2009 Award Recipient: AMY IRVINE


BLUFF, UT – The Ellen Meloy Fund has chosen Amy Irvine as the recipient of the fourth annual Desert Writers Award. A grant of $2,000 will support work on her upcoming book Terra Firma, a “vertical journey” into the Utah desert. Irvine was selected from a strong field of applicants.

“Amy Irvine explores her bonds with her native terrain – the marks her people have made on the country and the ways the landscape shapes her – in elegant and often surprising language, language rich with imagination, humor and emotion,” says Awards Panel member Ann Weiler Walka. “Her intensity and intelligence have created a deeply layered map of home. In her new project she intends to extend the atlas into unknown territory.” 

A wilderness advocate for many years, Irvine writes “I am a daughter of Deseret. Colorado Plateau and Great Basin provinces combined have defined my family history; we have been weathered by its topography, its resources, its religion... There is nowhere else I could live, nothing else I could write about.”  The Los Angeles Times suggested that her book Trespass: Living at the Edge of the Promised Land, the recipient of the 2008 Orion Book Award, “…might well be Desert Solitaire’s literary heir.”    

Irvine writes that in Terra Firma she intends to “go deep.” Guided by Jungian archetypes, the lives of resident animals, and the findings of drill rigs and coal miners, she aims to “plot the points of a subterranean diagram – charting the vital, relatively unknown layer of the vast map of Deseret” and posing metaphors for our own psyches.  She adds, “Such a dive will add a new perspective to the way we see ourselves in relation to such sacred space.”

The grant from the Ellen Meloy Fund will allow Irvine “forays to the increasing number of drill rigs, uranium mines, and coal seams in southeastern Utah,” as well as the time and quiet to write.

The Ellen Meloy Fund supports writers whose work reflects the spirit and passion for the desert embodied in Meloy’s writing and in her commitment to a “deep map of place.” Before her untimely death in 2004, Meloy published four books, numerous articles, and radio commentaries. Her last book, Eating Stone, won the John Burrows Association Medal for 2007. An earlier work, The Anthropology of Turquoise, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.