Writing Contest

Thinking our way forward: Writing Contest

Climate Change Writing Contest

Presented by PSU’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions

Grand prize: "A State of Change" by Dustin Lanker
Second place: "From the Clouds to Light" by Andrea Good
Third place: "Climate Change: A Crisis of Human Belonging and Connection" by Katie Conlon
Honorable mention: "Globe Home" by Eli Smith

70 submissions were made to the contest and the winners were celebrated at a special reception on March 16 at Karl Miller Center.

Guidelines and Prompt (Contest now closed)

In 1,500 words or less, address the following question:

In a world locked in the grip of climate crisis, how can we think our way forward?

Science tells us we are at a tipping point—that if we continue with business as usual global temperatures will rise to catastrophic levels in the next three decades, bringing widespread droughts, heatwaves, food and water shortages, flooding, and social unrest. 

Three decades. Not a century or two. So what can we as writers do about this? 

It might mean reimagining the traditional good life; it might mean explaining how we as global citizens can prevent the harm our children will inherit; it might mean showing how an economy that doesn’t wreck the world functions. We are looking for writing that is vivid, beautiful, and bold. Show us. 

“Because they are a moral crisis, global warming and extinction are also a crisis of the imagination. The world can’t fight its way out of this. We have to think our way out. This will require as great an exercise of the human imagination as the world has ever seen.” — Writer and philosopher Kathleen Dean Moore


  • Contest is open to all current PSU students.
  • Students from any major or background may apply.
  • Fiction and nonfiction writing is welcome.
  • No prior published work may be submitted.
  • Submission deadline: Friday, December 1, 2017.

Contest Judges

Barry Sanders, two-time Pulitzer nominated writer

Barry Sanders, Ph.D., is a writer and academic. His projects occur increasingly at the intersection of art and activism, and include The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism, which Project Censored named one of the top-ten censored stories of 2009, and “Over These Prison Walls,” which invites collaborations between artists and incarcerated youth. He currently co-directs the Oregon Institute for Creative Research with Anne-Marie Oliver. 


Kate GrayKate Gray, Write Around Portland instructor

Kate Gray's passion comes from teaching, coaching writing, and volunteering as a writing facilitator with women inmates and veterans. She is the author of three poetry collections and a novel, Carry the Sky


Nakisha NathanNakisha Nathan, Sierra Club organizer

Nakisha Nathan is a Climate Justice Organizer with the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club, and co-chairs the Environmental Justice Committee for the Portland African American Leadership Forum.  


Matthew RobinsonMatthew Robinson, novelist and Oregon Literary Fellowship recipient

Matthew Robinson is the author of the novel The Horse Latitudes. He is an Oregon Literary Fellowship recipient and his writing has appeared in Shirley Magazine, Grist, Propeller, O-Dark-Thirty, and in the anthology The Road Ahead: Fiction from the Forever War. Matthew lives, writes, and teaches in Portland, Oregon.


Paul LaskPaul Lask, writer and faculty fellow of the Institute for Sustainable Solutions

Paul Lask is a writing instructor and adjunct faculty member at PSU, bridging the arts and environmental issues to advance sustainable change. Teaching, storytelling, and kayaking are some of Paul’s tools for growing awareness for climate change and local issues.



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