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Published February 19, 2020

More than ten years ago, a unique partnership formed between the Virginia Festival of the Book and the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) to celebrate some of today’s top environmental writers and journalists.

SELC created the Reed Environmental Writing Award in 1994 to increase awareness of the value and vulnerability of the South’s natural heritage and to recognize and encourage writers who tell stories about the region’s environment. In 2008, SELC and Festival staff began collaborating to honor winners of the annual award at a public event during the Festival each year.

“The authors and journalists are shining a light on some of the most pressing issues we face, from the effects of climate change to the impacts of pollution on vulnerable communities.”

Bill Sublette (SELC)

The partnership has continued to grow, providing the opportunity for the Festival to present award-winning authors while also raising awareness of the topics their work addresses, from environmental racism to climate change and its impacts on people and animals alike. Bill Sublette joined the effort in 2014 as the SELC’s coordinator of the Reed Environmental Writing Awards.

“The authors and journalists are shining a light on some of the most pressing issues we face, from the effects of climate change to the impacts of pollution on vulnerable communities,” says Sublette.

In recent years, award winners have included J. Drew Lanham, author of The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature; Deborah Cramer, author of The Narrow Edge: A Tiny Bird, an Ancient Crab & an Epic Journey; and Earl Swift, former Virginia Humanities Fellow and author of Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island.

Reed Award Event 2018

“There have been so many compelling moments and so many moving stories told during the Reed Award events over the years,” says Sublette. “Our partnership with the Festival has helped engage audiences that we might not have reached otherwise [and] it’s such a privilege to contribute to the energy and excitement that the Festival brings each year. The community just comes to life.”
In addition to SELC, the Virginia Festival of the Book partners with more than 170 community organizations each year.

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Vanessa Adkins, right, is apprenticing under her cousin Jessica Canaday Stewart learning the finer points of traditional Chickahominy dancing. Photos taken at the Fall Festival and Pow Wow in Charles City on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.

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