Waterston Desert Writing Prize 2024: Celebrating Literary Excellence

The Waterston Desert Writing Prize 2024 is a prestigious award that honors exceptional literary talent in the field of desert literature. It was created to honor Ellen Waterston, a respected author and advocate for Oregon’s high desert region, and aims to support and inspire writers who explore the complexities and beauty of desert landscapes through their writing.

Waterston Desert Writing Prize 2024
Waterston Desert Writing Prize 2024

The prize celebrates and promotes excellence in desert literature by recognizing writers who capture the unique allure and challenges of desert environments. It seeks to raise awareness and appreciation for these landscapes through their literary works.

Established in 2014, the Waterston Desert Writing Prize was inspired by Ellen Waterston’s deep connection to the High Desert, which has influenced her writing for over 40 years. The prize provides financial support to writers who share a similar love for the desert, recognizing the importance of deserts in the ecosystem and human experience worldwide. The 2024 guest judge will be actor and producer Sam Waterston, who originally funded the prize. The keynote speaker for the ceremony will be Tucker Malarkey, a bestselling author whose latest book focuses on one man’s efforts to save wild salmon.

Type: Competition and Award


The deadline for submitting entries for the 2024 Waterston Desert Writing Prize is May 1, 2024.

Benefits of the Waterston Desert Writing Prize

The winner of the Prize will receive a $3,000 cash award and will be invited to a reading and reception at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon on September 26, 2024.

Eligibility of the Waterston Desert Writing Prize

The eligibility criteria includes:

  • The award is for nonfiction writers who demonstrate artistic skill, a connection to the desert, and a deep understanding of its surroundings.
  • It’s open to those working on, planning, or considering a book-length manuscript.
  • It’s suggested that the writing sample you submit be related to your proposed project in content and style.

Application Process of the Waterston Desert Writing Prize

The process includes:

  1. Complete the online application form on Submittable, available after January 2nd, 2024. Only include identifying information (name, address, email) in the form.
  2. Upload ONE Word (.doc or .docx) or PDF file containing the following:
  • Biographical Statement: One double-spaced page summarizing your educational, professional, publication, and writing experience. Also, explain how winning the Waterston Desert Writing Prize would benefit your work and your commitment to desert literature.
  • Proposal Title and Description: One double-spaced page with the project title, a brief description, desert locations involved, and how it contributes to desert literature.
  • Writing Sample: Up to 10 double-spaced pages showcasing your writing skills. It must be nonfiction and related to desert literature.
  1. Submit your materials via Submittable. Incomplete or late submissions will not be considered. Deadline: May 1, 2024, 11:59 pm.

For further details, visit the official website: https://highdesertmuseum.org/waterston-prize/

Tips for Successful Application of the Waterston Desert Writing Prize

Here are some tips to improve your chances of a successful application for the Waterston Desert Writing Prize:

  • Immerse yourself in the ethos of desert literature and contemplate how your work resonates within this genre.
  • Refine and hone your submission to encapsulate your utmost literary prowess and narrative finesse.
  • Solicit feedback from peers, mentors, or writing cohorts to refine your work before submission.
  • Adhere to the submission guidelines diligently and ensure the application is devoid of errors.

In Conclusion:

The Waterston Desert Writing Prize offers writers a chance to highlight their skill and creativity while celebrating the beauty and importance of desert landscapes. With its cash award, residency opportunity, and potential for publication, the prize provides a valuable platform for writers to gain recognition and support for their contributions to desert literature. 


  1. Can I submit previously published work?

Generally, previously published works are not eligible. However, unpublished works or those without other awards may be submitted.

  1. Is there an entry fee?

No, typically there is no entry fee required for submission.



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