The Waterston Desert Writing Prize

There are presently no open calls for submissions.

Waterston Desert Writing Prize
2023 Submission Guidelines

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, 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. The award supports literary nonfiction writers who are completing a book-length manuscript focused on any desert region.

The Waterston Desert Writing Prize was adopted by the High Desert Museum in 2020.


In 2023, the Waterston Desert Writing Prize will recognize one writer with a $3,000 cash award and a reading and reception at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon.


Proposals can be submitted once each year beginning January 1, 2023, through May 1, 2023. 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.

Only those applicants whose submissions follow the guidelines correctly will be eligible for review. Applicants should submit only the specified materials. Any extra materials included with the proposal, and not requested in these guidelines, will not be reviewed.

​Step 1. Fill out the online application form. This is the only location where identifying information (your name, address, email) should appear.

​Step 2. Upload ONE Word (.doc or .docx) or PDF file. Combine the three parts of the application described below 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 and one-inch margins.) Do not disclose your identity in this information. A resume or curriculum vitae will not be accepted. Provide a brief narrative that summarizes:

· Your educational, professional, publication, and writing experience

· How the Waterston Desert Writing Prize award will benefit your work

· Your commitment to making a meaningful contribution to the body of desert literature

· Where you heard about the Waterston Desert Writing Prize

2. Proposal Title and Description (no more than one double-spaced page in 12-point type and one-inch margins). A budget is not required. Provide a brief narrative that summarizes:

· Proposal title

· Brief description of the project

· The desert location(s) at which you are completing the project’s research

· Your plan to sustain the project to completion as a book

· How the project will contribute to desert literature and expand knowledge of the desert

3. Writing Sample (no more than 10 double-spaced pages in 12-point type and one-inch margins)

Writing samples can be published material or unpublished drafts. You must be the sole author and have full ownership of the work.

​While you are welcome to submit any nonfiction sample, the Prize only considers literary nonfiction proposals about deserts. 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. Proposals will be reviewed by a panel and guest judge.

Award recipients are asked to agree to the following:

  • At the time the award is accepted, the recipient will submit a high-resolution photograph and grant permission for information submitted in the proposal to be used for publicity purposes.
  • Award recipient must grant permission for the Museum to publicize the award.
  • With assistance from the High Desert Museum, award recipient should make every effort to attend the award ceremony and reception. The ceremony will occur in September 2023 in Bend, Oregon.
  • Award recipient must be open to visits and/or interviews by the Prize board and High Desert Museum 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.
  • Award recipient will acknowledge the Prize and High Desert Museum 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 Waterston Desert Writing Prize and/or High Desert Museum website.

Please note that incomplete and late applications will not be reviewed. All applications must be submitted via the application form on this website. The deadline is 11:59 pm on Monday, May 1, 2023.

Please direct questions to

The Waterston Desert Writing Prize