Nature Narratives A Short Editions writing contest inspired by the physical world that surrounds us all. Presented By: The Penn State Brandywine Sustainovation Team, Penn State University Libraries, and Tyler Arboretum

“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you. You must travel it by yourself. It is not far. It is within reach. Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know. Perhaps it is everywhere - on water and land.” ― Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Penn State University Libraries, Penn State Brandywine Sustainovation Team, and Tyler Arboretum are pleased to announce the winners of the 2019 Nature Narratives Writing Contest.

Please read on to learn about our winners and our celebrations of their work in 2020. To read all the submissions to this contest as well as other contests, please visit the Penn State University Libraries Short Stories Website. You may also visit the Vairo Library at Penn State Brandywine to print stories on the Short Editions Dispenser.

Our Winners

Under 18 Division

Winner : The Green by Althea Hutchinson

Runner Up : Wildfire! by Clara Berkey

Adult Division

Winner : Where do insects sleep? by Bev Norton

Runner Up : The Bluebird by Amanda Clark

People's Choice

Winner: Steel Heart by Gabi Fernandes

Honorable Mentions

The Medical Editor Classifies Her Yard by Roxanne Halpine Ward

Winter in the Garden by Mary Fran McLaughlin

Bow Watch by Rebecca Silvey

Letter to Myself (stopping climate change before it gets really bad) by Marge Reynolds

Nature Narratives Reception

On January 22nd, 2020 from 4:30 to 6:30 PM, please join us at Vairo Library for the Award Ceremony and Author Celebration and reception. All of our authors and community members are welcome to join us for this celebration. We hope you will join us, hear and read our submissions, and be part of our literary community. At the celebration, learn more about what's next for both Penn State Brandywine and Tyler Arboretum. All of the submissions will be available to print from Vairo Library's Short Editions Dispenser (by pressing the 1 min button) through the end of January 2020. Winning stories will be highlighted by Tyler Arboretum later in 2020.

The Contest

Humans are forever curious about and inspired by their natural surroundings. This autumn, Penn State University and Tyler Arboretum invite you to share your own reflection in our Nature Narratives Writing Contest. Submit your short story or poem to have the chance to be published in the Short Edition Short Story Dispenser on the Penn State Brandywine campus. This contest is open to all members of our community, and we want to especially encourage new and emerging writers to express their thoughts on our environment.

There are many reasons to celebrate the natural world. In 2019, we continue to celebrate Tyler Arboretum’s 75th year as a public garden. The larger community is gearing up for several anniversaries in 2020, including the 165th anniversary of the publication of Walden, the 150th year for the journal Nature, what would have been the 200th birthday of Walt Whitman, and the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020. And in this fast-paced world when we are zipping from one place to another, eyes glued to our digital devices, we should take a moment to be inspired by the world around us – how we live within and impact nature, as much as nature impacts us.

This contest is open to all Penn State Brandywine students, staff, faculty, and alumni, as well as staff and members of Tyler Arboretum, and visitors to Tyler. Community members under the age of 18 are also invited to submit to the contest. If you are a friend of Penn State or Tyler Arboretum, then we welcome your submission!

The Writing Challenge

The Nature Narratives Writing Contest is open to all genres of writing – poetry, historical narrative, adventure, etc. Think about your own experiences in the outdoors and the connections between society and our planet. Be inspired and create stories of what you see and what the possibilities could be in the present and in the future.

The pieces must be original writing and not have been previously published elsewhere. Submissions can be either fiction or non-fiction. Entries will be placed into the following categories based upon character length (including spaces) for the Short Edition dispenser:

  • 1-minute reads equal 0 to 2,600 characters
  • 3-minute reads equal 2,601 to 4800 characters
  • 5-minute reads equal 4,801 to 8,500 characters

Only one entry per person.

“The winds, the sea, and the moving tides are what they are. If there is wonder and beauty and majesty in them, science will discover these qualities... If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.” ― Rachel Carson, acceptance speech for the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 1952

Contest Timeline

  • September 19, 2019 -- The writing contest officially opens and begins accepting submissions.
  • October 12, 2019 -- The Short Edition dispenser is at Tyler Arboretum during the Saturday of Pumpkin Days weekend (look for the Penn State Brandywine Sustainability Research Station).
  • November 18, 2019 -- Submission deadline for contest at 5PM.
  • December 5, 2019 -- Get stories online and start the people’s choice vote
  • Early January 2020 -- People's choice voting closed and Evening awards celebration at Penn State Brandywine and/or Tyler (winners will be contacted prior to this event), Winners may also be incorporated into Tyler’s StoryWalk.


Submissions will be judged by a committee composed of members of the Penn State Brandywine and Tyler Arboretum communities. Pending editorial review, all submitted stories will be entered into the Short Edition database for distribution through the Penn State Brandywine Short Story dispenser in January 2020. Winners will be a part of the Tyler Arboretum StoryWalk displays during 2020.

For information on our previous collaboration for Tyler Arboretum’s anniversary, see Tyler’s 75 Great Nature Reads (https://sites.psu.edu/tylercreative/greatnaturereads/). Thanks to the funding and support of the Pepsi Challenge Mini-Grants to Expand the Sustainable Communities Collaborative at Penn State, Penn State Brandywine’s Sustainovation Team has deepened a partnership with Tyler Arboretum. Through this Mini-Grant we have been able to develop multiple projects, which aim to build upon these aforementioned partnerships within our local community to develop sustainability-themed engaged scholarship activities to benefit our students scholastically and our community overall.


If you have any questions about the contest, please contact Teresa Slobuski, Head Librarian at Penn State Brandywine's Vairo Library (sut477@psu.edu) or Dr. Laura Guertin, Professor of Earth Science at Penn State Brandywine and Tyler Board of Trustees member (guertin@psu.edu).


Created with an image by Tim Swaan - "untitled image"