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    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

WLA Conference 2016

51st WLA Conference
September 21-September 24, 2016
Big Sky, Montana

WLA President for  2016 will be Prof. Linda Karell, Montana State University. All questions regarding the conference should be addressed to her.

Linda Karell (photo credit: Nathan Norby)

Linda Karell (photo credit: Nathan Norby)


The schedule is up in Conftool and a copy of the printed program can be viewed or downloaded here.


REGISTRATION IS OPEN! Please start signing up. 

Conftool Login:


Update from the President, June 15, 2016:

Acceptances for individual submissions, panels, and roundtables have now been sent. Thank you for the exciting work you are doing and will be sharing with your colleagues in September! I have accepted more than 300 papers, so this promises to be a good-sized, energetic, and idea-filled conference!
In addition to many fabulous papers and presentations that take on the theme of “The Profane West” in complex and thoughtful ways, exciting new research, and investigations into a range of authors and texts, there will be these events:
An opening night screening of Winter in the Blood, followed by a discussion with directors Alex and Andrew Smith, actor Lily Gladstone, and Lois Welch.
Distinguished Achievement Award winner Maxine Hong Kingston will speak Thursday evening and will receive her award at the banquet Friday evening.
Writer Stephen Graham Jones will be the speaker in a presentation/conversation with Past Presidents Susan Bernardin and David Fenimore for the Past-Presidents’ luncheon event (open to all, regardless of whether you have lunch there, but I’m working on affordable food so everyone feels able to attend!).
Creative Writing and Critical Readings by Mandy Smoker Broaddus, Zack Bean, Glen Chamberlain, Rick Bass, Frances McCue, and Michael Cobb, along with many other regional and national writers.
Dialoguing across MT Teachers and Western Literature Scholars: Indian Education for All Crossover Events: a series of workshops and presentations by award-winning teachers aimed at preparing teachers to present Native American literatures and cultures in the classroom. All English Education events are open to the WLA membership, and teachers attending the conference will be attending many of the regular WLA sessions as part of their continuing education credit.
The Graduate Student Lunch will host writers Mandy Smoker Broaddus and Rick Bass.
Dance after the Friday evening Awards Banquet to Little Jane and the Pistol Whips.
Official registration via ConfTool will open mid-July, and I hope to have a first draft of the conference program posted here around that time. Please check back periodically.  
How to Get Here and Other Important Information:
For those of you beginning to make your travel plans, you may download some information here describing the accommodations available to you at Big Sky.  This information also tells you how to go about making reservations, which you can do at any time now.
Flyers, the United 5% discount website is activated if you want to check flight costs and availability through that airline.  Here is the link:  www.united.com/meetingtravel  Once on the link, type in this passcode:  ZWHR170208
Karst Stage is taking reservations for their shuttle service from Gallatin Yellowstone International Airport (in Bozeman, MT, BZN on the airport coding).   Information about the shuttle service and how to reserve your seat is in this downloadable pdf-file.  Reservations for the shuttle must be made by September 18th.
After the Conference, but before You Leave:
O. Alan Welzien will be leading a hike on Saturday after the conference wraps up. Learn about it here.
Lastly, there will be a field trip to Yellowstone National Park Saturday afternoon.  I’ll have more information about that around registration time, although I know you will be picked up at 1:00 at Huntley Lodge and returned in the early evening.  You’ll need to sign up for this trip on your registration form; it will include a sack lunch and will cost approximately $75.
I’ll see you all in September!

Update from the President, 3-19-16:

If you still need convincing why you should submit an abstract this year, here’s a quick rundown of a few of the many pleasures of WLA Big Sky 2016:
• Our opening event will be the screening of Winter in the Blood, followed by a discussion with directors Andrew and Alex Smith and actor Lily Gladstone.
• Our Distinguished Achievement Award Winner, Maxine Hong Kingston will receive her award and present a talk.
• We’ll have a range of panels and presentations on Native American literature(s) and writers as part of the conference’s cross-over WLA and English Education events.
• There will also be featured critical and creative writing plenaries to suit the many interests of our members. Some of the highlighted writers and critics include Rick Bass, Zach Bean, Glen Chamberlain, Frances McCue, Mandy Smoker Broaddus, and Michael Cobb.
• A guided day-trip to Yellowstone Park on Saturday is in the offing.
• Alan Weltzien will lead the hardy and nature-hungry amongst you on a hike on Saturday.
• We’re working on something new and different—and more welcoming and affordable for all participants—for what was known as the Past President’s Lunch. Details to come.
• The Spa at Big Sky tells me they will be open during our conference dates.
More later,


Greetings! As host of the 2016 Western Literature Association Conference, which will take place in Big Sky, Montana, September 21-24, 2016, I invite you to consider giving a paper, organizing a session, or attending for the sheer pleasure of discovering all the intriguing and exciting work being done in western literary studies. The theme for this year’s conference is “The Profane West.” (Please see the CFP for a fuller discussion of the theme: it isn’t just swearing.) Be brave, be bold!

This year’s conference returns to Big Sky, MT. The resort is located between Bozeman and West Yellowstone, one of the popular gateways to Yellowstone National Park. Lean more about the resort here: http://bigskyresort.com. Fall in Montana is usually gorgeous, with warm days and cool nights, but last time we were at Big Sky, it snowed! Whatever the weather, you’ll be surrounded by some of the most specular scenery in the West, with numerous dining opportunities and much to occupy your time in addition to the conference. For those of you (there must be some, including me!) who don’t itch to get outside in the grandeur, Big Sky has a spa as well as plenty of places to relax into the quiet.

Big Sky is a tourist destination: that means good food, a chance to buy a mink or diamonds while you’re here, and copious displays of wealth. It’s also a hard-working town, with its own school district, medical center, a distillery, and plenty of friendly people. Consider coming before the conference or staying after it’s done and enjoying yourself at your own pace. It’s worth noting that Big Sky is about a 45-minute drive from Bozeman; shuttle busses will be arranged to take you to the lodge and return you to the airport, but if you’re an explorer, you may want to rent a car. More details, maps, and deals on transportation to come.

We’ve blocked an assortment of rooms (from standard rooms to suites to lofts that accommodate 2-8 guests, with room rates ranging from $149 to $289 plus tax) for the conference, so there’s much for you to choose from.

Conference highlights and details are being arranged, but here are some of the planned events that have me beyond excited about hosting you:

Our Distinguished Achievement Award Winner is Maxine Hong Kingston. Ms. Kingston is Professor Emerita at UC Berkeley, and she is the author of many books, including The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts, China Men, and Tripmaster Monkey. Her blazingly brave and original work has earned numerous awards, including the National Book Award, PEN West Achievement Award, and the National Medal of Arts. Ms. Kingston will be attending with her husband Earll, and she will be giving an address at the conference.

For our opening night activity, we anticipate screening Winter in the Blood, with a discussion featuring the directors Andrew Smith and Alex Smith to follow. James Welch’s powerful novel-turned-film was the Official Selection in 2013 of the Los Angeles, Austin, and American Indian film festivals.

We’re also at work developing a new component of the conference that will welcome and support secondary school teachers in their work teaching western American literature. More detail on that in coming months.

Our annual awards dinner will take place Friday evening, and the dance, featuring the popular local western/honky tonk/all around good dancing band, Little Jane and the Pistol Whips will keep us dancing through the evening.

For other entertainment and down-time fun, there will be a Saturday tour bus to Yellowstone National Park. Alan Weltzien has committed to leading a hike on Saturday for interested fitness buffs. Big Sky also offers zip lining, hiking, and other activities that can be booked individually or in small groups. (I plan to zip line and then get a massage!)

I’ll provide more details as we get closer to the event. But just a few last reminders:

  • Paper and session proposals are due June 1, 2016. This is earlier than usual, so please take note.
  • We will be using ConfTool as the registration software, and we will have appropriate keywords to identify submissions for various awards.

Welcome to 2016 WLA at Big Sky, Montana! I can’t wait to see you there!

Linda Karell
Montana State University





The profane: not limited to the blasphemous or the obscene, but rather encompassing that which is underrepresented, undervalued, censored, denied, and/or secretly shared. Unofficial and unsanctioned pleasures and punishments. The necessary complement of the sacred, helping both to define and erode it.

The 51st annual Western Literature Conference, hosted by Linda Karell (Montana State University), will take place in the spectacular natural beauty and undeniable tourist development that is Big Sky, Montana. We invite you to think about “the profane West” in ways that challenge entrenched definitions/conceptions/celebrations of the West—including the once subversive.

In addition to proposals on the conference theme and any aspects of literature about the North American West, we especially encourage innovative proposals on the following:

°  Indigenous literatures of and about the West
°  Feminist and queer approaches to Western literature
°  Women’s autobiographical and memoir writing
°  Pedagogy and K-12 issues in Western literature
°  Animals (and sacred cows) in Western literature
°  Montana literature and writers

Proposals for panels and roundtable discussions should include an abstract for each paper or presentation. Deadline: June 1, 2016.

Please direct your questions to WLAConference2016@westernlit.org.


  • 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.

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  • Western American Literature (WAL)

    (The Journal)

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

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