Waterston Desert Writing Prize Recognizing New Perspectives in Desert Literature

The newly created Waterston Desert Writing Prize will annually honor creative and literary nonfiction that illustrates artistic excellence, sensitivity to place, and desert literacy. Inspired by author and poet Ellen Waterston’s love of the high desert of Central Oregon, a region that has been her muse for over 30 years, the Waterston Desert Writing Prize will recognize the vital role deserts play worldwide in the ecosystem and the human narrative.


The nonprofit, under the guidance of a nine-member board of directors, invites emerging, mid-career and established nonfiction writers to apply.

The prize is funded from an endowment managed by the Oregon Community Foundation, with the impetus for the creation of the endowment provided by actor Sam Waterston, after whom the prize is named. As the endowment for the prize grows, so will the annual prize amount. 

Submissions will be accepted from January 1 through March 15, 2015, with the inaugural prize awarded in June 2015. The recipient will receive a $1,000 cash award, a reading and reception at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon, and a four-week residency at Playa at Summer Lake, Oregon.

Of the High Desert Museum’s participation, Dana Whitelaw, president, says, “The Museum is delighted to be a part of recognizing award-winning desert writing. It’s a natural extension of our mission to further the awareness of the natural and cultural resources of the High Desert region.”

Deborah Ford, executive director of Playa at Summer Lake, Oregon, a residency program for artists and scientists, says, “The Waterston Desert Writing Prize complements our mission to explore the desert from both creative and scientific perspectives. We are honored to supplement the award with a residency at Playa.”

The launching board of directors includes Julia Kennedy Cochran, journalist, rancher, Tumalo, Oregon; Jennifer Delahunty, author, editor, Kenyon College dean, Sisters, Oregon; Louise Hawker, editor, founder Watermark Communications, Bend, Oregon; Ted Haynes, author, Haynes and Company consultants, Sunriver, Oregon; Gail Hill, journalist, Tumalo, Oregon; Dick Linford, author, founder Echo River Trips, Bend, Oregon; Charles McGrath, rancher, founder/CSO Grace Bio-Labs, Bend, Oregon; Jeff Tryens, international consultant, Sisters, Oregon and Ellen Waterston, author, president Writing Ranch, Bend, Oregon.                        
Tax deductible donations to the Waterston Desert Writing Prize can be mailed to PO Box 640, Bend, Oregon 97709.
Submissions will be evaluated using a peer review process. For submission guidelines, visit www.writingranch.com

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