2023 shortlist

We are proud to announce the six titles on the shortlist for this year’s Nan Shepherd Prize for underrepresented voices in nature writing. From Thailand to Ukraine, from moonlit fells to the fringes of Glasgow, across prose, poetic fragments and essays these six shortlisted titles have each found a unique, compelling way to reflect the natural world. The winner will be announced on 15 November.

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

We were drawn to the concept and the writing of The Night Run, and we came away from the reading experience with a great sense of appreciation for the level of sophistication that it demonstrated: how it braided the space between fact and imagination in ways that were unusual and original.

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'.

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

With writing that pulls you in and captivates you, Lang showcases a brilliant writer and an exquisite piece of mourning for both the Earth and specific place. This is an urgent book with emotional depth and historical research that could go in many different directions.

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.

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

This exploration of growing up in 90s Kharkiv, Ukraine was moving, funny and full of personality. We recognised the potential for something really wonderful to be developed from this starting point.

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.

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

A complex and evocative book, with reflective passages that were incredibly winning. The external and internal dialogue was very well embodied and we could all clearly see the shape this would take as a finished book.

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.

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

With gorgeous imagery and poetic brushstrokes, the narrative in this piece slowly unfolds into an exploration of memory and mutism. The contrast and fragmentation of the floral descriptions with the implied violence impressed many of us, who found this to be the seed of a brilliant book in development.

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.

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.