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The Wilderness Idea Essay Writer

Are you a young writer who with a passion for the outdoors? Enter our essay contest for a chance to be featured in Sierra magazine!

The Sierra Club's National Wilderness Essay Contest

It has been nearly 25 years since Bill McKibben declared “the end of nature.” What he really meant was the end of wilderness — the idea of wilderness. In the era of climate change, he claimed, we can no longer conceive of a natural world that is free of human influence — a pristine wilderness where our spirits can awaken to authentic nature.

Generations Y, Z and beyond will never know that pristine wilderness; they will know only what humans have created. And the outlook has only gotten worse: in 2005, Richard Louv warned us that “nature deficit disorder” was on the rise. Today’s children, he worried, spend far more time in front of screens than they spend in the woods, and end up radically disconnected from the natural world. They may care about biodiversity, sustainability, and environmental justice—but do they care about wilderness?

So we pose the question: What does wilderness mean to the millennial generation? Does the idea of wilderness have any relevance for twenty-first century environmentalists? Is there still a case to be made for wilderness? If so, how can we make that case?

We invite essays on the idea of wilderness from writers under 30 years old. Visit the contest website to find more instructions and the entry form.

Katherine E. Standefer writes about the body, consent, and medical technology from Tucson, Arizona. Her debut book Lightning Flowers is forthcoming from Little, Brown, and Company in early 2020 and is shortlisted for the 2018 J. Anthony Lukas Works-in-Progress Award from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University. Winner of the 2015 Iowa Review Award in Nonfiction, her essay "In Praise of Contempt" appears in Best American Essays 2016, edited by Jonathan Franzen and Robert Atwan, and her essay "Wilderness" was selected as Notable in Best American Essays 2017. Her other work has been published in or is forthcoming from The Normal School, Fourth Genre, The Iowa Review, The Colorado Review, Cutbank, The Indiana Review, Fugue, Camas, High Country News, Edible Baja Arizona, Terrain.org, The Essay Daily, Lithub, and The Rumpus. Her essay "Shock to the Heart, Or: A Primer on the Practical Applications of Electricity" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

She earned her MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing from the University of Arizona, where she will teach ENG 301: Intermediate Creative Nonfiction Writing as a Lecturer in Spring 2018. She has taught Narrative Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and The Examined Life Conference at University of Iowa's Carver College of Medicine. Standefer is a fall 2017 Marion Weber Healing Arts Fellow at The Mesa Refuge in Point Reyes, California.

She is an American College of Sexologists Certified Sexologist and an Arizona Humanities Scholar, recently a nominated as one of Arizona's Humanities Rising Stars and a finalist for the Tucson's Woman of Influence Award in Arts/Culture 2017.

Originally from outside Chicago, Standefer has spent the last fifteen years between Wyoming, Colorado, and Arizona.  She earned a B.A. in Sociology and a B.A. in English- Fiction Writing from The Colorado College, where she was awarded the Colorado College Award in Literature, the Bridges Prize in Poetry,  and the Reville Prize for Fiction. She took third place in the 2006 Playboy College Fiction Contest. 

Her book Lightning Flowers traces the global supply chain of her internal cardiac defibrillator, considering whether her lifesaving device could have caused loss of life elsewhere. Research for the book has been supported by a University of Arizona Writing Program Fellowship and by a 2014 Kickstarter project , which enabled primary source research on mining and corporate social responsibility on the island of Madagascar. 

Her manuscript Strange Gifts of the Body: A Sexual Reckoning is a sexual autobiography that unfolds in the intersection between sex, self, and culture, asking what it means to be both animal and human. 

Standefer is represented by Bonnie Nadell of Hill Nadell Literary Agency.

Over the last fourteen years, Standefer has worked with thousands of students as a sexual health educator, global mentor, outdoor educator,  writer-in-residence, freelance editor, and college instructor. She is an award-winning composition and creative writing teacher, and works from a trauma-informed and sex-positive framework. As she turns her attention to completing her first book (now under contract), she is not currently accepting new creative coaching clients. A limited number of individual manuscript readings will be offered.

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