Christina Nelson of Purcellville, Virginia, a freshman majoring in wildlife conservation in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, won first place in the annual Virginia Outdoor Writers Association/Dominion Collegiate Undergraduate Writing Contest.

Nelson received a $250 cash prize and was invited to read her essay at the association's annual meeting in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The prompt for this year’s contest was to write about a memorable experience or special interest relating to the outdoors. Nelson wrote about the hunting trip that first changed the way she thought about nature in her essay titled “Into the ‘Real’ World.” Going beyond the minimum requirements, she also submitted a hand-drawn sketch of a deer to complement her writing.

The most striking feature of Nelson’s essay is her sense of imagery. Rather than simply saying that the sun was rising, Nelson captures the feeling of being in the wild when she says it “laid in wait, crouched behind the horizon, waiting to expose our movements as we trekked along the forest edge.”

“Writing this essay about my experience really helped me think through quite a few personal questions that I have had about my future in the wildlife studies,” Nelson explained. “Only after reflecting on it through writing my essay did I realize that those types of questions can only be understood through experience.”

“This experience broadened and deepened my understanding of the natural world, and I look forward to seeing where it takes me,” she continued. “I have always wanted to incorporate creativity into my love of the outdoors and it was very encouraging to be able to participate in a contest that allowed me to combine the two!”

Nelson is interested in researching the role predator/prey relationships play in local ecology and incorporating her scientific art and illustration talents, along with her interest in writing, into her wildlife major and a career. She hopes to inspire others to more strongly appreciate Earth’s natural beauty.

The Virginia Outdoor Writers Association represents a coalition of writers, photographers, and video/film producers who inform various media on the out-of-doors, its enjoyment, and conservation. Through this association, members strive to improve themselves in their craft and increase their knowledge and understanding of the outdoors.

Written by Courtney Duke of Fredericksburg, Virginia, a senior majoring in public relations in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences

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