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Monday, November 2, 2015

WOMEN WRITING THE WEST...... A great organization! ...... By Gail L. Jenner

One of the best conferences for anyone writing westerns or historicals is Women Writing the West. This year the conference was held in Redmond, Oregon – the first time it’s been held in Oregon. This year's conference celebrated "Distinctions of the West...Writers Explore the Northwest!"

Attended by more than 130, WWW is one of those organizations that offers what a lot of bigger conferences offer but still retains the distinct flavor of an intimate organization. It's like friends meeting friends every year!

At the book signing at this year's WWW Conference in Redmond, Oregon
Not “just” for women writers (although the majority of members are women), its focus is on women’s “stories” in or centered on the “West” – but that can mean stories that are historical or contemporary, fiction or nonfiction, memoir/essay/poetry/YA/children’s, etc. The group’s broad parameters means that attendees can find information or establish a network that includes writers from all genre.

I’ve been a member since 2000 and have missed only 4 conferences in the last 16 years. I look forward to the conference, which is usually held the 2nd or 3rd weekend of October. Locations move around the West, but Denver is the “home” of WWW. Each year a conference committee pulls together a theme and then invites or seeks out workshops and/or presenters from all walks. This year Jane Kirkpatrick and Shanna Hatfield were the conference co-chairs; Carmen Peone and I assisted in helping to organize the workshops and agents/editors. Anne Schroeder was this year’s President and she will be the 2016 WILLA Chair. There are a number of PRP authors who also belong to WWW --

One highlight at every conference is the agents and editors who attend and who make presentations as well as invite meetings. To date, I have met 3 of the 6 publishers I’ve worked with at WWW conferences. For me, this has become one of the best ways to pitch new ideas and/or look for new avenues of publishing.

Another highlight of WomenWriting the West is the nationally-recognized WILLA Literary Awards, given out in 7 categories. As stated on the WWW website regarding the upcoming 2016 Awards guidelines: The WILLA Literary Awards is a nationally recognized award given annually to writers for books featuring women’s or girls’ stories set in the West. WomenWriting the West, a nonprofit association of writers and other professionals writing and promoting the Women’s West, underwrites and presents the awards. Only books initially published and copyrighted in 2015 (in any form) are eligible for the WILLA Literary Awards. In cases where the publication date and copyright date differ, copyright date shall prevail. Books previously released/ published in ANY format (hardcover, softcover, e-book, CD, Internet download, POD, etc.) prior to 2015 are not eligible. All submissions must be made in bound hard copy form. Professional librarians select Winners and Finalists. Awards will be presented at the WWW annual conference in October, 2016.” 

The deadline for the contest is February 1, 2016; entry fee is $50.  For more on the contest, visit:

I was fortunate to win the 2002 WILLA Literary Award for my first novel, a historical, ACROSS THE SWEET GRASS HILLS – which was re-released by Prairie Rose Publications in 2013.

Another contest sponsored by WWW is the Laura Award for members only. It is a short story contest and again, finalists and the winner are honored at a special dinner and event during the October contest.

WWW also publishes a beautiful catalog that is distributed nationwide and offers a directory for members looking for speaking engagements. This year the organization will also be attending one bookseller’s convention. Next year’s conference will be held in Santa Fe, NM.

If you haven't "tried" Women Writing the West, it is definitely an organization any Prairie Rose author would appreciate! 


  1. This past year was my first time attending the Women Writing the West conference. I thoroughly enjoyed, learned a lot, and plan to attend next year. Being able to talk to other writers there expanded my vision and helped me decide some changes in my writing goals. I felt right at home. I encourage all authors who are serious about writing about women experiencing life in the WEST to consider joining.

    Robyn Echols w/a Zina Abbott

    1. Robyn - it was great meeting up with you at the conference!!! Seeing your name so often, it was especially nice putting a face to the name :-) I'll see you in Santa Fe!!

  2. Like you Gail, I've been a member for many years. I also have found the conferences to be not only great ways to meet agents, but also a chance to spend time with like minded people. You really do get a 'bang' for your dollar at the conferences and with the organization. Doris McCraw/Angela Raines-author

    1. Hi Doris ---
      It is a great group and it's awesome that PRP seems to represent a fair number of WWWers, too!!! We'll have to have a little gathering of PRP authors???!! See you next year, too!

  3. I'm not a member, but it sounds like such a supportive group for women writing westerns.

    1. Hi Sarah -- Yes, it would be great for women writing westerns -- and for any sort of genre. The membership list includes some very well known authors. I am a member of both WWA and WWW and they really do meet "different needs" although both are exciting venues!

  4. Hi Sarah --- It would be great for anyone writing westerns. As I said, a lot of authors do write historicals, but many write across the board in a variety of genre. Hope you look into WWW - maybe we'll see you at Santa Fe in 2016!