Announcing the Sassafras Award for Excellence in Environmental Writing

The Sassafras Award for Excellence in Environmental Writing is a newly-established award of $3,000 that extends the Ozark Society Foundation’s history of publishing books that educate the public on conservation issues. Goals of the competition include:

  • To recognize high-quality literary work with environmental, conservation, and/or nature-related themes
  • To encourage innovative writing and new perspectives of nature and conservation
  • To empower new voices and expressions of contemporary experiences with the natural world we inhabit

The winner of the Sassafras Award will receive a $3,000 prize.

The competition is open to literary work whose regional focus relates to areas in Arkansas, Missouri, and Louisiana where the Ozark Society operates. Submissions are encouraged from any author in any location whose writing reflects this regional link. Eligible genres for consideration include fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, dramatic writing, graphic novels, illustrated books, children’s books, young adult fiction, edited compilations, published columns, or blogs. Scientific writing is not eligible for consideration.

The submission period will be April 1, 2021 through July 31, 2021. The winner of the Sassafras Award will be announced in January 2022.

Award Details

The Sassafras Award will include a $3,000 prize for a published book or unpublished manuscript. The Ozark Society Foundation will invite the author to a public presentation. If the winning submission is an unpublished manuscript, it will be considered for OSF publishing. The Sassafras Award is named for the logo for both the Ozark Society Foundation and the Ozark Society. The three-lobed sassafras leaf represents the organization’s mission of education, conservation, and recreation.

Regional Focus:

Submitted work must be aligned with the Ozark Society Foundation’s mission and relate to the areas in Arkansas, Missouri, and Louisiana where the OSF operates. Submissions are encouraged from any setting if this regional link is recognized and expressed.

Eligible Genres:

All genres are accepted, except for scientific writing. We are looking for book-length and/or substantive collections of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, dramatic writing, graphic novels, illustrated books, children’s books, young adult fiction, edited compilations, published columns, or blogs.

Finalist Judge:

Judge of the finalists in this inaugural year of the competition is Davis McCombs, current director of the Program in Creative Writing and Translation at the University of Arkansas. McCombs earned a BA from Harvard University and an MFA from the University of Virginia. His collections of poetry include award-winning Ultima Thule (2000), set in the underground world of Mammoth Cave where McCombs was once a park ranger, and Dismal Rock (2007), winner of a Dorset Prize, an Eric Hoffer Award in Poetry, a Kentucky Literary Award for Poetry, and the Contemporary Poetry Review’s Best Second Book of Poetry for 2007. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, American Poetry Review, Oxford American, and many other journals.

McCombs was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, and his honors and awards also include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kentucky Arts Council, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship from Poetry, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in poetry in 2017.

McCombs has worked at the University of Arkansas since 2001. From 2007 to 2014 he held the inaugural James E. and Ellen Wadley Roper Endowed Chair in Creative Writing.

Conflicts of Interest:

Ineligible for submission is work from friends, relatives, colleagues, and former or current students of the finalist judge. The Ozark Society Foundation supports the CLMP Code of Ethics.

Submission Details:

Submission must be made through the website Submittable HERE

  • An entry fee of $25 entry fee is required for each submission
  • Submissions are accepted of non-published or published manuscripts (including self-published)
  • Books published within past three years are eligible (2018 or later)
  • Published books must be submitted as a PDF file
  • Multiple submissions from a single author are accepted with separate entry fees
  • Simultaneous submissions are allowed
  • All submissions will be confirmed but no editorial comment will be provided to authors
  • Only electronic submissions are accepted

 Contest Schedule

  • Submission period: April 1, 2020 – July 31, 2021
  • Review Period: August 1 – December 31, 2021
  • Award winner announced: January 2022