The 2018 Bell Prize

The Bell Prize for young writers

Honoring the spirit of our founder, Tom Bell, we want to hear from aspiring essayists, ages 18 to 25, who will help tell the ongoing story of the modern American West.

Bell founded HCN in 1970, a time when there was little coverage of environmental issues in the West. The magazine thus became a strong voice for conservation in the West. Bell advocated for better management of public lands, helped persuade the Wyoming Legislature to pass laws for conservation goals, including strip-mine reclamation, and pressured Game and Fish to be more scientific. We’re looking for essayists who can take that kind of passion and apply it to new ideas about the modern West, helping challenge old notions of what it means to live throughout the region.

Essays should be no longer than 800 words. Consider topics you're familiar with and tell us why they’re important to you: environmental or social justice, climate change, water, energy & industry, wildlife, public lands, sustainability, economics -- you decide.

The winning essayist will:

  • be awarded the Bell Prize
  • receive $350 gift card to Mountainsmith
  • be published in the Oct. 29, 2018 Books and Authors issue and online.

Runner-up will receive $250 in outdoor gear from Mountainsmith and will also be featured online.

Please send one submission, and one only, to , by Oct. 15, 2018.

Think hard, write well and good luck.


  1. Essayists must be between the ages of 18 and 25 (as of Jan. 1, 2019).
  2. Authors must submit an unpublished, unedited essay written solely by the candidate.
  3. Essays must be on a topic within High Country News' coverage: See above for more details.
  4. Essays must not exceed 800 words.
  5. Authors must submit their essays via email to .
  6. Only one submission will be accepted per author. If the editors receive more than one submission from an author, none of the author's submissions will be considered. 


  • Submissions must be sent by midnight, Oct. 15, 2018. Essays should be emailed to .
  • Students will not receive a confirmation, and essay materials will not be returned. 


The editors will choose a first-place winner and a runner-up and will notify the winners by Nov. 2, 2018.


  • Submissions plagiarized in whole or in part shall automatically be disqualified. Plagiarism is defined as “the act or an instance of copying or stealing another’s words or ideas and attributing them as one’s own.” Examples of plagiarism include, but are not limited to: 1) verbatim copying of another’s written or spoken work, in whole or in part, without the use of quotation marks and attribution and 2) failure to cite the paraphrasing of another’s thoughts or ideas so as to pass them off as one’s own.
  • When you submit your essay to High Country News, you transfer and assign to High Country News the exclusive first North American serial rights, plus the exclusive right to republish and distribute, and allow third parties to republish and distribute the work, for 180 days after publication. High Country News retains the right to distribute your work digitally (in formats including but not limited to our website, e-newsletter, and mobile device applications). High Country News also retains the non-exclusive right to give reprint permission, and to syndicate your essay to any and all media. All subsequent printings must mention that the article first appeared in High Country News. High Country News may use your name and likeness in publishing, promoting, advertising and publicizing its publication and information products and services. Exclusion of this clause may be permitted with the consent of the editor.
  • In the event a situation arises that is not included herein, the organizers will resolve it at their own discretion and will inform the participants thereof. All decisions of the organizers are final.
  • Submitting to the Bell Prize competition presupposes acceptance of the terms described herein. 


The winning essay will be printed in the upcoming HCN special Books and Authors issue scheduled for publication on Oct. 29, 2018, the Bell Prize and a $350 gift certificate to Mountainsmith. The runner-up will receive $250 to Mountainsmith. Both essays will appear on the High Country News website at