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Marchelle Farrell wins the Nan Shepherd Prize 2021

The winner of the Nan Shepherd Prize 2021 is Marchelle Farrell with her submission ‘Uprooting’ which will be published by Canongate in autumn 2023.

‘Uprooting’ is the story of Marchelle Farrell’s journey, as a Black Caribbean immigrant to the UK, of seeking belonging in an English country garden. Seeking grounding in the plants around her, Marchelle begins to turn the lens of her psychoanalytic training on herself and what this new place seems to offer. As the seasons change, this personal reckoning begins to find resonance with the wider cultural tumult, from a global racial uprising, to the ever-present effects of the climate crisis. And as these synchronicities pull together the threads of her experience – a tropical childhood in Trinidad and a current life in England; the lives of both the Caribbean and British ancestors who came before; immediate family and the wider community – she begins to weave a new tapestry of meaning from the blossoms of the places she has called home. Uprooting asks us to reconsider our relationships to one another and to the living world of which we are part. 

Farrell is a gardener, writer and mother and has trained and worked as a consultant psychiatrist and psychotherapist. She said: “I am completely blown away. What an honour, to be selected from that shortlist! And what an opportunity, to share my little thread of the huge web of story that connects gardens and people in the Caribbean with gardens and people here.”

Marchelle Farrell’s agent Julia Silk commented: “With her innate skill for storytelling, and intimate, elegant prose, Marchelle brings a fresh and compelling perspective to nature writing. I’m so thrilled that her talent has been recognised by the Nan Shepherd Prize and the team at Canongate, and can’t wait to see ‘Uprooting’ out in the world.”

This year’s judging panel comprised writers Jessica J Lee and Alice Vincent, Good Literary Agency associate agent Rukhsana Yasmin and Little Toller co-founder Adrian Cooper. Ellah Wakatama, editor-at-large at Canongate, chaired the panel.

The prize is run by Caroline Clarke, senior rights manager at Canongate and assistant editor Megan Reid, who said:

 “This year’s shortlist was exceptionally strong, and the judges had a very tough decision. But everyone who read Marchelle’s work was blown away – from the in-house Canongate readers to the judging panel. ‘Uprooting’ promises to be a powerful piece of non-fiction, one that will expand the definition of nature writing, which is exactly what the prize aims to do. Marchelle’s writing is strong, engaging and captivating, and we’re absolutely thrilled she’s won the 2021 Nan Shepherd Prize and delighted to welcome her to Canongate.

The Nan Shepherd Prize is a competition to find the next voice in nature writing. It aims not only to celebrate nature writing but provide an inclusive platform for new and emerging nature writers from underrepresented backgrounds. The prize runs every two years. The winner of the prize receives a book deal with Canongate – including editorial mentoring and an advance of £10,000.

The 2019 winner was Nina Mingya Powles with Small Bodies of Water (Canongate).