Waterston Desert Writing Prize

(Photo above: Winner Naseem Rakha | courtesy of The Writing Ranch)

Three finalists will be recognized for desert nonfiction projects June 28 at High Desert Museum.

Naseem Rakha of Silverton, Oregon has been chosen as the winner of the 2017 Waterston Desert Writing Prize. Her winning proposal, Searching for the Soul of Creation, was chosen by the judges for its quality of writing, unique perspective and meaningful contribution to the body of desert literature.

Rakha will be honored at a reading and reception at the High Desert Museum in Bend at 5:30pm on Wednesday, June 28. New this year, the evening will include A Desert Conversation with panelists Kathleen Dean Moore and John Calderazzo.

Rakha will receive a $2,000 cash award and a four-week fellowship at PLAYA in Summer Lake at Summer Lake, Oregon. Serving as judges of the blind submissions were board members Julia Kennedy Cochran, Jennifer Delahunty, Louise Hawker, Ted Haynes, Gail Hill, Richard Linford, Jeff Tryens and Ellen Waterston. Colorado State English Professor Emeritus and author John Calderazzo acted as guest judge. The judges reviewed more than 70 submissions from writers across the United States as well as Austria, Canada, India and Palestinian Territory, Occupied (the author’s identified location).

Rakha’s project proposal focused on the desert tortoise. She intends to explore what must be done to support the desert tortoise and its habitat so that it does not vanish into pure myth, as well as what the desert tortoise and its habitat teach about intention and quiet.

Guest judge Calderazzo said, “The winner and finalists of this year’s prizes deserve more than the usual praise. They won out over a bushel of gloriously talented writers whose insights and passions made this contest a real pleasure to read, even as it was no easy task for the judges to pick just a few winners. What a delight to know that so much good nonfiction writing is out there—and so much heart.”

Underscoring the quality of submissions, three applicants were named finalists: Kendra Atleework, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Sweetwater: Life and Change in the Rain Shadow of the Sierra Nevada, Charles Hood, Palmdale, California, Red Center and Lawrence Lenhart, Flagstaff, Arizona, Rewilding the Ferret.

The Waterston Desert Writing Prize was established to honor creative and literary nonfiction that illustrates artistic excellence, sensitivity to place, and desert literacy, with the desert as subject and setting. Inspired by author and poet Ellen Waterston’s love of the High Desert of Central Oregon, a region that has been her muse for more than 30 years, the Waterston Desert Writing Prize recognizes the vital role deserts play worldwide in the ecosystem and the human narrative.

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 Samuel Waterston, after whom the prize is named. As the endowment for the prize grows, so will the annual prize amount.

Submissions for the 2018 Waterston Desert Writing Prize will be accepted starting January 1, 2018. For more information about the Waterston Desert Writing Prize, visit www.waterstonprize.org, info@writingranch.com or call 541-480-3933.
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