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The search is on to find the UK’s next young nature writer, supported by leading wildlife authors, champions and businesses

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The search is on to find the UK’s next young nature writer, in a competition launched by wildlife author Lucy McRobert, in conjunction with nature authors, journalists, businesses and charities. In an effort to support the UK’s parents and children as they navigate their way through the Coronavirus pandemic, homeschooling and social isolation, the Nature on your Doorstep competition was set up to encourage young people to connect with wildlife near their homes, whilst also supporting creativity and English writing skills. Designed to go beyond a scientific approach to wildlife, the diverse judging panel are looking for short stories (up to 500 words) that demonstrate incredible imagination, personal connections with and a curiosity towards nature on your doorstep.

Lucy McRobert author of 365 Days Wild (William Collins, 2019) and wildlife columnist said: “It's undeniable - life has changed. As we all re-evaluate the things that really matter to us, many people are treasuring the natural world and wild experiences more than ever. What's more, those experiences are now taking place much closer to home; we are all realising the true importance of nature on our doorsteps. This is true for children as much as adults. Deprived of school, friendships, freedom and playtime, I believe it is so important to encourage kids to connect with the nature right outside their homes. Animals, trees, plants, rivers, wind, sunshine have all taken on a greater meaning in our lives. Personally, I wanted to do something positive and a nature writing competition seemed perfect. We're helping their parents, too, by giving their kids a focus, a challenge and stretching their imaginations - and hopefully benefiting their English lessons.”

© Rob Lambert
© Rob Lambert

Thoughtful descriptions, exciting adventure, mindfulness, poetic devices, persuasive language, personal journeys and interesting characters are all encouraged! The only condition is that the story must be inspired by local nature: in your garden, from a balcony, from a window, up in the sky or on your street. It could be wildlife or trees or plants or flowers, or the aliveness of rivers or the rushing of wind. All entries are welcome from across the UK, including from people who don’t have English as a first language or those who may struggle with writing, for example who have Dyslexia.

The competition has received support from several wildlife champions. McRobert is joined by nature writers and conservationists Jini Reddy, Stephen Moss, Anita Sethi, Hugh Warwick, Paul McGuiness, Mya-Rose Craig, Tiffany Francis-Baker and Judy Ling Wong MBE. They also received an endorsement from wildlife presenters Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin on their online show #WildMorningswithChris.

As lockdown has been extended, so has the competition for the deadline, which will now run until the 11:59 on Sunday 10th May 2020. There are three categories (ages 4-6; 7-12; 13-17), each with an array of prizes on offer from several partners. The winners from all three categories will have their stories printed in a future issue of BBC Wildlife magazine. Optical company Opticron have donated over £900 worth of optics, including a pair of Savanna 8x23 for each winner and a whole class’ worth of binoculars for the 7-12 category. The RSPB are offering an all-expenses-paid experience day at their headquarters. There are also a subscription to BBC Wildlife, a £25 NHBS voucher and several hampers from BEAR Nibbles up for grabs, alongside a number of books.

McRobert continues: “I'm so grateful for the support I've received from some brilliant and inspiring judges who represent a range of backgrounds, styles and who each bring something different to the table. We've tried to make this competition as inclusive as possible and to have the support of sponsors, like BBC Wildlife and Opticron, is incredible. We recognise that not everyone has the luxury of beautiful countryside or a thriving garden right now, which is why we’re celebrating the nature that we can experience right outside our windows. We can't wait to read the entries!"

Full terms and conditions, including full details of how to get involved, are available at: 365dayswild.com/could-you-be-the-next-top-nature-writer/

Paul McGuinness, judge and Editor of BBC Wildlife said: “We’re thrilled that BBC Wildlife is able to support this fabulous initiative, I’m a great believer in the power of stories to inspire us, to offer an escape, and to lift us when we need it most. And as a parent during this tough time, I know just how important it is for our children to stay connected to nature. We’re really excited that the winning entries will appear in BBC Wildlife – we’ll be the first to publish the best young nature writers the country has to offer. What could be better?”

Jini Reddy, judge and author of Wanderland (Bloomsbury, 2020) said: “I’d love to see creativity, a fresh perspective, and imagination. It’d make me happy to read entries by children and teens who wouldn’t ordinarily feel such a competition is for them. I’m keen to read about their experience of (or thoughts on) the nature on their doorstep – however they choose to interpret that – in a short story.”

Pete Gamby, from Opticron said: “Opticron is proud to support the Nature on your Doorstep competition as part of its ongoing promotion of the fantastic benefits of wildlife engagement for young people. The next several generations will be those that conserve our wildlife and it is essential to get them involved in seeing, hearing and indeed writing about nature as much and as quickly as possible.”

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