The Waterston Desert Writing Prize

There are presently no open calls for submissions.

The Waterston Desert Writing Prize (the Prize) was established in 2014 and 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 Prize provides financial and other support to writers whose work reflects a similar connection to the desert, recognizing the vital role deserts play worldwide in the ecosystem and the human narrative.  


In 2020 the Waterston Desert Writing Prize will recognize one writer with a $2,500 cash award, a reading and reception at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon, and a residency at Playa at Summer Lake, Oregon. The award winner will be announced in early May 2020.


Proposals can be submitted once each year beginning January 1 through April 1. Save your proposal in a single file as an Adobe Acrobat PDF or as a Microsoft Word .doc or .docx file.  To get started, click the Submit button at the bottom of this screen. Complete the form and upload your proposal file. Click Submit and you will receive a confirmation of the submission. You must follow this process to ensure your proposal is received and eligible for review by the selection committee.

Further, please submit only the materials specified below.  Any extra materials included with the proposal, and not requested in these guidelines, will not be reviewed.

Step 1. Fill out the application form:

  • Applicant’s name, address, phone.

Step 2. Upload ONE Word or Acrobat file:
(Please combine the three parts of the application into ONE document and DO NOT place your name or other identifying information on any page of the document)

1. Biographical Statement (No more than one double-spaced page in 12 point type)
Provide a narrative (not a resume or vita) summarizing your educational and professional background, writing experience, and publication history. Do NOT disclose your identity in this information. Submissions with resumes or vita will be rejected. Please also answer these questions:           

  • Why are you interested in working in the desert?
  • How will a Waterston Desert Writing Prize award benefit your work?
  • Describe your desert experience(s).
  • Demonstrate a commitment to making a meaningful contribution to the body of desert literature.

2. Proposal Title and Description (No more than one double-spaced page in 12 point type)
Please note that neither the particular desert region to be visited nor the length of time to be spent there are specified by the Prize. Budget information is not required in the description. Any desert region in the world is applicable to this award.

  • Proposal Title
  • Describe your writing project
  • Where, in the desert, will you go to research your project? 
  • What is your plan for field work?

Please explain specifically how the project will:

  • Add new perspectives and make a meaningful contribution to the body of desert literature
  • Advance desert literacy

3. Writing Sample (No more than 10 double-spaced pages in 12 point type)

  • You may submit published, unpublished, or work in progress. The work must be that for which you have sole artistic ownership and responsibility.
  • While you are welcome to submit any nonfiction sample, the Prize only considers literary nonfiction proposals, unpublished works, about deserts for the award. It is recommended that you submit work that is part of your intended final project or closely represents it in content and style. Writing samples about deserts and natural settings are more likely to be reviewed favorably. Writing samples that are in other genres such as poetry, fiction or juvenile literature will be disqualified.

Application Submission Deadline: APRIL 1, 2020. The award will be announced in May.

Award recipients are asked to agree to the following:

  • At the time the award is accepted, the recipient will submit a photograph and grant permission for information submitted in the proposal to be used for publicity purposes.
  • Award recipient must grant permission for the Prize to publicize the award.
  • Award recipient must make every effort to attend the award ceremony and reception, scheduled for Wednesday, June 24, 2020 in Bend, Oregon.
  • Award recipient must be open to visits and/or interviews by the Prize board and staff.
  • Accepting the Waterston Desert Writing Prize award obliges the recipient to provide a brief project evaluation by the end of the year of the award.
  • Recipient will be asked to acknowledge the Prize in any publications generated from the award project; language will be provided.
  • While not required, the Prize appreciates receiving a sample of the writing generated as part of the project to post on the Prize website.

Please note: incomplete and late applications will not be reviewed. Make sure you have followed these guidelines or your application may be rejected. All applications must be submitted via the application form on this website.  


The Waterston Desert Writing Prize is a nonprofit organization with tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code.

The Waterston Desert Writing Prize