Waterston Desert Writing Prize

Join us at the High Desert Museum on Thursday, September 22 for the 2022 Waterston Desert Writing Prize Award Ceremony! RSVP today.

Waterston Desert Writing Prize

The mission of the 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, through community interaction with the winning authors of the annual prize, and presentations and programs that take place in association with the Prize.

The Prize winner receives a $3,000 cash award, a residency at PLAYA at Summer Lake, Oregon and a reading and reception right here at the Museum! 

Join us for an evening of literary excellence at the Waterston Desert Writing Prize Award Ceremony on Thursday, September 22!

Kevin Fedarko, author of The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride In History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon, will speak about his current project in the Grand Canyon and his odyssey of nearly 800 miles, almost none of which involved a trail. Author Raquel Gutiérrez, the 2022 Waterson Guest Judge, will award this year’s Prize winner. And Caroline Tracey, winner of the 2022 Prize, will read from her submission “SALT LAKES.”

RSVP at highdesertmuseum.org/waterston-2022.

Renowned author and poet Ellen Waterston started the fledgling Waterston Desert Writing Prize in 2014. Through six years of growth, the High Desert Museum has been a strong partner to the organization, promoting the Prize and hosting the annual awards ceremony and reception. On September 17, 2020, Ellen Waterston announced another huge step for the Waterston Desert Writing Prize, its official adoption by the High Desert Museum.

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, through community interaction with the winning authors of the annual prize, and presentations and programs that take place in association with the prize.

The Prize honors literary nonfiction that illustrates artistic excellence, sensitivity to place and desert literacy with the desert as both subject and setting. Inspired by Ellen Waterston’s love of the High Desert of Central Oregon, a region that has been her muse for more than 30 years, the Prize recognizes the vital role deserts play worldwide in the ecosystem and human narrative.

2022 Winner Caroline Tracey

The 2022 Waterston Desert Writing Prize winner is Caroline Tracey (cetracey.com).

Her submission, “SALT LAKES,” is a collection of 18 essays providing a queer perspective on climate change in arid environments. Salt lakes make up approximately one third of inland waters globally and provide crucial wildlife habitat. These important bodies of water are shrinking and becoming more saline due to increased evaporation from a warming climate, secondary salinization from irrigation of desert soils and other factors. 

Tracey is based in Tucson, Arizona and focuses her work on culture, environment and migration in the southwestern United States, Mexico and the borderlands between the two. Her personal essays have appeared in Kenyon Review, Full Stop, New South and elsewhere. She holds a Ph.D. in geography from the University of California, Berkeley and lives with her wife, Mexican architect and sculptor Mariana GJP, and their dog, between Tucson and Mexico City. Tracey speaks and writes in English, Spanish and Russian.