© 2017-2020 Waterston Desert Writing Prize. All rights reserved.  Questions? info@waterstondesertwritingprize.org

Student Writing Contest

Deadline extended to April 15!

With so many students out of school and looking for things to do, we have extended the submission date for our student contest to April 15. High schoolers: get creative on the subject of deserts and send us your best. You could win a $250 cash award and other recognition! Keep reading the information below.

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, Lake and Jefferson. This contest, as does the historic writing prize, honors literary nonfiction that demonstrates artistic excellence, sensitivity to place, and desert literacy. The student writing contest seeks submissions that focus on some aspect of the desert, whether physical, imagined, metaphorical. Use your imagination! 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.

NEW! Submission deadline: April 15, 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,Lake 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 (new date!) April 15, 2020. The prize winner and other submitters will be notified in late 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 may describe a place, address an issue facing the desert, an observation, or relate a story about the desert (historical, contemporary, metaphorical, 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).


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. April 15, 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 April 15, 2020

  • 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.