Submissions open for writing prize


Last updated 2/27/2024 at 10:54am

What do bestselling author Tucker Malarkey, Emmy award-winning actor Sam Waterston, and one winning writer have in common?

All will take part in the High Desert Museum’s 10th annual Waterston Desert Writing Prize, which honors excellence in literary nonfiction about deserts. The Prize is now accepting submissions until May 1, 2024.

This year the Waterston Desert Writing Prize will recognize the winner with a $3,000 cash award and a reception and reading at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon, on September 26. The winner and finalists will be selected by the 2024 guest judge Sam Waterston – renowned actor and brother of Prize founder Ellen Waterston.

Known for his work in theater, television, and film, Sam Waterston gained stardom portraying DA Jack McCoy on the NBC crime series “Law & Order” (1994–2010, 2022-), for which he has received a Screen Actors Guild Award, Golden Globe Award, and Emmy Award.

Sam Waterston will announce the 2024 winner and address attendees during the Waterston Desert Writing Prize ceremonies alongside the 2024 Prize winner and the 2024 keynote speaker, Tucker Malarkey, who will attend in person.

Nationally bestselling author of the critically acclaimed and national bestselling novels “An Obvious Enchantment,” and “Resurrection,” Malarkey’s first major work of nonfiction, “Stronghold,” describes one man’s journey to save salmon habitat in the U.S. 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, Malarkey’s love of human culture and wilderness have since taken her all over the world.

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 Waterston Desert Writing Prize celebrates writers whose work reflects a similar connection to a desert, recognizing the vital role deserts play in ecosystems and the human narrative.

“To see how the Waterston Desert Writing Prize has grown in 10 years is exciting,” said Ellen Waterston. “Tucker Malarkey and my brother Sam Waterston will help us reach new audiences and promote the literary arts as the High Desert Museum has done since the Prize became a Museum program four years ago.”

The winner of the 2023 Waterston Desert Writing Prize was Anna Welch. 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. Her work has been published in Wilderness Magazine and was most recently featured in the anthology “True Travel Tales” by Fine Line Press.

“The many gifted writers who submit their work for the Waterston Desert Writing Prize expand how we think about desert ecosystems,” said Museum Executive Director Dana Whitelaw, Ph.D. “We look forward to how our perspectives will grow in 2024.”

Emerging, mid-career, and established nonfiction writers who illustrate artistic excellence, sensitivity to place, and desert literacy with the desert as both subject and setting are invited to apply. The award supports literary nonfiction writers who are completing, proposing, or considering the creation of a book-length manuscript. It is recommended that the writing sample submitted is part of the proposed project or closely represents it in content and style.

The Waterston Desert Writing Prize Ceremony will take place at the High Desert Museum on September 26, 2024. To RSVP, visit

For more information visit Submissions are due by May 1.


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