2008 Award Recipient: JOE WILKINS


BLUFF, UT – The Ellen Meloy Fund for Desert Writers announces that Joe Wilkins, currently of Forest City, Iowa, will receive the third annual Desert Writers Award. Mr. Wilkins will receive a grant of $2,000 for field work on the eastern front of the Rocky Mountains, “that swath of wide open that runs north and south across America, where the short grass prairies and plains meet the high desert—and then they all rise up to meet the mountains.”

Wilkins was chosen from a strong field of applicants. The selection committee congratulates the other finalists, Aaron Gilbreath, Reesa Grushka, Amy Irvine, and Mary Sojourner for their excellent submissions.

“Wilkins writes of eastern Montana’s ‘Big Dry’ in the precise, crisp, and engaging language of a native son raised under the tutelage of a lifelong storyteller,’ says committee member Ann Weiler Walka. “An eye for detail and an ear for local rhythms reveal a bone deep intimacy with the people and landscapes of his high desert birthplace.”

In his proposed project, Wilkins anticipates exploring the eastern front from Montana to Texas. “Not as striking and strange as the high country and deserts of Arizona and Utah; sparsely settled and isolated from the influence of most major cities; home to a people mostly poor and still clinging to an outdated agriculture—the eastern front is a forgotten region of the American West. Similarly, the contemporary literature of the Great American Desert is as sparse as the good rivers that cut that dry country.”

Wilkins has published in the Georgia Review, the Missouri Review, Northwest Review, Tar River Poetry, Pleiades, Orion, and elsewhere. His essay “A Story and a Prayer” won The Obsidian Prize in Nonfiction for writing about the American West from High Desert Journal, and his first chapbook of poems, Ragged Point Road, was published last winter by Main Street Rag Press.

Wilkins directs the creative writing program at Waldorf College and teaches writing courses in all the genres, as well as courses in modern and contemporary literature. He earned his BS in computer engineering from Gonzaga University in 2002 and his MFA in creative writing from the University of Idaho in 2007. His poems, essays, and stories have appeared in The Georgia ReviewThe Missouri ReviewNorthwest Review, and Best New Poets 2006,among other literary magazines.

Joe's website:  http://joewilkins.org/