Waterston Desert Writing Prize
Joe Wilkins – 2021 Finalist
Joe Wilkins is the author of a novel, Fall Back Down When I Die, praised as “remarkable and unforgettable” in a starred review at Booklist. Short-listed for the First Novel Award from the Center For Fiction and the Pacific Northwest Book Award. Fall Back Down When I Die won the 2020 High Plains Book Award and has now been translated into French, Italian, and Spanish. Wilkins’s memoir, The Mountain and the Fathers, was a finalist for the Orion Book Award and won the GLCA Emerging Writers Award, an honor that has previously recognized early work by Alice Munro, Richard Ford, and Louise Erdrich.
Wilkins is also the author of four poetry collections, most recently Thieve, a finalist for the Oregon Book Award, and When We Were Birds, winner of the Oregon Book Award. His poems, essays, and stories have appeared in a host of venues, including The Georgia Review, The Southern Review, The Missouri Review, Orion, Copper Nickel, Ecotone, The Sun, and High Country News, and his work has won the Pushcart Prize, earned multiple notable mentions in the Best American series, and been widely anthologized. Wilkins has received grants from the Richard J. Margolis Award, the Sustainable Arts Foundation, and PEN Northwest; as the recipient of the Boyden Wilderness Writing Residency, Wilkins and his family spent the summer and fall of 2015 living in a remote cabin in the Klamath Mountains along the Rogue River in southwest Oregon.
Wilkins was born and raised on a sheep and hay ranch north of the Bull Mountains of eastern Montana. After graduating from Gonzaga University with a degree in engineering, Wilkins spent two years teaching ninth grade pre-algebra in the Mississippi Delta with Teach For America. He then went on to earn his MFA in creative writing from the University of Idaho, where he worked with the poet Robert Wrigley and the memoirist Kim Barnes.
Wilkins serves on the faculty of Eastern Oregon University’s Low Residency MFA Program, and he has taught at a number of festivals and workshops, including the Breadloaf Environmental Writers’ Workshop, Fishtrap, the Kachemack Bay Writers Conference, and Orion in the Wilderness.
Wilkins now lives with his family in the foothills of the Coast Range of western Oregon, where he directs the creative program at Linfield University.