• Testimonials

    The Western Literature Association has proved to be an invaluable asset and I look forward to continuing to attend throughout my career.
    Jacqueline Harris
    PhD Candidate, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Students Attending the WLA Conference

Submitting a Conference Paper

WLA’s annual conference includes panel sessions where participants read scholarly or creative works related to the literature of western America  and culture. Each paper presentation is allowed approximately 20 minutes (which is about 10 pages of double-spaced text). If you need some instruction on how to write an abstract for a conference paper, check out the details provided here: Conference Abstracts. Please see conference details for the current WLA Conference. If you have any questions regarding these awards, contact the current WLA Presidents.

Award for Best Graduate Student Paper Submitted to the Conference

In 1984, the J. Golden Taylor Award for Best Essay Submitted to the WLA Conference by a Graduate Student was awarded for the very first time to Anne K. Phillips (now associate professor and assistant department head in English at Kansas State University). Named in honor of the first editor of Western American Literature, the Taylor Award is a prestigious award juried by a team of experts in the field and given annually to a work of scholarship submitted for the annual conference. Creative work is not considered for the Taylor; however, creative work may be submitted to the association’s Manfred Prize, and graduate student participants have been successful in winning that in the past (see Manfred Award). To be eligible for the Taylor award, please submit a conference paper proposal by June 15 and a complete paper of no more than 15 pages (if your proposal is accepted) by August 15, to WLAconference2015@westernlit.org, asking to be considered for the award. Note: The award can only be received once.

Former Taylor Recipients

A few Taylor alumni at the 2009 Conference in Spearfish, SD: Front row: Joshuah O’Brien (2009), Cheryll Glotfelty (1987) [initiator and editor of the the WLA Syllabus Exchange], Matthew Lavin (2008) [co-editor of the WLA Syllabus Exchange project] Back row: Matt Burkhart (2003), Nancy Cook (1988) [present WLA Treasurer, 2011 WLA President], Anne Kaufman (1998) [2014 WLA Co-President], Evelyn Funda (1993) [former WAL Book Review Editor]

2014: Aubrey Streit Krug, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
2013: Heather Dundas, University of Southern California
2012: Sylvan Goldberg, Stanford University
2011: Christopher Muniz, University of Southern California
2010: Alex Young, University of Southern California
2009: Joshuah O’Brien, West Texas A&M
2008: Matthew J. Lavin, University of Iowa
2007: Patrick Gleason, University of California, San Diego
2006: Angela Waldie, University of Calgary
2005: John Gamber, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara
2004: Ianina Arnold, University of Idaho
2003: Matt Burkhart, University of Arizona
2002: Laurie Clements Lambeth, University of Houston
2001: Virginia Kennedy, Montclair State University
2000: Jenny Emery Davidson, University of Utah
1999: Jenny Emery Davidson
1998: Anne L. Kaufman
1997: Jonathan Pitts, SUNY-Buffalo
1996: Wes Mantooth
1995: Phil Coleman-Hull
1994: David Mazel
1993: Evelyn I. Funda, Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln
1989: Nat Lewis
1988: Nancy Cook, SUNY-Buffalo
1987: Cheryll Burgess Glotfelty, Cornell University
1986: Linda A. Hughson-Ross
1984: Anne K. Phillips

The Dorys Grover Awards

In 1966 Washington State University graduate student Dorys Grover joined the fledgling Western Literature Association and started attending its conferences. From her books on WLA’s first Distinguished Achievement Award recipient Vardis Fisher to her work on Hemingway and Graves, Professor Grover helped to develop the field of western American literary studies. After teaching for over two decades at East Texas State University, Professor Grover retired in 1993, splitting her time between Texas and Pendleton, Oregon, where she grew up.

One of her doctoral students, Joyce Kinkead, Professor of English at Utah State University, has created the Dorys Grover Award in recognition of her mentor’s dedication to both western American literature and to graduate students. Now in its second year, the Dorys Grover Award, in the amount of $200 each, will be given to two graduate students presenting at this year’s 50th annual conference whose papers contribute to our critical understandings of region, place, and space in western American literatures

Creative work is not considered for the Grover Awards.

Please submit an abstract by the proposal deadline (usually in mid-June). Once your proposal has been accepted, submit the complete, conference-length paper (not exceeding 15 pages) with a cover letter indicating that you wish to be considered for the Grover Award to WLAConference2015@westernlit.org. The deadline for the completed paper is August 15.

You may submit your paper to both the Taylor and the Grover Awards (as long as it fits the criteria for the Grover Awards).

Note: the award can only be received once. (So if you have already received the Taylor, you cannot submit to the Taylor Award again.)

The Louis Owens Awards for Graduate Student Presenters

The WLA honors the great writer and scholar Louis Owens for his contributions to western American and American Indian literary studies and for his unfailing generosity as a colleague, teacher, and mentor. The goal of the Louis Owens Awards is to build for the future of the Western Literature Association by modeling Owens’ own support and encouragement of diverse graduate student engagement in western literature and culture studies. The Owens Awards are intended to foster ever-greater diversity within the WLA membership, to help broaden the field of western American literary studies, and to recognize both graduate student scholarship and financial need.

The Owens Award consists of a cash award valued at up to $700. (The exact amount depends on donations and on the number of awards given.) To apply, please submit the following materials by Sept. 1 to Prof. Priscilla Ybarra:

1. A completed application form.
2. A copy of your WLA conference proposal.
3. A writing sample of 8-10 pages, double-spaced. This does not have to be on the same topic as the conference proposal but should reflect your work in the field of western American literary and cultural studies.

Download the Louis Owens Award Application 2015. Note: The award can only be received once. For information on writing an abstract, see conference abstracts. All other questions in regards to the Owens Award/s should be directed to Prof. Priscilla Ybarra.

If you’d like to download a flier with this information, click here. Please forward the information to any graduate student who may be eligible to apply.

Meet our Owens Recipient from 2013: Renata Goncalves Gomes


To attend the WLA Conference in 2013 for the first time was a unique experience in my academic career. I received the Louis Owens Award for Graduate Student Presenters Contributing the Most Cultural Diversity in the WLA, which afforded me the opportunity to get to know the organizers of the conference and to spend additional time in the Bay Area afterwards. I just felt at home when I arrived at the Berkeley Marina. I had rarely encountered such a friendly environment at a literature conference. As I had been hoping to study abroad for a year, I approached Prof. Richard Hutson, WLA President at the time, with my project. He kindly accepted to be my sponsor for a year as an international visiting researcher in the English Department at UC Berkeley. Furthermore, it was an enriching moment for me to present a paper that would be part of my doctoral dissertation in front of so many well-known researchers in my area of interest. I also vividly remember when I attended the round-table titled “West Coast/Left Coast: The Legacy of Berkeley Fifty Years after the Free Speech Movement,” chaired by Prof. Hutson. Annette Kolodny read an amazing paper about her experience in the Free Speech Movement. For the first time in all those years that I had been studying counterculture, I felt a real connection that I couldn’t express in words at that moment. But I told Prof. Kolodny later by email; I just couldn’t keep that joy to myself. Ultimately, the WLA Conference is an incredible experience for those graduate students who are willing to make progress with their theses and dissertations and their careers in Literature and Culture. It is a chance to get to know some very kind and important faculty as well as fellow students in your area of study. I am looking forward to seeing everyone again soon in Victoria!

—Renata Goncalves Gomes Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina University of California, Berkeley

Professionalization Panels

In 2007, Grad Rep Angela Waldie organized WLA’s first annual Graduate Student Professionalization Panel, a roundtable panel session in which fellow graduate students and experienced faculty members give brief remarks on career-related issues, and then the session is opened up for discussion among all those attending. Since then, we have sometimes had two Grad Student Professionalization Panels. Past professionalization panels have discussed why graduate students should aim to publish and ways they can do just that, how to maximize your time and effort when writing a thesis or dissertation, ways to conquer the first-time teacher jitters, transitioning from an MA program to a PhD program, and what to expect at your thesis or dissertation defense. To request a topic for the panel to cover, email your graduate student representatives,  Jaquelin Pelzer and Sylvan Goldberg.

Additional Professionalization Information

For additional advice on a variety of professionalization issues, check out In Medias Res, no. 2. Unfortunately, this online newsletter for graduate students, edited by WLA member Evelyn Funda, Associate Professor of English at Utah State University, has been discontinued. (If the link is no longer available, please shoot me an email to let me know.) The newsletter is written by and for graduate students about their concerns regarding their professional lives.

  • Western Literature Association (WLA)

    Founded in 1965, the Western Literature Association (WLA) is a non-profit, scholarly association that promotes the study of the diverse literature and cultures of the North American West, past and present.

    Conference Proposals

  • Western American Literature (WAL)

    (The Journal)

    Published by the Western Literature Association, Western American Literature is the leading journal in western American literary studies.

    Article Submissions