• Sig Olson's personal gear

On Earth Day each year, Northland College announces its choices for the best in nature writing for the previous year. Three authors are selected to receive the Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award (SONWA) for adult, young adult, and children’s literature.

Established in 1991, SONWA honors the literary legacy of Sigurd F. Olson by recognizing and encouraging contemporary writers who seek to carry on his tradition of nature writing. In 2004, organizers expanded the award to include children’s literature and in 2015 added the young adult genre. For a full list of winners 1991-present.

Recent SONWA Winners

Learn About the Awards

The Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award (SONWA) was established in 1991 to both honor the memory and literary legacy of Sigurd F. Olson and help support and encourage the work of contemporary writers who seek to carry on his tradition of quality nature writing. Over the years, the award competition has attracted entries from the best nature writers in the nation. The writing award is presented annually to an author whose book best captures the spirit of the human relationship with the natural world and promotes Olson’s values.

The literary nonfiction award is made possible through individual donations and an endowment from Eileen Long, former Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute Advisory Board member, who was instrumental in founding the SONWA.

If you would like to support this program, please give online or send your gift to Northland College, SONWA, 1411 Ellis Avenue, Ashland, WI 54806.

View SONWA Guidelines

Adult Category

The SONWA winners are announced each year on Earth Day (April 22).

Criteria

The Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award is given to a published book of literary nonfiction nature writing that captures the spirit of the human relationship with the natural world, and promotes the values that preserve or restore the land for future generations. The literary work must:

  • hold a 2017 copyright
  • be written by a single author

Note: coffee table books, children’s books, guidebooks, or general references will not be considered.

Adult Award recipient receives

$1,000 cash prize and an invitation to visit Northland College (all expenses paid) for an award ceremony and public reading.

Submission deadline

Submissions can be made up to December 31, 2017. To enter submit nine copies of your publication to:

SONWA
Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute
Northland College
1411 Ellis Avenue
Ashland, WI 54806

Young Adult categorY

Criteria

The Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Awards Young Adult is given to a published book of literary nature writing for up to age 21—nonfiction or fiction—that captures the spirit of the human relationship with nature and promotes the awareness, preservation, appreciation, or restoration of the natural world for future generations.

  • hold a 2017 copyright
  • be written by a single author

Award recipient receives

The winner of the Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing for Young Adult Literature, established in 2014, receives a certificate sent to the author.

Submission deadline

Submissions can be made until December 31, 2017. To enter submit nine copies of your publication to:

SONWA
Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute
Northland College
1411 Ellis Avenue
Ashland, WI 54806

Children’s category

Criteria

The Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Awards for Children is given to a published book of literary nature writing for up to age 12—nonfiction or fiction—that captures the spirit of the human relationship with nature and promotes the awareness, preservation, appreciation, or restoration of the natural world for future generations.

  • hold a 2017 copyright
  • be written by a single author

Award recipient receives

The winner of the Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing for Children’s Literature, established in 2004, receives a certificate sent to the author.

Submission deadline

Submissions can be made until December 31, 2017. To enter submit nine copies of your publication to:

SONWA
Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute
Northland College
1411 Ellis Avenue
Ashland, WI 54806


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