Waterston Desert Writing Prize

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.

Congratulations to the WINNER of the 2021 Waterston Desert Writing Prize – Ceal Klingler for “How We Live With Each Other.” We also congratulate the two finalists – Charles Hood for “Deserts After Dark” and Joe Wilkins for “Desert Reckoning.”

Please check back for updates regarding the submission dates and details for the 2022 Waterston Desert Writing Prize!

2021 Winner Ceal Klingler

This year’s winner of the Waterston Desert Writing Prize is Ceal Klingler (lookwhereyoulive.net) for “How We Live With Each Other.” Klingler’s submission addresses how animals, plants, and other organisms have created livable places with each other at the hard edges of heat, cold, dehydration, floods and fires at the westernmost overlap of the Mojave and Great Basin deserts. Tracing exchanges of air, shelter, pollination, nectar, microbiota, parasites, protein, and pest control, she asks how much we are a part of each other, how much depends on being a good neighbor, and how we can survive our collective futures together. 

Klingler has degrees in linguistics, psychology and biology and was a National Science Foundation graduate fellow in biology. Her writing has appeared in BackpackerHigh Country NewsOrion and Natural History, and she received a special recognition grant for writing on water from the Ellen Meloy Fund for Desert Writers. As guest judge, Woody selected the 2021 Prize winner.

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.