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.” 

Award Ceremony
Wednesday, September 29, 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm

Deserts have long offered rich inspiration for the written word. Join the winner and finalists from the 2021 Waterston Desert Writing Prize for an evening of readings and literary discussion exploring this complex landscape.

In addition, 2021 Waterston Guest Judge Elizabeth Woody (Navajo, Warm Springs, Wasco, Yakama) will do a reading. A writer, poet and visual artist, Woody received the American Book Award in 1990, as well as the William Stafford Memorial Award for Poetry and was a finalist for the Oregon Book Awards in 1995. In 2016, she served as Oregon’s Poet Laureate.

This year, the Museum welcomes Elizabeth Woody (Navajo, Warm Springs, Wasco, Yakama) as the Prize’s guest judge. Woody, the executive director of the Museum at Warm Springs, is also a renowned poet, author, essayist and visual artist. She was named Oregon’s Poet Laureate in 2016, won the American Book Award in 1990 and the William Stafford Memorial Award for Poetry in 1995, and was a finalist for the Oregon Book Awards in 1995. Woody will read a poetry selection on the night of September 29.

A Desert Celebration*

The Grand Canyon is arguably one of the jewels of America’s natural wonders, yet it remains wild, mysterious and— even as a national park—under threat. Join writer Kevin Fedarko, author of The New York Times bestseller The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon, in celebration of the 2021 Waterston Desert Writing Prize. Fedarko will dive deep into the iconic desert landscape through words and imagery by his partner in adventure, National Geographic photographer Pete McBride.

*This event has been postponed. Please check back for updates. 

Author Kevin Fedarko is best known for his travel narratives in Esquire, National Geographic Adventure and Outside, where he worked as a senior editor. He was a staff writer at Time from 1991 to 1997, where his work earned him an Overseas Press Club Award for his story on the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Fedarko earned a Master’s of philosophy in Russian history at Oxford in 1990 and currently lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.

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.

2020 Winner Hannah Hindley

Hannah Hindley’s winning submission, Thin Blue Dream, proposes a collection of interconnected stories that explore the Sonoran Desert’s disappearing waterways, the fish that used to call them home, and the successes and complications that come with efforts to help restore depleted tributaries with city effluent. “It’s a strange story of ghost rivers, dead fish and resilience in the heart of urban spaces in the desert,” states Hindley.

Currently completing her Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Nonfiction at the University of Arizona, Hindley is also a wilderness guide, licensed captain, environmental curriculum designer and naturalist. Her work as a naturalist has taken her to remote wildernesses, from the arid islands in the Sea of Cortez and the fog desert of Baja California, to national parks all over the west. She has written for publications including the Harvard Review, Hakai Magazine, Terrain, River Teeth and Alaska Magazine. Hindley has been the writer in residence at Sitka Center for Art and Ecology. She is the recipient of the Thomas Wood Award in Journalism, the New Conrads Prize, the Bill Waller Award for Nonfiction, and the Katharine Bakeless Nason Scholarship for the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers Workshop. Hindley graduated from Harvard with degrees in English and in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology.