As part of celebrations to mark its centenary in 2019, the Forestry Commission has launched a new writing competition to diversify nature writing.
From Wordsworth to J.K Rowling, England’s forests have inspired characters and chronicles that have shaped the nation’s literary history for centuries.
Now, for the first time, the Forestry Commission is opening applications for two national writer-in-residence opportunities, set to begin in the spring.
The Commission is particularly interested in hearing from people from underrepresented groups, young writers and emerging writers living in urban locations to offer their perceptions of nature in England. It is also looking to attract people using a diverse range of literary forms, including scriptwriters.
Applications will be judged by an expert panel including Sharmaine Lovegrove, the publisher of Dialogue Books, the UK’s only inclusive imprint, and Jay Armstrong, editor of Elementum, a journal of nature writing and visual arts.
During the residency, the selected writers will embark on a behind-the-scenes tour of the nation’s forests, spending time the people who work there, and the wildlife that calls them home. To apply, writers are asked to submit a video or written pitch (maximum 500 words) outlining their vision.
Sharmaine Lovegrove, publisher at Dialogue Books, an imprint of Little Brown Books, said,
“I am delighted to be involved in the centenary celebrations of the Forestry Commission and very much looking forward to reading diverse, multi-cultural and intergenerational perspectives of our forest landscapes.”
“As a Londoner, I’m not often perceived as someone who embraces nature all the time, but London is the greenest city in Europe! I’m always visiting our parks, urban gardens and forest trails, and reading nature writing from across the globe. Everyone can find inspiration in the natural world, wherever they are.”
Jay Armstrong, editor at Elementum, said,
“When a storyteller enters a forest, some kind of alchemy happens. I can’t think of a tale set in such a place – from Little Red Riding Hood to Macbeth, or the legend of Robin Hood to the writings of Tolkien – that didn’t grip me or leave me changed.
“These residencies offer truly unique opportunities to spend time in these wise places and return with old tales revisited, different stories to tell and new ways of telling them.”
Over several months, the writers will enjoy unique access to some of England’s most loved and spectacular landscapes. The work they produce will be a conduit for engagement, inspiring people to connect with the trees and forests, the experiences they offer and wildlife that relies on woodlands to survive.
The two positions are paid and the writers will receive mentoring support and guidance to shape their work. The work created will be published at the end of 2019, to coincide with the tree planting season.
To find out more and apply, visit: www.forestryengland.uk/writers
PK Khaira-Creswell, Director of the Forestry Commission Centenary, said,
“The nation’s forests have long been a well of creativity, inspiring work that has moved generations. To celebrate 100 years of forestry, we’re giving emerging and mid-career writers a chance to put their own stamp on what trees and woods mean to them, and share those sentiments with the wider world.”
The Forestry Commission is celebrating its centenary year with a cultural programme that reflects on its history, while looking forward to the next 100 years. The programme includes artistic works, wildlife surveys, activities for schoolchildren and projects designed to boost health and wellbeing. The centenary year is an opportunity to tell the stories of the nation’s forests and inspire people to connect with the trees and forests on their doorstep