Waterston Desert Writing Prize

The Waterston Desert Writing Prize (the Prize) was established in 2014, inspired by author and poet Ellen Waterston’s love of the High Desert, a region that has been her muse for more than 40 years. The Prize provides financial and other support to writers whose work reflects a similar connection to the desert, recognizing the vital role deserts play worldwide in the ecosystem and the human narrative.

In 2024, the Prize will recognize the winner with a $3,000 cash award, a writing residency at PLAYA Summer Lake and a reading and reception at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon on September 26, 2024.  Following the review of submissions by the Waterston Desert Writing Prize Advisory Committee, the winner and finalists are selected by the  guest judge.

In celebration of the Prize’s tenth anniversary, the 2024 guest judge will be actor and producer Sam Waterston, who funded the original endowment that launched the Prize. The ceremony’s keynote speaker will be Tucker Malarkey, a nationally bestselling author. Malarkey’s most recent book, Stronghold: One Man’s Quest to Save the World’s Wild Salmon, chronicles one conservationist’s journey to save the world’s remaining wild salmon.

Sam Waterston temporary headshot

2024 Guest Judge Sam Waterston 

Known for his work in theater, television, and film, actor Sam Waterston gained stardom portraying Jack McCoy on the NBC crime series Law & Order (1994–2010, 2022–), for which he has received a Screen Actors Guild AwardGolden Globe Award and Emmy Award. Other notable roles include Grace and Frankie (2015–2022), The Newsroom (2012 -2014),  The Great Gatsby (1974), and The Killing Fields (1984). Accolades include nominations for an Academy Award, a Tony Award and a BAFTA Award. He is the brother of Waterston Desert Writing Prize Founder, Ellen Waterston.

Temporary Tucker Photo

2024 Keynote Speaker Tucker Malarkey

Nationally bestselling author of the critically acclaimed and national bestselling novels An Obvious Enchantment and Resurrection. Her first major work of non-fiction, Stronghold, describes one man’s journey to save salmon habitat in the US and Russia. Stronghold was an editor’s pick for The New York Times, National Book Review, Outside and Forbes. With a career that began at The Washington Post, Tucker’s love of human culture and wilderness have since taken her all over the world.

2023 Winner Anna Welch

The 2023 Waterston Desert Writing Prize winner is Anna Welch (annakwelch.com).

Her submission, “Momentum: A Trans-Continental Bicycle Journey,” details her 2019 adventure 3,700 miles across the continental United States.  During that substantial bicycling trip, Welch encountered her first desert, an experience she eloquently expands upon within her winning text.

Welch holds a degree in English Literature from the University of Otago and currently plants trees and surveys wildlife. Her work has been published in Wilderness Magazine and was most recently featured in the anthology True Travel Tales by Fine Line Press. She is originally from New Zealand and currently resides in Scotland.

Questions? Please direct questions to waterston@highdesertmuseum.org

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