of a poetry collection, The Peacock Room, which was shortlisted for the Jerwood Aldeborough First Collection Prize and Village of Red Rice: Autofiction – a love song to rural Thailand and to the more-than-human world (unpublished).

threading rak flowers

Ruth L. Satsi

Moving between Thailand and Britain, threading rak flowers is an intimate conversation with plants and flowers, and an exploration of how one event can change a life. In six sections mirroring the life cycle of the flower, this book pieces together Ruth L. Satsi’s memories, reflecting on the gun attack which caused her family to relocate to the UK, and the period of mutism which followed, where her strongest bond was to the animate plant world around her.

Nic Wilson is a writer, editor and Guardian country diarist. She works for BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine and has written for national magazines, anthologies and websites including The English Garden, The John Clare Journal, The Clearing, the RSPB website and the acclaimed anthology Women on Nature (2021). She holds an MA in English Literature and a Diploma in Creative Non-Fiction. Her most recent essay is due to be published in October in Moving Mountains, described as a ‘first-of-its-kind’ anthology of nature writing by disabled and chronically ill writers.

Land Beneath the Waves

Nic Wilson

When hit with a diagnosis of coeliac disease, Nic is reminded of how her mother also suffered from chronic illness and was never believed. Watching her mother be constantly misdiagnosed and dismissed by medical professionals caused Nic to repress her own pain, isolating her further from her body. Following her diagnosis, she takes solace in the natural world by exploring local landscapes, wildlife and working with conservation groups. What evolves is a deeply poignant account of the history of natural landscapes and an understanding of her own family history, her ancestral history.

Alycia Pirmohamed

A Beautiful and Vital Place

An urgent, captivating collection of essays about homelands, identity, and the resonances between our bodies and the landscapes we inhabit.