Nan Shepherd.

About the Prize

The Nan Shepherd Prize is a competition to find the next voice in nature writing. It aims not only to celebrate nature writing but provide an inclusive platform for new and emerging nature writers from underrepresented backgrounds.

The prize runs every two years and submissions are now open for 2023 until 25 August. The winner of the prize receives a book deal with Canongate – including editorial mentoring and an advance of £10,000.

2019 Prize

The prize was launched in 2019 and found a brilliant inaugural winner in Nina Mingya Powles whose submission Small Bodies of Water the judges praised for its lyrical and poetic writing. Small Bodies of Water went on to be published in hardback in 2021 and paperback in 2022, and received widespread acclaim.

“A shimmering, poetic masterpiece” Time Out

“A distinctive and elegant blend of memoir, art criticism and nature writing” New Statesman

“Nature writing at its living, breathing best” Scotsman

2021 Prize

In 2021 the second prize was awarded to Marchelle Farrell for Uprooting which publishes in August 2023.

It has already received support from writers including Kerri ní Dochartaigh (“A cracking, glistening, important book that will change how we speak of gardens, land and identity in myriad ways”) and Katherine May (“A beautiful memoir that shows how gardens can be a place to plant our most troubled feelings, to put down roots and to find peace”).

Nina Mingya Powles (left), 2019 winner, and Marchelle Farrell, 2021 winner.
Nina Mingya Powles (left), 2019 winner, and Marchelle Farrell, 2021 winner.

About Nan

The prize is named in honour of the great nature writer, novelist and poet Nan Shepherd whose works include The Living Mountain, about her journeys into the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland.

The Living Mountain took three decades to first find a publisher, but today the book is recognised as a masterpiece and Nan is inspiring a new generation of writers. We felt that a prize named after her was a fitting way to honour her legacy.

Anna (Nan) Shepherd was born in 1893 and died in 1981. Closely attached to Aberdeen and her native Deeside, she graduated from her home university in 1915 and for the next forty-one years worked as a lecturer in English. An enthusiastic gardener and hill-walker, she made many visits to the Cairngorms with students and friends. She also travelled further afield – to Norway, France, Italy, Greece and South Africa – but always returned to the house where she was raised and where she lived almost all of her adult life, in the village of West Cults, three miles from Aberdeen on North Deeside. To honour her legacy, in 2016, Nan Shepherd’s face was added to the Royal Bank of Scotland five-pound note.