2017 Award Recipient
Jackalope!: The Complete Natural and Cultural History
The Ellen Meloy Fund for Desert Writers has chosen Michael Branch of Reno, Nevada, as the recipient of the twelfth annual Desert Writers Award. A grant of $5,000 will support work on his book-in-progress, Jackalope!: The Complete Natural and Cultural History.
Branch is a professor in the University of Nevada-Reno’s esteemed Literature and Environment Program and co-founder and past president of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment. He has published five books and more than two hundred articles, essays, and reviews. Jackalope! will be his fourth book of literary nonfiction. As he explained, “The book will focus on the horned rabbit that is legendary in the folklore of the American West. Although the celebrated jackalope appears in various forms, it is most often depicted as a hybrid of the black-tailed jackrabbit and the pronghorn antelope. I will use humor to embrace this mythic western figure as a place-based icon which is as important to western identity as the sagebrush or the mustang.”
On receiving the award, Branch wrote to us:
For many years I have taught Ellen Meloy’s work in university courses on Environmental Literature, Western American Literature, Creative Nonfiction, the Literature of Humor, and even the Literature of Nevada, in which I use her hilarious and moving essay, “The Flora and Fauna of Las Vegas.” Her writing is a remarkable synthesis of astute observation, breathtaking lyricism, finely-honed humor, emotional intensity, and a genuine love for the landscapes of the American West. While I admire all four of her books, The Anthropology of Turquoise deserves a place on the short list of the most impressive works of creative nonfiction ever to emerge from and engage the West. Ellen Meloy writes with a grace and power the rest of us can only aspire to.
Receiving the support of the Ellen Meloy Fund for Desert Writers means more to me than I can easily articulate. The fact that folks who admire Meloy’s writing also see value in my work is immensely gratifying. And the timing of the award is perfect in several ways. Although I have been an admirer and teacher of place-based literary nonfiction for decades, my first creative book, Raising Wild: Dispatches from a Home in the Wilderness, was just published in summer, 2016. So it is very affirming to receive this recognition as I continue to develop my craft as a creative writer. And because my next book will require substantial fieldwork, the generous financial support of the award will directly advance that project.
Read more about Branch here.
The Ellen Meloy Fund for Desert Writers provides support to writers whose work reflects the spirits and passions embodied in Ellen’s writing and her commitment to a deep map of place. This year marks our 11th annual award.
2016 Award Finalists
Tara FitzGerald, Brooklyn, NY
"No Water of Their Own," a book project on the plight of the Aral Sea and its communities.
Maya Kapoor, Tucson, Arizona
“Desert Ecologies,” an exploration of nature in the urbanizing Southwest.
Kathryn Wilder, Dolores, CO
"Mustang Deserts," a literary investigation of America's mustang horses.
Julene Bair, Santa Rosa, CA
"Our Turn at This Earth," on the plight of the Ogallala Aquifer region.
The Ellen Meloy Fund Special Recognition Grant for Writing on Water
Ceal Klingler, Bishop, CA
"The Big Transition,” a look at small animals in the Great Basin-Mojave transition zone.
2018 Awards Process
Submissions for the 2018 Desert Writer's Award will be accepted November 1, 2017 – January 15, 2018. Our application guidelines and awards process can be found here.
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What We Do
The Ellen Meloy Fund for Desert Writers sends the willing and talented out to the desert to write. The annual cash award provides recognition and a small base of financial support for exceptional writers of the desert who wish to spend creative time in a desert environment and carry on in the spirit of Ellen Meloy. Read more about Ellen, the EMF and our award recipients.
The Ellen Meloy Fund for Desert Writers is a nonprofit organization with tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3).