Press Release – Waterston Deadline, April 2023

Monday, April 10, 2023
Contact: Heidi Hagemeier, director of communications, 541-382-4754 ext. 166,

Museum Counts Down to Submission Deadline for 2023 Waterston Desert Writing Prize

BEND, OR — The submission deadline for the High Desert Museum’s 2023 Waterston Desert Writing Prize is Monday, May 1 at 11:59 pm.

Inspired by author and poet Ellen Waterston’s love of the High Desert, the Prize launched in 2014 and annually recognizes the vital role deserts play worldwide in the ecosystem and human narrative.

The Prize honors outstanding literary nonfiction that illustrates artistic excellence, sensitivity to place, and desert literacy with the desert as both subject and setting. Emerging, mid-career and established nonfiction writers are invited to apply.

The Museum will award one writer with a $3,000 cash award as part of the Waterston Desert Writing Prize. The Prize also includes a reading and reception at the Museum in Bend on September 14, 2023 and a residency at PLAYA at Summer Lake (, an arts and sciences residency campus located on Summer Lake, Oregon located on the Great Basin in Southern Oregon. The beauty and tranquility of PLAYA provides an ideal location for writers to focus on their work.

To learn more about the Waterston Desert Writing Prize and how to submit an entry, visit

“Submissions so far have come in from all over the world,” said Museum Executive Director Dana Whitelaw, Ph.D. “We are excited about the diversity of writers and subjects that will expand our perspective of deserts.”

The guest judge for this year’s Waterston Desert Writing Prize is Washington State Poet Laureate Rena Priest (Lummi). Her literary debut, Patriarchy Blues, was published in 2017. The poetry collection received the American Book Award. Priest holds a Master of Fine Arts from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York and is the Maxine Cushing Gray Distinguished Writers Fellow at the University of Washington. Priest’s most recent book, Northwest Know-How: Beaches, is a love letter to 29 of the most beloved beaches in Washington and Oregon. Priest is the first Indigenous poet laureate of the state of Washington.

The Museum is honored to announce Dr. Thor Hanson will be the keynote speaker for 2023 Award Ceremony. The author and biologist is a Guggenheim Fellow, a Switzer Environmental Fellow and winner of the John Burroughs Medal. His books include BuzzThe Triumph of SeedsFeathersBartholomew QuillThe Impenetrable Forest and Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid. Hanson was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. 

“A program that features the Prize winner as well as presentations by Rena Priest and Thor Hanson will make for a dynamic evening,” said Ellen Waterston. “The presentations at the Award Ceremony bring us together to celebrate literary work and desert landscapes.”

To register for the 2023 Waterston Desert Writing Prize Award Ceremony on September 14, visit

The mission of the High Desert Museum’s Waterston Desert Writing Prize is to strengthen and support the literary arts and humanities in the High Desert region through recognition of literary excellence in nonfiction writing about desert landscapes, community interaction with the winning authors of the Prize, and presentations and programs that take place in association with the Prize.


The HIGH DESERT MUSEUM opened in Bend, Oregon in 1982. It brings together wildlife, cultures, art, history and the natural world to convey the wonder of North America’s High Desert. The Museum is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, is a Smithsonian Affiliate, was the 2019 recipient of the Western Museums Association’s Charles Redd Award for Exhibition Excellence and was a 2021 recipient of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.