• Testimonials

    I had rarely encountered such a friendly environment at a literature conference.
    Renata Goncalves Gomes
    Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina

WLA Conference 2019

54th WLA Conference

Estes Park, Colorado
Sept. 18-21, 2019

THEME: Not Cloudy All Day: Climates of Change in the American West

Alex HuntThe 2019 Conference will be co-hosted by Professors  Alex Hunt (West Texas A&M)
and SueEllen Campbell (Colorado State University). 

SueEllen Campbell







Check out our terrific PROGRAM! If you are registered for the conference, you can also check it in Conftool. Or better yet, you can download the entire program to your phone or iPad with the mobile app Conference4Me. Once you have downloaded the app, search for WLA Conference 2019. Voilà!

The Western Literature Association gratefully acknowledges support from our SPONSORS:



Register here: https://www.conftool.pro/wla-conference-2019/

The 2019 annual conference of the Western Literature Association will take place September 18-21 at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado. 

Our location in the high Colorado mountains at the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park is a majestic landscape claimed by Arapaho and Ute tribes, US expansionists, British nobility, the federal government, notably the National Park Service, and millions of visitors (nearly 4.6 million in 2018). It is a fitting place to think about changes sweeping the West, especially the material and cultural effects of climate change (and the often unrecognized importance of weather and climate) and changing attitudes and policies concerning public lands.

Our Distinguished Achievement Award winner is Leslie Marmon Silko (who, alas, cannot attend), and our featured speakers will include Aaron Abeyta, Paolo Bacigalupi, Brian Calvert, Scott Denning, Dan Flores, Kathleen Dean Moore, and Laura Pritchett.

Please see below for registration, lodging, and travel information; for bios of our featured speakers; and for descriptions of the kinds of sessions we will have. If you don’t find answers to your questions below, please email Alex Hunt or SueEllen Campbell at wlaconference2019@westernlit.org.


Our registration deadline is earlier than usual, but our price is good!

By August 2: Regular $115, Graduate Student $65

After August 2: Regular $165, Graduate Student $115

The particularly low rate for graduate students was made possible thanks to a long-time member of WLA who made a generous but anonymous donation for this purpose.

IF you are staying in a lodge room at the YMCA, this fee INCLUDES the banquet. If you are not staying in one of those rooms, the banquet will cost an additional $25. Don’t forget that you must pay an extra $5 for A/V if you have asked for it.


Lodging: Why You Should Stay at the YMCA

There are two reasons. One is that the WLA will lose $50 for every room in our contracted block that we do not use, or that someone reserves but then cancels. This is why we are charging $50 more for late registrations. (Such penalty charges are standard for conferences and can be a considerable expense to the WLA.)

The second is more alluring. This is a very nice place to stay, with great views, a lot of nearby open space, comfortable rooms, and many pleasant common spaces: it is an excellent place for camaraderie. (Lodging will be in the same buildings where our breakout sessions will occur.) A herd of elk often hangs out right by our space, and we will be there at the peak of the rut, so we will hear the amazing sound of bull elk bugling.

The Y is also actually a good deal, given that the price includes three meals a day (including vegetarian options). Estes Park is an expensive destination, and our weekend is one of the most crowded of the year, making other options scarcer and pricier than one might guess.

Do not plan to walk into town from the Y. It is too far and will take too long. More to the point, the road is narrow, windy, has no shoulders, and can be pretty busy. The town’s bus system will have stopped for the year, and there are extremely limited options for taxis or other ride-hires. Similarly, the national park’s campgrounds are too far away for walking and will likely be full at least some of the nights we are there. Even if you have a car, you will find that restaurants in town are quite crowded and slow at meal times.

In our reserved lodge block (nice rooms with two queen beds, private bathroom, free wi-fi), rates-per-night below include three buffet meals per day, beginning with dinner the day you arrive and ending with lunch the day you leave. Remember: when you book your room, tell the Y you are coming for the WLA meeting. This will get you the discounted rate and make sure they count you toward our required number of rooms taken.

Single                   $168.00 per person

Double                 $103.50 per person

Triple                   $82.50 per person

Quadruple           $71.25 per person

Tax of 5.55% a night will be added. You may extend the group rate three days before and three days after our conference dates, on a space available basis.

This YMCA also offers less expensive dorm-style rooms and more expensive cabins. Please contact the Y directly for rates for these accommodations, as they are not part of our reserved lodge block. They will, though, count toward our requirement if they know you are coming for the conference, so please say you are with WLA when you book per phone: 1-888-613-9622.

Or make your reservation online: Western Literature Association Conference 2019

Please note that a 35% deposit payable to the YMCA is due when making a reservation. Upon receipt of the 35% deposit by the YMCA, a lodging confirmation and reservation number will be emailed to you.

If you would like to enjoy our beautiful mountain location beyond the dates of the group’s stay, please make your reservation on-line first for the dates of the group’s event by clicking on the link above. Then please call Central Reservations at (888) 613-9622 to add the additional nights to your existing reservation. Please have your reservation number handy.

If you have any questions, please contact the Central Reservations Office at (888) 613-9622, and refer to the group name as listed above.

Cabins fill quickly, so act soon if you want one. (Since they have kitchens, cabins don’t include the meal plan, but you can still buy individual meals at the shared cafeteria.)

ADA rooms: Our lodge block includes a number of lodge rooms with varied accessibility accommodations, and if you want to book one of those rooms, you need to be as specific as possible when you talk to the reservations people.

Getting Here

The Estes Park YMCA is 1.5-2 hours northwest of DIA, Denver International Airport. We have arranged for a group discount with the Estes Park Shuttle, which will transport you between DIA and the Y: https://www.estesparkshuttle.com/DIA-airport-shuttle. Full price is $85 round trip, $45 one way, but if you book by the end of August, you will get a 25% discount. (Sept. 1-7, the discount will be 10%. After that, full price.) Our group code is CLOUDY.

Please do remember to think about tipping the drivers. We don’t want our discount to pull food off their tables.

Elevation & Weather

The YMCA of the Rockies is 8,000 feet above sea level, an elevation most of you will notice. Plan to stay especially well hydrated and expect to get out of breath more easily than usual. You may also get a small headache or have a little trouble sleeping the first night. As you probably know, September in the mountains can bring hot, medium, cool, or even cold weather, so bring layers of clothing. September 2018 was quite warm, but snow wouldn’t be too surprising.

Liquor & Cannabis

The family-oriented YMCA enforces tight restrictions on alcohol, including absolutely no drinking in public spaces such as lobbies, hallways, porches, and outdoors—and we will honor their rules. They also do not allow cash bars.

For informal gatherings on Wednesday and Thursday nights after the plenary talks, and for the awards banquet and dance, however, we have arranged that you may purchase beer and wine tickets (decent box wine, red or white, and local beer) for $5 each when you register and pay online in advance. We will have additional tickets at the on-site registration desk for $6. We will NOT be able to sell liquor tickets at the events where there is liquor available, so you will need to plan ahead. If you want something fancier for the banquet, you may bring your own wine.

The Y also has a strict rule against cannabis, which is still illegal to consume or smoke in public spaces in Estes Park and to possess anywhere in the national park or national forest. https://www.visitestespark.com/marijuana/

Rocky Mountain National Park & Field Trips

The YMCA adjoins the park, and you will be able to hike directly into it if you wish. If you can get yourself to the far (east) side of Estes Park or to the nearest Visitors Center, NPS shuttle busses will take you to key hiking destinations. (You will still need a park pass.) Or if you share a car, you can also share the $20/day entrance fee. Because field trips into the park turn out to be difficult and expensive to arrange (last year, the third Saturday in September was the park’s busiest day of the year!), we have decided not to arrange one, but we will help you find people to share rides with and give you tips about where to go.

Featured Speakers

Aaron Abeyta

Aaron Abeyta is a professor of English at Adams State University (Alamosa, Colorado), and the Mayor of Antonito, Colorado, his hometown. He is the author of four collections of poetry and one novel; his poetry book colcha won an American Book Award and the Colorado Book Award, and his novel Rise, Do Not be Afraid, was a finalist for the 2007 Colorado Book Award and El Premio Aztlán. His poems and prose—which are deeply grounded in his place, family, and culture—have appeared in many places, including a good number of anthologies and High Country News. As a recent Poet Laureate of Colorado’s Western Slope and recipient of a Colorado Council on the Arts Fellowship and a Governor’s Creative Leadership Award, he has played a significant role in keeping literature vital in some of Colorado’s underserved regions.

Paolo Bacigalupi

Paolo Bacigalupiis on virtually every list of fiction writers who focus on climate change. His imagined future climate dystopias include The Water Knife (set in Phoenix and Las Vegas, where water has grown disastrously scarce, life is ugly, and violence rules)and The Windup Girl (set in Bangkok), both for adults, and a trio of Ship Breaker novels for young adults; his awards for these and other books are too many to list. His short pieces of fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Wired, Slate, Medium, Salon, and High Country News. Another Colorado native, he lives in Paonia, Colorado.

Dan Flores (photo by Sara Dant).Dan Flores, who now lives in the Galisteo Valley outside Santa Fe, New Mexico, is A. B. Hammond Professor Emeritus of the History of the American West at the University of Montana-Missoula. He is the author of ten books, most recently the New York Times Bestseller Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History (2016), and American Serengeti: The Last Big Animals of the Great Plains (2016). His essays on the environment, art, and culture of the West have appeared in newspapers like the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune, and in magazines such as Texas Monthly, Orion, Southwest Art, and High Country News. His work has been honored by the Western Writers of America; the Denver Public Library; the Western Heritage Center/National Cowboy Museum; the High Plains, Montana, and Oklahoma Book Awards; and by the Western History Association, Montana Historical Society, and Texas State Historical Association.

Kathleen MooreKathleen Dean Moore is a philosopher, activist, and writer whose latest essay collection is Great Tide Rising: Finding Clarity and Moral Courage to Confront Climate Change. Her books include the award-winning essay collections Riverwalking, Holdfast, Pine Island Paradox, and Wild Comfort and the novel Piano Tide (set in Alaska). She co-edited the massive and powerful collection of testimonies by many of the world’s moral leaders, Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril, and her essays have appeared in High Country News, OrionDiscover, Audubon, Utne Reader, Earth Island JournalNew York Times MagazineConservation Biology, and elsewhere. She has won an  Oregon Book Award (she lives in Corvallis and summers in Alaska), a Choice magazine Outstanding Book Award, and the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award. She co-founded and was first director of the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word, an innovative project that brings together scientists, musicians, painters, writers, and philosophers; and she has addressed audiences ranging from 350.org activists to Nobel Conference scholars to Disney World executives and students all over the country.

Laura PritchettLaura Pritchett’s short story collection Hell’s Bottom, Colorado, won the PEN USA Award for Fiction and the Milkweed National Fiction Prize, and her novels Sky Bridge, Stars Go Blue, Red Lightning, and The Blue Hour have won numerous literary awards, including the High Plains Book Award. She also writes nonfiction (most recently Great Colorado Bear Stories) and has edited several environmental anthologies. Her stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times, O Magazine, Salon, High Country News, The Sun, Orion, High Desert Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, The Normal School, Writers on the Range, and elsewhere. She, too, was born, raised, and still lives in Colorado, near Fort Collins.


Brian Calvert and Scott Denning will join forces for a plenary session about climate change in the American West, about their public-facing climate change work, and about how that public work overlaps or is in tension with other aspects of their professional and personal lives.

Brian Calvert

Brian Calvert, editor-in-chief of High Country News, is a Wyoming native who grew up in Pinedale and holds a M.F.A from Western Colorado University and a B.A. in English from the University of Northern Colorado. He has worked as a foreign correspondent, writer, and audio journalist and has been a Ted Scripps Fellow in Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado. His essay about visiting Paul Kingsnorth’s Dark Mountain Project appeared in HCN in 2017: “So What if We’re Doomed? Climate Chaos, Mass Extinction, The Collapse of Civilization: A Guide to Facing the Ecocide.”

Scott Denning

Scott Denning is Monfort Professor of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University, where he has spent half his life studying the breathing of the Earth and the role of life in the climate system. Since 2006, he has led a program to engage schoolchildren, teachers, undergraduates, graduate students, and the public on the scientific and cultural imperatives of climate change, and he speaks about twice a month to churches, farmers, schools, Rotarians, Knights of Columbus, reporters, and professional skeptics. A passionate science communicator who speaks with personal authenticity as well as academic authority, he has chosen to take an optimistic stance on our ability to deal with climate change.

We will have a demi-plenary session on the subject of Deconstructed and Reconstructed Indigenous Identities and Families with these speakers::

Susan Devan Harness, a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, was born on Montana’s Flathead Indian Reservation and became a transracial adoptee at the age of two. Her new memoir Bitteroot: A Memoir of Transracial Adoption explores the uneasy intersection of race, history, and the brutal government American Indian policies that affect the lives of families. She is also the author of Mixing Cultural Identities through Transracial Adoption: After the Indian Adoption Project (1958-1967).

Margaret D. Jacobs, Chancellor’s Professor of History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has for two decades studied Indigenous child removal. Her work on government policies from 1880-1940 led to her award-winning book White Mother to a Dark Race. More recently, she has looked at how authorities in the U.S., Australia, and Canada continued to remove Indigenous children after World War II through foster care and adoptive placements in non-Indigenous families—and how Indigenous women mobilized transnationally to reclaim the care of their children. With support from a Carnegie Fellowship, she is currently focusing on how to promote reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

Stephen Graham Jones, Ivena Baldwin Professor of English at the University of Colorado, is the author of too many award-winning novels and short stories to count, including Mongrels, Mapping the Interior, and Ledfeather. (Those awards include being listed as one of Bloody Disgusting’s Top Ten Horror Novels of the Year.) He grew up in West Texas; often visited the Blackfeet reservation in Montana with his father, a member of that nation; and experiments with horror, sci-fi, fantasy, slashers, werewolf stories, and other pop culture forms. He also is interested in how Native Americans and their families and communities might operate in such genres.

Rick Waters is Co-Executive Director of the Denver Indian Center and Lead Relationship Guidance Specialist. A member of the Kiowa and Cherokee tribes, he has worked as the Sr. Director with the American Indian College Fund, Assistant Director of Admissions at the University of Colorado-Boulder, and American Indian Home-School Liaison with the Dallas Independent School District. The Denver Indian Center is “an urban cultural gathering center for the American Indian/Alaska Native community of the Denver Metro area.”

Call For Proposals

We welcome proposals on any aspect of the literatures (broadly conceived) of the North American West. We especially encourage panels, papers, and “structured conversations” (see below for details) that explore the following topics as they apply to these literatures:

• The likely effects of a changing climate (and weather) on the lands, peoples, and cultures of the American West

• Defeat, resilience, denial, unrealistic and realistic hope, and other emotional literary and cultural responses to changes in climate (e.g., in Dust Bowl literatures)—or to other basic shifts in material realities

• Public lands, especially those maintained by the National Park System

• Environmental history and its relations to literature and other cultural expressions

• The varying abilities of different genres to deal with such topics: YA fiction, speculative vs realistic fiction, experimental eco-poetics/poetry vs traditional poetic forms, film, social media, visual arts, feature journalism, personal nonfiction literature, and so on

• The work of Distinguished Achievement Award Winner Leslie Marmon Silko (who, alas, will not be able to attend)

Kinds of Sessions

In an effort to streamline the program and push for greater emphasis on discussion, we are offering a non-traditional slate of presentation options. We hope that you will experiment, in the spirit of the conference, with a different style of panel that will encourage real conversation to take place.

In all formats, if you have any AV requests, you must check the box on the submission form. We will not be able to accommodate any requests after a submission has already been made. Since AV is one of our highest costs, we will add a $5 surcharge to your registration. We cannot provide computers.

In every format, you will each need to have your own, individual user account, your own submission, and your own title. If you are part of a pre-formed group, you will find a space to enter both the group’s title and your own. Please do so this way: PAPER TITLE [all caps] / Panel Title [with title capitalization]. That way we will know which panel you are on.

CONVERSATION (pre-formed or individual): 3 leaders (with names and titles on the program) who will moderate a focused discussion with session attendees on any topic that would be good for conversation, as opposed to presentations. This option is for those of you who most value the conversations you have at conferences and really just want to exchange ideas and reactions with each other on topics of shared interest. We will do our best to match individual proposals in ways that seem productive; if we have trouble, we will contact you about options. For your (100-word) abstract, please say what you want to talk about and why. Include some of the (significant, open-ended, focused) questions you intend to pose to the other people in the conversation.

PUBLIC INTELLECTUAL PANEL (pre-formed or individual): 3 presenters each with a 20-minute maximum for a talk designed particularly for an audience drawn from the general public. This option is for those of you who want to take your knowledge beyond academia. Depending on scheduling, we may indeed be able to invite the public, as we are collaborating on some featured speakers with the Estes Park Library. (Check back on this.) You might think of this as a good chance to practice speaking to interested listeners who won’t know any of our field’s professional/academic/theoretical language or assumptions but do know a lot about something else. Imagine, say, a group of readers at a public library event, or a church reading group, or a multidisciplinary conference whose other attendees are scientists, anthropologists, computer programmers, etc. For your (250-word) abstract, you might add to your topic description something about the kind of circumstance/audience you envision and say why you think your topic is of broad public interest.

QUICK-PAPER PANEL (pre-formed or individual): 5 presenters each with a 10-minute maximum presentation time. This option is for those who prefer to hear more voices per session. You should plan to get straight to your point—your argument, the question you want to open, your corrections to the mistakes of those who have come before you, your conviction that everybody else has been ignoring or missing something critical . . . A good place to try out a new idea and see what happens. Standard 250-word abstract.

TRADITIONAL PANEL (pre-formed or individual): 4 presenters each with a 15-minute maximum presentation time. This option is for the traditionalists among us. Perhaps not as long as you would like, but the longest available at this meeting, and the best kind of session for those who use conference papers to get good starts on articles or chapters. Standard 250-word abstract.


  • 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.