About Place

Student Information

To see and know a place is a contemplative act.  It means emptying our minds and letting what is there, in all its multiplicity and endless variety, come in. —Gretel Ehrlich

This contest invites you to explore the genre of nature writing. This genre requires that writers reflect on their experience of a place of deep personal significance to them, and to shape those reflections into an essay to share with others who are also interested in the natural world and writing. Essays and poems should demonstrate close, first-hand observation of details of place rendered in clear and vivid prose that conveys to the reader a striking insight about a place that you know well. Students should seek a clear connection with the ideas expressed by one of more writers included in the bibliography.


Some suggested focuses

  • Nature and Imagination
  • Nature in western New York (The Great Lakes, Niagara Gorge, Reinstein Woods, Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, for example, or any other place where nature can be experienced.)
  • An encounter with/within your "place" in nature
  • At play in nature (star gazing, bird watching, hiking, canoeing, dog sledding, white-water rafting...)

The above are merely some suggestions; they are not meant to be an exhaustive list of possible topics. In fact, we hope to read essays and poems that have used the general topic of About Place as a springboard to develop unique and intriguing ideas. Be creative in developing your particular focus on this general topic. Organize your writing carefully and fully develop the significant images, examples and ideas, while drawing from other writers in the nature writing genre. Write several drafts and make substantive revisions. Consult with experienced writers for useful suggestions for revision. As reading complements writing, remember you can look for inspiration in the ideas of one of the writers from the bibliography. You may also want to read the essays that were selected for publication in previous issues of About Place. An outstanding discussion of landscape and nature writing can be found in “Literature of Place,” an essay written by Barry Lopez, whose Arctic Dreams won a National Book Award in 1986. A powerful poetic meditation on the natural world by Wendell Berry, "The Peace of Wild Things," is available at The Poetry Foundation.

Completed essays and poems must be submitted to NCCC's Environmental Task Force no later than:
January 27, 2017