2018 Winner and Finalists

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Winner: Patrick Mondaca

Patrick Mondaca's submission, "Adjustment Disorder," is a memoir about the discovery of personal peace in a Sudanese desert landscape by a combat veteran. The memoir seeks to bring attention to the concept of the “draw” or pull of the desert in the postwar lives of military veterans. Mondaca served in Baghdad, Iraq with the U.S. Army and as a security advisor for a humanitarian organization in South Darfur, Sudan. He earned an MS in Global Affairs from New York University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Currently he is a researcher, writer, and adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Mondaca’s work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Globe and Mail, USA Today, The Hill, and U.S. News & World Report, among others. Mondaca lives in Montclair, New Jersey with his wife and daughter.

Finalist: Kathryn Wilder

Kathryn Wilder's submission, "These Seasons of Disappointment: Cows in the Desert," is part memoir, part science, and part literature of place. Her project addresses ranching practices in the desert West. From an aging woman’s perspective and experience, she questions her own family’s heritage and the marriage of cattle to desert, and is looking at alternatives that support rather than deplete the rangeland. Wilder has lived in and written about each of the Four Corners states, focusing on aridity, water, and the details of place as she worked on desert rivers and ranches, learning firsthand the fragility of these desert ecosystems. Wilder’s work has appeared in many publications and a dozen anthologies. In 2016 Wilder was Artist-in-Residence at Denali National Park and Preserve, and a finalist for the Ellen Meloy Fund Desert Writers Award. She is a 2017 graduate of the low-residency MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. Wilder lives in Dolores, Colorado. (Photo credit: TJ Holmes)

Finalist: Diana Woodcock

Diana Woodcock's submission, "The Gobi Desert and its Muslim Inhabitants," will articulate the story of the Gobi Desert and the Hui—how centuries ago Arab Silk Road traders passed through it en route to the Orient, bringing Islam with them. Her work will capture and juxtapose the calming silence and stark, though comforting, nature of desert places while also exploring and documenting the devastating damage being done as chemical factories disgorge black plumes of smoke into clear desert air. For nearly eight years, she lived in Tibet, Macau, and on the Thai-Cambodian border teaching and working with refugees. Since 2004, she has been teaching creative writing, environmental literature and composition at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar. She is the author of three full-length collections of poetry: Tread Softly, Under the Spell of a Persian Nightingale; and Swaying on the Elephant’s Shoulders, and seven chapbooks. Woodcock's work has also appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. Woodcock is based in Midlothian, Virginia.