The Waterston Desert Writing Prize

There are presently no open calls for submissions.

Waterston Desert Writing Prize
2023 Submission Guidelines

About the Award
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 40 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 2023, the Waterston Desert Writing Prize will recognize the winner with a $3,000 cash award, a residency at PLAYA at Summer Lake and a reading and reception at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon on September 14, 2023. Proposals will be reviewed by the Waterston Desert Writing Prize Advisory Committee and the 2023 guest judge, Rena Priest, the first Indigenous poet laureate of the state of Washington and the winner of a 2018 American Book Award for Patriarchy Blues.

Submission Period
Sunday, January 1, 2023, through Monday, May 1, 2023, at 11:59PM.

Who’s Eligible to Apply
Nonfiction writers who illustrate artistic excellence, sensitivity to place and desert literacy with the desert as both subject and setting. The award supports literary nonfiction writers who are completing, proposing, or considering the creation of a book-length manuscript. It is recommended the writing sample submitted is part of the proposed project or closely represents it in content and style.


Step 1. Fill out the online application form on Submittable. This form is the only location 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.

a. Biographical Statement:
One double-spaced page in 12-point type and one-inch margins. Do not disclose your identity in this information. A resumé 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

b. Proposal Title and Description: No more than one double-spaced page in 12-point type and one-inch margins. The description should include:

  • Proposal title
  • Brief description of the project
  • Desert locations included in the project’s research
  • Brief description of how the project will contribute to desert literature and expand knowledge of the deserts

NOTE: A budget is not required

c. Writing Sample: No more than 10 double-spaced pages in 12-point type and one-inch margins. Please keep in mind:

  • Writing samples that are in other genres such as poetry, fiction or juvenile literature will be disqualified.
  • Writing samples can be published material or unpublished drafts.
  • You must be the sole author and have full ownership of the work.
  • Any extra materials included with the proposal, and not requested in these guidelines, will not be reviewed.

Step 3. Submit materials. All applications must be submitted via Submittable. Please note that incomplete and late applications will not be reviewed. The deadline is 11:59 pm on Monday, May 1, 2023.

Questions? Please direct questions to

The award recipient is asked to agree to the following:

  • With travel assistance from the High Desert Museum, the award recipient should make every effort to attend the award ceremony and reception. The ceremony will occur on Thursday, September 14, 2023, in Bend, Oregon.
  • At the time the award is announced, the recipient will submit a high-resolution photograph to be used for publicity purposes.
  • Award recipient must grant permission for the Museum to publicize the award and winner.
  • Award recipient will acknowledge the Prize and High Desert Museum in any publications generated because of the award; language will be provided to the award winner by the High Desert Museum.
  • The Prize appreciates receiving a sample of writing generated as part of the project to post on the Waterston Desert Writing Prize and/or High Desert Museum website.
  • Twelve months following the awarding of the Waterston Desert Writing Prize, the winner will provide the Museum a one-page report detailing how the award supported their work, project-related tasks accomplished during the year, news of publication plans, and a sample of the writing produced.
The Waterston Desert Writing Prize