"I gauge my life by the swallows. Their nature, like many things in the world, is cyclic; They live inside the regular heartbeat of the land."
Ken Lamberton is an American writer, artist, and naturalist. He is the author of several celebrated nonfiction books, including Wilderness and Razor Wire, which won the 2002 John Burroughs Medal for Outstanding Nature Writing. He holds degrees in biology and creative writing from the University of Arizona and lives with his wife in a 1890's stone cottage in Arizona's historic mountain borderlands.
Lamberton spent 12-years in the Arizona prison system, where he joined the Creative Writing Workshop of poet and author Richard Shelton. Shelton's workshops significantly influenced his writing career, and he began writing articles and essays about the natural history of the Southwest in the early 1990's.
His writing first appeared in national magazines and literary journals like Orion, Arizona Highways, Bird Watcher’s Digest, Manoa, Northern Lights, Alligator Juniper, Puerto Del Sol, and the Gettysburg Review. Several of these essays, in turn, were selected for anthologies such as American Nature Writing, Getting Over the Color Green, and David Quammen's anthology The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2000. Editors have nominated two of Lamberton's essays for Pushcart Prizes, and Robert Atwan of The Best American Essays series listed his work in "Notable Essays of 1998" and again in "Notable Essays of 1999."
In January 2000, Mercury House published Lamberton's first book, Wilderness and Razor Wire, to critical acclaim. The San Francisco Chronicle called it, "...entirely original: an edgy, ferocious, subtly complex collection of essays on the nature of freedom and the freedom of nature, whose true subject, and greatest accomplishment, may be its own narrative voice." The book won the prestigious John Burroughs Medal for Outstanding Nature Writing in 2002 and sits among the works of Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, and Peter Matthiessen.
After completing his Masters degree in creative writing at the University of Arizona, he continued writing and publishing essays and books about the Southwest, often blending natural history with memoir and featuring detailed pen and ink illustrations by the author. The University of Arizona Press published Chiricahua Mountains: Bridging the Borders of Wildness in October 2003, and his third book, Beyond Desert Walls in March 2005.
Lamberton's fourth book, Time of Grace: Thoughts on Nature, Family, and the Politics of Crime and Punishment (University of Arizona Press, October 2007), won a Soros Justice Fellowship in 2007 and was nominated for a National Book Award. Dry River: Stories of Life, Death, and Redemption on the Santa Cruz is his fifth book, a story about the amazing complexity of this troubled desert river and a celebration of one man's lifelong journey with the people and places touched by it. Dry River was featured at the 2006 Social Research conference in New York, Punishment: The US Record, where actor and activist Richard Gere read from the book. His latest book, Chasing Arizona: One Man's Obsession with the Grand Canyon State, was a Top Pick Southwest Book of the Year in 2015.
He has appeared in Writer's Market 1999, The Arizona Republic, the Arizona Daily Star, The Dallas Morning News, and Sierra Magazine. Additionally, he has appeared on many radio and television programs including Arizona Illustrated and National Public Radio ("To the Best of Our Knowledge" with Steve Paulson in April 2000, and "Living on Earth" with Steve Curwood in March 2005).
In addition to writing, Lamberton is Managing Editor of the Rain Shadow Review (2010 to present), which presents the creative talents of those who are currently, or have been previously, incarcerated in Arizona state prisons. Lamberton was also the Editor of the Walking Rain Review (2001-2010) and The Sonora Review (1996-1997).
Lamberton attributes his success to his wife and family, and to Richard Shelton's mentorship. He also credits a supportive community of mentors and peers, among them Jimmy Santiago Baca, Elizabeth Bernays, Marcia Bonta, Alison Deming, Fenton Johnson, Robert Michael Pyle, Jennifer Schneider, Barbara Stahura, Susan Tweit, and Alan Weisman.