We are very pleased to announce
the recipient of the 2014
Desert Writers Award:
This year's $3,000 grant will support
Adelheid's current work in progress,
The Ecology of Grief.
The Old English root of the word care is cearu, which means to guard or watch, "to trouble oneself." For desert writers, cearu is to trouble oneself in the service of wonder. Itâ€™s to brave the Utah slickrock on a hot day in late July to make the acquaintance of a tiny mite that lives nowhere else in the world but in the desert potholes of the Colorado Plateau. In return for your taking the trouble, you get this: the chance to keep company with folks like those in Ellen Meloyâ€™s ever-expanding circleâ€”writers, readers, desert loversâ€”who will join hands with you, drop to their knees and bless the day they first tasted desert dirt.
- Adelheid Fischer
The author of dozens of magazine articles and essays, Fischer began writing on natural history and environmental subjects in the early-1990s when she was living in Minnesota. She is the co-author of two books, Valley of Grass: Tallgrass Prairie and Parkland of the Red River Region which won the 1999 Minnesota Book Award for nature writing. With co-author Chel Anderson, a Minnesota ecologist, she has recently completed work on North Shore: An Ecology of Place, a book on Lake Superior forthcoming from the University of Minnesota Press.
Since moving to Phoenix, the deserts of the American Southwest have become the focus of Fischerâ€™s writing. She describes her most recent work-in-progress, The Ecology of Grief, as â€œa creative nonfiction book that examines catastrophic loss and change in desert systems, from ancient megafaunal extinctions to the shrubification of high-elevation grasslands.â€
The event that set this nonfiction work into motion was the sudden death of Fischerâ€™s husband in 2005.
â€œThis book is not intended to be just another hand-wringing work on the effects of climate change,â€ said Don Snow, chairman of the Ellen Meloy Fund Awards Committee. â€œWhat Heidi Fischer is doing here is exploring two kinds of grieving which are thought to occupy separate universes of emotion: grieving for the death of a loved one, and mourning the loss of valued places and ecologies. Itâ€™s conceived to be an excellent natural history book, but also a deeply moving work that will connect the personal with the ecological,â€ Snow said.
The book will focus largely on Arizonaâ€™s Chiricahua Mountains and other desert mountain ranges known as the â€œsky islands.â€
â€œThe Sky Islands are home to a wide range of endemic species,â€ said Fischer, â€œbut they also are a crossroads for organisms from other regions. Plant and animal species that travel the spine of the Rockies from the north mingle with more southerly species from Mexicoâ€™s Sierra Madres.â€
Despite their great biodiversity and ecological significance, the desert sky islands have received little attention from nature writers. As Awards Committee member Jake Lodato said, â€œThat was one of the main reasons why we took such an interest in Heidi Fischerâ€™s project. The mountains she loves are really not very well-known, but they are fascinating places.â€
A group of five Ellen Meloy Fund board members comprised the 2014 Award Committee. Along with Snow and Lodato, both from Washington State, panel members included Ann Walka from Flagstaff, AZ, Jullianne Ballou from Littlerock, AR, and last yearâ€™s award winner Sarah Stewart Johnson from Cambridge, MA.
We would also like to give recognition to our 2014 Desert Writers Award Finalists:
Tara FitzGerald of Brooklyn, New York
Melissa Sevigny of Ames Iowa
Deborah Taffa of Glendale, Minnesota.
The Board of Directors, Ellen Meloy Fund for Desert Writers
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