Essay Contest: A Sense Of Place

We are hosting our first Global Essay Contest in 2023 and 2024.  It is part of our ongoing theme, a Sense of Place.

This is the hub for information about the essay contest, and we’ll be updating it frequently as we have more information to provide.

UNR Flower Logo for the 2023-2024 Global Essay Contest

Ready to submit your essay?

Submissions open November 1!

Youth Division: Submit here.

Adult Division: Submit here.

Stay Updated!

Be sure to fill out our Sense of Place Contests Interest Form to stay in the loop for specific news about this essay contest (and others!)

Essay Contest Information

Please click these links to jump directly to particular sections of information about our essay contest.

UNR Border Logo with embedded title Write used for global essay contest promotion

Scope of Participation and Eligibility

This is a global essay contest.

The essay contest is open to any English language writer anywhere on Earth, aged 13 years or older.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us!

Essay Contest Theme

The theme for this essay contest is Sense of Place.

We don’t want to provide too much structure to our theme.  We hope contest entrants will interpret this theme as they see fit, expressing their own sense of place within 2000 or 6000 words.

However, here is our really simplified definition of the idea of sense of place:

“Our simple definition for sense of place is: figuring out the reality of where you are, and how you perceive that reality, and what your perception of that reality means to you.”

If you would like more inspiration, please feel free to read more about our take on a sense of place.

Essay Contest Categories and Divisions

The Sense of Place Global Essay Contest has two categories in each of two divisions.

The categories are based on essay length: Short and Long

  • Short essays are 1000-2000 words
  • Long essays are 5000-6000 words

The divisions are based on participant age: Youth and Adult.

  • Youth = aged 13-17 years of age
  • Adult = aged 18 years of age and older

Essay Submissions

We’ll be using our Submittable platform to accept submissions for the essay contest.  

If you’re not yet familiar with Submittable, we encourage you to visit our Submittable page to check it out, bookmark us, and explore all the opportunities for submission on that platform.

No other forms of submission will be accepted.

See our proposed timeline below for our submission windows and deadlines.

Our Judges

We are pleased to announce that our judge for the Adult Division of the Global Essay Contest is Rick Van Noy.

Rick Van Noy is the author of several works of environmental nonfiction, including Sudden Spring: Stories of Adaptation in a Climate-Changed South, and Borne by the River: Canoeing the Delaware from Headwaters to Home. He is a professor of English at Radford University.

We are pleased to announce that our judge for the Youth Division of the Global Essay Contest is Stephen Deck.

After graduating from Appalachian State University in 2014 with a BS in History, Secondary Education, Stephen began teaching World History at Southern Vance High School in the fall of 2014. Stephen currently teaches Economics and Personal Finance at Vance County High School, serving served as chairman of the social studies department for the past five years, and as a mentor teacher for the past two years.

Awards and Prizes

A total of $1500 in cash prizes will be awarded for this essay contest.

Our judges will be selecting first and second place awards in each of the age group and essay length divisions, as well as several honorable mentions.

We will be offering cash prizes for first and second place awards in each category.

Youth 1000 – Winner$100.00
Youth 1000 – Second Place$50.00
Youth 6000 – Winner$200.00
Youth 6000 – Second Place$100.00
Adult 1000 – Winner$100.00
Adult 1000 – Second Place$50.00
Adult 6000 – Winner$200.00
Adult 6000 – Second Place$100.00

Serving as an additional judge, our publisher will also select three topical awards for three individual essays across all categories combined, honoring the legacy of several luminaries in environmental thought. These three prizes may or may not be awarded during the essay contest, depending on the nature of all entries received for the contest.

Dana Meadows Award – Systems Wisdom$200.00
Fritjof Capra Award – Hidden Connections$200.00
Gary Snyder Award – Bioregionalism$200.00

Any applicable federal, state, and/or local taxes are the responsibility of each winner.

Essay Contest Rules and Guidelines

The entry fee for youth to submit work to the Essay Contest is $10.

The entry fee for adults to submit work to the Essay Contest is $25.

Uploaded essay manuscripts should be properly formatted.  At a minimum, manuscripts should be double-spaced, using at least a 12-point serif font.  Please also include page numbers.

Several standard file formats are acceptable for uploaded manuscripts.  PDF is preferred, but not required.

Manuscripts do not need to be blinded for this competition.

Writers may enter both length categories for the competition as long as they pay a separate entry fee in each category

Please limit two entries per length category per person, for a total of four entries for a single person. For example, one adult could enter two 2000 word essays and two 6000 word essays.

All essays entered into competition will also be considered for publication in The Upper New Review, regardless of contest outcome.

All cash prizes may be awarded contingent upon the volume of submissions to the essay contest. Awards are subject to change based on these submission volumes.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us!


In addition to being eligible for contest awards and prizes, all essays  submitted to the contest will also be considered for publication in the Upper New Review, even if they don’t win.

All winning essays (first place, second place, honorable mention, and judges’ choice) will be published in the Upper New Review.

Winners’ Reading Event

We plan to have a public reading of all contest winners in mid February 2024, held at the Alleghany Public Library in Sparta, North Carolina, USA (Upper New River 05050001).  For winners who can reasonably attend, we will be presenting the awards in person at this event.

For winners who can reasonably attend from nearby watersheds, we will be presenting the awards in person at this event.  

Winners in attendance who wish to read an excerpt from their essays will be encouraged to do so.  If not, we will read excerpts on their behalf.

For any long distance winners who cannot travel to the location, we will have someone read on their behalf.

Our intention is to host a hybrid event with a virtual audience, allowing anyone in the world to help us celebrate the winners and their works!  We will be announcing this hybrid event on Eventbrite, with no cost for admission.

Contest Timeline

Below is our preliminary timeline for the essay contest.

  • Submissions officially open November 1, 2023
  • Deadline for submissions November 30, 2023
  • Judging process begins November 30, 2023
  • Essay winners judgment decisions made by December 15, 2023
  • Essay winners announced by December 30, 2023
  • Essay reading live (hybrid) event – sometime in the middle of February 2024

Stay Updated!

Remember to fill out our Sense of Place Contests Interest Form to stay in the loop for specific news about this essay contest (and others!)