• Testimonials

    The resolute but congenial atmosphere of the WLA has set the tone for my approach to teaching and scholarship, and established my regard for active service to my institution and the profession.
    William V. Lombardi
    Assistant Professor, Missouri Valley College (Grad student rep 2012-2014)

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 award for best creative writing submission, and graduate student participants have been successful in winning that in the past. To be eligible for the Taylor award, please submit a conference paper proposal by proposal deadline and the complete paper of no more than 15 pages (if your proposal is accepted) in July, asking to be considered for the award.

More information on the submission process and precise deadlines can be found on the awards page.

Note: The award can only be received once.

A few Taylor alumni at the 2009 Conference in Spearfish, SD: Front row: Joshuah O’Brien (2009), Cheryll Glotfelty (1987) [initiator and former editor of the the WLA Syllabus Exchange], Matthew Lavin (2008) [co-editor of the WLA Syllabus Exchange project] Back row: Matt Burkhart (2003) [grad student rep, 2003-05; EC member 2016-19], Nancy Cook (1988) [present WLA Treasurer & 2011 WLA President], Anne Kaufman (1998) [2014 WLA Co-President], Evelyn Funda (1993) [former WAL Book Review Editor]

The Dorys Crow 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.

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. The Dorys Grover Award, in the amount of $200 each, will be given to two graduate students presenting at this year’s 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 find specifics on submission and deadlines on the awards page.

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. 

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.

For current information on how to apply, please check here.

Please forward the information to any graduate student who may be eligible to apply.


Meet our Owens Recipient from 2011: Johannes Fehrle

I came to my first WLA conference as a graduate student in 2010. I was working on a Ph.D. dissertation on revisionist Westerns in Candian and U.S. American literature at Freiburg University in Southern Germany and found myself pretty much in isolation from other scholars working on western American literature and culture. At this point, I had given papers in colloquia and at Ph.D. conferences, but the WLA Conference was the first “real” conference I submitted a paper to. In retrospect, I have to say I could not have chosen a better conference or wished for a more welcoming, interested and supportive group of scholars and colleagues. Since that first conference, my ties and gratefulness to the WLA have only deepened. I was lucky enough to receive the Owens Award in 2011, which allowed me to return. The contacts and friends I made at these conferences have benefitted me immensely: I received valuable feedback for my dissertation because I got to test new ideas by presenting early versions of my dissertation chapters at the conference. My talks have also led to publications with other members.

Now that I am a bit more firmly situated in the academic world (I completed my Ph.D. in 2012 and am for the time being gainfully employed at a university), I am glad to be able to give back to the organization. From 2013 to 216, I was a member of the Executive Council, which discusses the future of the organization. Telling my colleagues about my positive experience, I was able to recruit other German scholars to attend the conference. Their experience has been much the same as mine: they benefitted greatly in their research and were awed by the openness of the community at the conference. Even though I travel farther than most, like many other attendees, I set aside time and money to travel to the WLA Conference each year, and I am glad to say I have yet to miss one.

—Johannes Fehrle, University of Mannheim (2015)

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, Jes Lopez and Jillian Moore Bennion.



  • 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.

  • Western American Literature (WAL)

    (The Journal)

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