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Student Writing Contest

The Waterston Desert Writing Prize announces a new student desert writing competition, open only to high school age students in the Central Oregon counties of Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson. This contest, as does the historic writing prize, honors literary nonfiction that demonstrates artistic excellence, sensitivity to place, and desert literacy - with the desert as both subject and setting. The student writing contest seeks submissions that focus on the Oregon High Desert. Inspired by author and poet Ellen Waterston's love of the high desert of Central Oregon, a region that has been her muse for more than 30 years, the Student Writing Contest recognizes the vital role deserts play in the ecosystem and human narrative.

The Award

In 2020, the Prize will honor the high school-age writer who submits the winning essay with a $250 cash award, recognition at the annual Prize awards event June 24, 2020, and recognition on the Prize website.

Submission deadline: February 29, 2020.

Submit to: stories@bendbroadband.com


The student award contest is open to all high school-age students (grades 9-12), 18 years old or younger, who reside in Crook, Deschutes or Jefferson County. Public school, private school and home-schooled students are eligible.


Essays may be submitted by email to stories@bendbroadband.com from January 1, 2020 through February 29, 2020. The prize winner and other submitters will be notified in early April and the winner will be invited to appear at the annual Waterston Desert Writing Prize awards event at the High Desert Museum June 24, 2020.

Submission Guidelines

Essays should be between 750 and 1,000 words of nonfiction prose in Word or PDF format. Fiction and poems are not eligible. Essays are to be focused on the Oregon high desert and may describe a place, address an issue facing the desert, or relate a true story about the desert (historical, contemporary, or from the author's personal experience). Summaries or derivative versions of already well-documented topics are discouraged. Submissions must not have been previously published (e.g., in a school newspaper).

Sources used or cited must be documented at the end of the essay in a format similar to that specified by the Modern Language Association or the Chicago Manual of Style. Documentation of sources does not count toward the word count. Neither encyclopedias nor Wikipedia may be used as sources.

Do not include your name, school or any other identifying information in the essay document itself. Include identifying information only in the email to which the essay is attached.

Evaluation Criteria

1. Contribution to the understanding and appreciation of the high desert region of Oregon

2. Originality

3. Clarity of expression

4. Accuracy

5. Grammar, spelling and punctuation

How to Submit Your Essay

Essays can be submitted beginning January 1, 2020 and no later than 11:59 p.m. February 29, 2020. Please send your essay, in Word or PDF format, as an attachment to an email to stories@bendbroadband.com. Do not include any information identifying you in the attachment.

In the email, please provide:

  • Your name

  • The title of your essay

  • The best phone number to reach you

  • Your home address

  • Your school or location of high-school equivalent education

  • Your grade level in school

  • Your age as of February 29, 2020

  • Your sponsor (presumably your current English teacher, but any teacher at the school who is familiar with you and your work)

  • Your sponsor's email address

  • Your sponsor's best phone number

  • The statement: "I certify that the attached essay is entirely my own work."

Award Agreement

Award recipients are asked to agree to the following:

  • Award recipient grants permission for the Prize to publicize the award.

  • Award recipient should make every effort to attend the award ceremony and reception on June 24, 2020 at the High Desert Museum in Bend.

  • Award recipient must be open to visits and/or interviews by the Prize board.

  • Winning submission and finalist submissions, if any, may later be published, with an acknowledgment, on the Prize website  and/or in other media by the Waterston Desert Writing Prize.