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Rebecca Lawton
Winner of the 2015 Waterston Desert Writing Prize

Rebecca had this to say about the Waterston Desert Writing Prize:
“The Waterston Prize came to me as an extended lifeline. It helped pull my project vision together when it was still just a mass of unformed ideas. It put me in the middle a community of true believers in Central Oregon who recognize the urgent necessity of art and words in helping to heal the world. It sent me to Playa, now one of my spiritual homes and a powerful force for good. I can imagine life without the Waterston, or Playa, but it would be a far poorer life, one I would not want to go back to. No one should underestimate the value of this prize, and of this [awards ceremony] evening.”

Rebecca Lawton's winning project and proposed book, titled "The Oasis This Time," will focus on California fan palm oases and their role as barometers of the effects of falling groundwater levels in communities around the American West. Her proposal was selected for its quality of writing and meaningful contribution to the body of desert literature. Lawton, who lives in Sonoma, California will return to the U.C. Irvine Steele-Burn and Research Station in the Anza Borrego Desert, California to continue her research. 

Lawton is an author, instructor, and fluvial geologist whose work explores wild and human nature. An early woman guide on Western whitewater, Rebecca rowed the Colorado in Grand Canyon and other wilderness rivers for fourteen seasons. Her work as a scientist has focused on ancient and modern ephemeral streams, the movement of sediment, and water turbidity levels that affect fish growth and survival.

Her writing honors have included a 2014 Fulbright Visiting Research Chair Award, a 2014 WILLA Award for original softcover fiction, the 2006 Ellen Meloy Fund Award for Desert Writers, residencies at Hedgebrook Retreat for Women Writers and The Island Institute, and nominations for three Pushcart Prizes (fiction, nonfiction, and poetry). She has published articles and stories in Aeon, Orion, The San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, Shenandoah, Sierra, and many other journals.

Rebecca is the author of seven books and four stageplays. Her collection of essays about whitewater guiding, Reading Water: Lessons from the River, was a San Francisco Chronicle Bay Area bestseller in 2008 and ForeWord Nature Book of the Year finalist in 2003. Her WILLA award-winning debut novel, Junction, Utah, explores the impact of oil exploration on American community, water, and wilderness (van Haitsma Literary and Wavegirl Books, 2013). She collaborated with photographer Geoff Fricker on a portrait of water and change in California’s Great Valley in Sacrament: Homage to a River (Heyday, 2014). Her short story collection, Steelies and Other Endangered Species: Stories on Water, follows the lives of river guides and other iconoclasts on and off the water (Little Curlew Press, 2014).

Rebecca’s latest three-act play, The Far-Gone, takes place in contemporary wine country in the arid West. She is completing her second novel, 49 North, researched in Alberta and British Columbia for Fulbright Canada. She blogs about writing and other wonders at