Waterson Desert Writing Prize

Waterson Desert
Writing Prize

The Waterston Desert Writing Prize Award ceremony honors the winner and finalists with a reception and readings at the Museum. This year’s awards ceremony will include “A Desert Conversation” featuring author, philosopher and environmental advocate Kathleen Dean Moore and Colorado State University professor emeritus John Calderazzo.

This Prize honors creative nonfiction that illustrates artistic excellence, sensitivity to place and desert literacy. Inspired by author and poet Ellen Waterston’s love of the High Desert of Central Oregon, a region that has been her muse for over 30 years, the Prize recognizes the vital role deserts play worldwide in the ecosystem and the human narrative.

The award ceremony will feature a reading by the Naseem Rakha, winner of the award.

Naseem Rakha is a geologist, educator, speaker and award winning author and journalist whose novel, The Crying Tree, has earned international acclaim. Naseem’s commentaries can be found in The Guardian and she was a contributor to National Public Radio.

Rakha will receive $2,000 and a four-week residency at PLAYA, a residency program for artists and scientists in Summer Lake, Oregon.

Other finalists include:

Kendra Atleework was born and raised in the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains of California. She is at work on a book that expands on her essay “Charade,” which appeared in The Best American Essays 2015. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband, the writer Jonas Gardsby.


Charles Hood has spent his career working and living in the Mojave Desert. A selection of his desert-centered work earned him the 2016 Felix Pollak Prize in poetry, and, in March 2017, University of Wisconsin Press released the contest-winning manuscript, Partially Excited States.


Lawrence Lenhart’s first collection of essays is The Well-Stocked and Gilded Cage, published by Outpost19. Recent writing appears in Conjunctions, Creative Nonfiction, Fourth Genre, Passages North and Prairie Schooner. He is a professor of fiction and nonfiction at Northern Arizona University.



John Calderazzo is professor of English, Emeritus, at Colorado State University and a “Best CSU Teacher” whose writing workshops urge students to recognize and pursue the stories that float around us everywhere, all the time. A former full-time freelance writer of essays, magazine and newspaper articles, he teaches nonfiction writing workshops and also helps scientists use storytelling to speak to the public. Calderazzo’s students have won many Colorado Book Awards, an Oregon Book Award, and a Pulitzer in newspaper feature writing, and many others. He is the author of a how-to writing textbook, Writing from Scratch: Freelancing; a children’s science book, 101 Questions about Volcanoes; a creative nonfiction book, Rising Fire: Volcanoes and Our Inner Lives, and a poetry chapbook. He writes personal essays and memoir, and travels widely to write about nature, climate change, Buddhism, and the interrelationships of science and culture. Calderrazo’s work has appeared in Best Nature Writing, Best Travel Adventure Stories, Georgia Review, Audubon, Orion, Witness, and many other magazines. He is a winner of a creative writing fellowship from the Colorado Council on the Arts. Calderazzo is co-founder and former co-director of an innovative climate change education and outreach program, Changing Climates @ CSU.


Kathleen Dean Moore is a writer, moral philosopher, and environmental thought-leader, devoted to an unrelenting defense of the future against those who would pillage and wreck the planet. As a writer, Kathleen is best known for award-winning books of essays that celebrate and explore the meaning of the wet, wild world of rivers, islands, and tidal shores – Riverwalking, Holdfast, Pine Island Paradox, and Wild Comfort. But her growing alarm at the devastation of the natural world led her to focus her writing on the moral urgency of action against climate change and habitat destruction. Quitting her university position, Kathleen began to write in defense of the lovely, reeling world, including her new book, Great Tide Rising: Finding Clarity and Moral Courage to Confront Climate Change, which is a finalist for an Oregon Book Award. Her prior book, Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril, gathered testimony from the world’s moral leaders about our obligation to the future. Kathleen’s first novel, Piano Tide, was published in 2017.

Her essays are widely published and anthologized, appearing in magazines such as High Country News, Orion, Discover, Audubon, Utne Reader, Earth Island Journal, New York Times Magazine, Conservation Biology, and many others. Her writing has been honored by awards that include the Oregon Book Award, a Choice magazine Outstanding Book Award, and the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award.

A moral philosopher, Kathleen holds a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado. For many years, she taught critical thinking and environmental ethics as Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Oregon State University. While at OSU, she co-founded and for many years directed the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word, where she now serves as Senior Fellow.

Two years ago, Moore left the University in order to write and speak full-time about the moral urgency of action to stop fossil fuels and the consequent global warming. She has addressed audiences ranging from 350.org activists to Nobel Conference scholars to Disneyworld executives and students all over the country.

For more information about the Waterston Desert Writing Prize, visit www.writingranch.com or call 541-480-3933.