If you’re looking for something to do while self isolating, The Petersfield Bookshop in Hampshire has launched a writing competition to mark the 300th anniversary of the birth of British naturalist Gilbert White.
This year sees the 300th anniversary of the birth of Gilbert White, one of the greatest British naturalists, often credited with being the first ecologist. His letters to interested and informed friends detailing his observations of the natural world were published as The Natural History of Selborne in 1789. They haven’t been out of print in all the time since.
The Petersfield Bookshop, which I was recently lucky enough to visit before the world went more than a little crazy, prompted by support for the shop earlier in the year from writer and publisher Matt Wingett and comics writer and author Neil Gaiman, is just down the road from Selborne – and always has a large stock of the many editions of White’s book.
“We wanted to mark the anniversary and so we are inviting you to take part in a writing competition by following in Gilbert’s literary footsteps,” writes bookshop owner John Westwood.
“Write a letter to an informed and interested friend detailing an encounter with or an observation of the natural world. It should be no longer than 500 words long and may come at the brief from any angle.
“We are asking for non-fiction, but that doesn’t mean your writing shouldn’t be creative.”
The full rules for entering the competition are here on the bookshop’s web site.
Two guest judges will help choose the winners.
Tiffany Francis-Baker is an illustrator, blogger, columnist, naturalist, nature-writer, author of books on foraging, on British goats and most recently, on our relationship with the dark and the night. She has been a Forestry Commission Writer in Residence.
Emma Mitchell is a naturalist, nature-writer, crafter, photographer and illustrator, whose writing centres around the theme of how our relationship with the natural world can improve our mental health. Emma runs regular sold-out workshops in which participants cast small items from nature in silver, a technique she has demonstrated on the BBC program Countryfile.
A winner and two runners-up will be chosen. The winner will receive a valuable edition of The Natural History of Selborne and all three winners will have their letters illustrated by Tiffany Francis-Baker, and will receive the originals of those illustrations as part of their prize.
The winners and selected other entries will be published in a small booklet and will also be used to create an evening of readings and other material to be performed in the shop on the evening of Thursday 30th July 2020.
• Entries to the competition must be received on or before 30th June 2020; entries received after midnight that day will not be accepted. Winners will be announced on Gilbert White’s birthday, 18th July, on Twitter and on the Petersfield Bookshop website. Winners will be notified beforehand.
The Petersfield Bookshop is at 16A Chapel Street, Petersfield, Hampshire, GU32 3DS | Tel: 01730 263438 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Web: www.petersfieldbookshop.com
• GW300 is a partnership of organisations that have come together in the 300th anniversary of Gilbert White’s birth with the aim of widening appreciation of his life and work and to highlight his relevance to the modern world in a time of rapid and potentially very damaging environmental change. Find out more about Gilbert White 300 at www.gw300.gilbertwhiteshouse.org.uk
• The Natural History of Selborne contains a fairly complete transcription of forty years of the personal journals of Gilbert White. If you enjoy them, be sure to read his book, The Natural History of Selborne