2019 Winner and Finalists

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Winner: Nathaniel Brodie

Nathaniel Brodie's submission, "Borderlands," is an essay to be included in a literary nonfiction travelogue that will explore the tensions between rigid man-made borders and ever-changing borders in the natural transition zones of the biologically and culturally diverse landscapes known as the Sky Islands or Madrean Archipelago. “Borderlands” will weave together the stories of the Apache Wars, the current migrant crises, rewilding schemes, the Rosemonte Copper Mine, and the threatened freedom of movement of endangered species such as jaguar, ocelot, and Sonoran pronghorn.

Nathaniel Brodie is an author, journalist, and public lands employee. He received a BA from The Evergreen State College and an MFA in Nonfiction Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. His essays have appeared in magazines, literary journals, and book anthologies, and his articles in a weekly alternative newspaper. I was the recipient of the PEN Northwest 2014 Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Residency, and a finalist for the Ellen Meloy Desert Fund and, in 2015, the Waterston Desert Writing Prize. He is the editor of a book of essays about an old-growth forest in the Pacific Northwest, and the author of a memoir about living and working in the desert. He has worked as a Peace Corps volunteer, backcountry stone mason, wilderness ranger, beekeeper, framer, farmer, snow science technician, and troutslayer. Brodie has explored the Atacama, Namib, Kalahari, Thar, and Mohave deserts, and has an abiding interest in and passion for exploring, knowing, and protecting desert places.

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Finalist: Summer Hess

Summer Hess's submission, "Terrae Incognitae Atacama," is a project to continue her research and writing about Chile’s Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world, and its people. Hess’s literary study will examine people and places, and how the remaining Atacemenos and their exploited landscape can be supported. Summer Hess manages Sage Step Designs, a small operation out of Wenatchee, Washington that offers editorial and creative services. She writes and prepares promotional materials (website and TedX talk) for a book about a 20-year experimental investment in social purpose real estate that’s changing the face of philanthropy and development, and serves as managing editor for Out There Outdoors, the Inland Northwest’s guide to travel, adventure, and outdoor living with 90,000 loyal readers. Her work has appeared in Field & Compass, Nspire Magazine, The Spinoff (New Zealand), and in a forthcoming book chapter published by Across the Disciplines called Visual Thinking Strategies in the Composition Classroom.  Hess earned an MFA in non-fiction writing from Eastern Washington University in and she has long desired to return to her graduate thesis, expand it, and prepare it for publication. She worked in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile (2006) through a Chilean Ministry of Education teaching program and returned through a Student Fulbright Award (2011) to research the history of travel and tourism.

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Finalist: Michael Kula

Michael Kula's submission, "A Track Alone in the Sand," will complete fieldwork in northern Sudan along the Sahara/Nubian desert to develop a creative nonfiction account of the bicycle travels of Kazimierz Nowak from 1931 to 1936 across the deserts of Africa, as seen through environmental, historical, and cultural lenses. Kula has an eclectic background which includes coursework in six foreign languages. His current position is in Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington, Tacoma, where he is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing. His writing has focused on both creative nonfiction and historical fiction, and for it he has received awards from the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and the US National Parks Service, which selected him as Writer-in-Residence for the Homestead National Monument. Kula has published more than a dozen essays and short stories, as well as a novel, The Good Doctor, which was released by a publisher that specializes in books that are “rooted in the land” and seek to “capture the physical places we inhabit.” His own desert experiences include travels in the Oregon high desert and the deserts of Utah and Arizona, and for his proposed project he conducted fieldwork in the Namib and the Kalahari deserts of southern Africa.