Ellen Meloy Fund


Please read the award guidelines before submitting your application. There is a $15 fee to apply—instructions below. The application requires a project proposal, a biographical statement, and a writing sample of no more than 10 pages. Please submit all materials in one document.

If your application contains any identifying information (name, web links, article citations, bibliographical data, etc.) we will ask you to revise your application and resubmit. The resubmitted application must still reach us by midnight on January 15. Thank you for following the award guidelines to ensure the integrity and fairness of our selection process.

Please note: The submission confirmation you see after hitting the submit button (and please only click it ONCE) is the ONLY confirmation you will receive. You will be notified in early spring of this year's winner and finalists.

Submit by January 15 to be considered for a $5,000 grant


If you are interested in applying for the 2020 Desert Writers Award, please feel free to browse the information below. We will be accepting applications Nov. 1, 2019 through Jan. 15, 2020. The recipient will be announced in April 2020.

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The Ellen Meloy Fund for Desert Writers grants one $5,000 award in the spring of each year. Only proposals for literary or creative nonfiction book projects will be considered. No fiction or poetry proposals will be reviewed.

The Fund supports writing that combines an engaging individual voice, literary sensibility, imagination and intellectual rigor to bring new perspectives and deeper meaning to the body of desert literature. All applications will be reviewed through a peer-panel process. 

Considerations in the selection process will be:

  • the writing sample’s artistic excellence and desert literacy,

  • the strength of the proposed book project,

  • the biography’s ability to demonstrate a history and future of writing and desert experience.

We encourage emerging, mid-career or established writers in the field of literary nonfiction to apply.

Financial and other kinds of need, the body of past work, geographic location of the applicant, academic career, professional reputation, etcetera, are not criteria for receipt of a grant.

We do NOT fund:

  • Individuals who have received an Ellen Meloy Grant within the last five years

  • Poetry or fiction proposals

  • Children's literature


Applications can be submitted once each year beginning November 1, 2019 through January 15, 2020. When your proposal is ready and has been saved in ONE FILE in ADOBE ACROBAT (pdf) or MICROSOFT WORD (doc or docx). Complete the form and upload your grant submission file. Click Submit and you will receive a confirmation of the submission. PLEASE FOLLOW THIS PROCESS TO ENSURE YOUR APPLICATION IS SELECTED FOR REVIEW BY OUR SELECTION COMMITTEE.

To be considered for an Ellen Meloy Fund Desert Writers award, please submit only the materials specified below.  Any extra materials included with the application (and not requested in these guidelines) will not be reviewed. Again, ONLY creative nonfiction proposals will be reviewed; please no poetry, fiction, or juvenile literature.

Step 1. Submit $15 fee:

  • Click “Donate” at the top of this page

  • Read and follow instructions under ‘Award Applicants Only’

Step 2. Fill out application form:

  • Applicant’s name, address, phone, and email address.

  • Project Title (should match the Project Description you submit as part of your application)

  • Tell us where or how you learned about the Fund.

Step 3. Upload ONE Word or Acrobat file:
(Please combine the three parts of the application into ONE document and DO NOT place your name or other identifying information on any page of the document)

1. Biographical Statement (No more than one page)
Describe in narrative form (not a resume or vita) your educational and professional background, writing experience, and publication history (but keep your identity a secret). Submissions with resumes or vitas will be rejected. Please also answer these questions:           

  • Why are you interested in working in the desert?

  • How will an Ellen Meloy Fund grant benefit your work?

  • Describe your desert experience(s)

  • Demonstrate a commitment to adding to a deep map of place

2. Project Title and Description (No more than one page) 
Please note that neither the particular desert region to be visited nor the length of time to be spent there are specified by the Fund. Budget information is not required in the description. Any desert region in the world is applicable to this award.

  • Project Title (should match Project Title on Application Form).

  • Describe your writing project.

  • Where, in the desert, will you go to research your project? 

  • What is your plan for field work?

Please explain specifically how the project will:

  • Add new perspectives to the body of desert literature

  • Lead to deeper understandings

  • Advance desert literacy

3. Writing Sample (No more than 10 pages, double spaced with 1-inch margins)

  • You may submit published, unpublished, or work in progress. The work must be that for which you have sole artistic ownership and responsibility.

  • Since the fund only considers creative nonfiction proposals for the award, it is best to submit a sample of the same. Writing samples that are in other genres such as poetry, fiction or juvenile literature will only weaken your chances of selection and are discouraged.

Application Submission Deadline: JANUARY 15. 

The award will be announced in the spring. 

Award recipients are asked to agree to the following:

  • At the time the award is accepted, recipient will be asked to submit a photograph and grant permission for information submitted in the application to be used for publicity purposes.

  • Fund recipient must grant permission for the Fund to publicize the award.

  • Fund recipient must be open to visits and/or interviews by the Fund board and staff.

  • Accepting the Ellen Meloy Fund award obliges the recipient to provide a brief project evaluation due by the end of the year of the award.

  • Recipient will be asked to acknowledge the Fund in any publications generated from the award project; language will be provided.

  • While not required, the Fund appreciates receiving a sample of the writing generated as part of the project to post on the Ellen Meloy Fund website.

Please note: incomplete and late applications will not be reviewed. Make sure you have followed these guidelines or your application may be rejected. All applications must be submitted via the application form on this website.