Twenty-Second Annual Thompson Awards


Eleven $500 prizes will be awarded to CU Boulder students in the Spring of 2021.

We invite submissions from graduate and undergraduate students in the following categories:

Video Category: This category is open to both graduate and undergraduate students (undergraduates and graduates will compete against one another for prizes). Video entries do not need to address Western issues:*   

  •  2020 Through My Lens: including video essays, documentaries, performance art, spoken word, stand-up comedy, animation — videos on any topic(s) that caught your interest in the year 2020; topics do not need to be relevant to the American West. See item 10 below for more info.

Writing Categories:  These categories include separate awards for graduate and undergraduate entries in each genre. Written entries must address issues pertinent to the American West or be set in the American West:**   

  • Fiction: short stories and excerpts of novels and plays
  • Poetry: single poems only (no collections)
  • Memoir: autobiographical essays
  • Creative Nonfiction: journalism and journalistic essays
  • Academic Nonfiction: research papers and other academic writing
      1. Eligibility:
        Contestants must be enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program at CU Boulder for the duration of the Fall 2020 semester and/or the duration of the Spring 2021 semester; or have graduated from a degree program at CU Boulder in the Spring 2020 semester. Students may submit no more than one unique entry per prize category and may not submit any entry into more than one category. If you have won a Thompson Award in the past, you may not resubmit an entry that won in a past contest. You may, however, resubmit a piece that did not win.
      2. Entries must go in the appropriate category:
        We may change an entry’s category if we find it is not correct, and if this results in two entries in one category for any contestant, we will keep the one that the contestant chose to enter to that category and reject the second entry.
      3. Length Limit:
        Written entries should be no longer than 50 pages. If contestants want to submit an excerpt of a longer piece (dissertation, novel, play, etc.) we advise contestants to ensure the selection is a cohesive, stand-alone piece.Video entries should be 1-30 minutes in length.
      4. Criteria:
        Written entries
         will be evaluated on relevance to an understanding of the American West** (except for the special Video 2020 Through My Lens category) and on the quality of the work. Written entries should be proofread carefully and, with the exception of poetry, should follow standard manuscript format (double-spaced, paragraphs indented five to eight spaces, page numbers included, etc.). Grammar and mechanics should be precise, and organization should be strong.
        **It is no easy matter to define the West or the quality of “
        Westernness.” In general, we think of the West as the territory between the 100th Meridian and the Pacific Coast, including Alaska and Hawaii. We recognize that the myth of the West has played a great role in history and still carries much influence in regional life today, and so we understand that some eligible writings will address the material reality of the West (cities, highways, ranches, mines, resorts, suburbs, national parks, dams, wildlife, etc.) and some equally eligible writings will address the West of dreams, expectations, hopes, and imaginings (factors which, in truth, shape material reality and human behavior in very concrete ways).

        Video entries
         will be evaluated on how well they depict aspects of the year 2020.
        *It is no easy matter to capture the year 2020 in one short video. As noted above, this category provides a wide breadth of opportunities for depicting your thoughts about and experiences of the year 2020 which may be personal, situational, national, international, political, environmental, etc.
      5. Prizes and awards reception:
        Winners will be invited to an awards reception in their honor. First place winners will receive $500 per winning category and honorable mention winners will receive $100 per winning category. First place winners will be asked to read an excerpt of their winning entries and/or present their videos.
      6. Publication consent:
        Written Entries: 
        Submission of written material implies the author’s guarantee that the work has not yet been published (with the exception of publication in any CU journals); is not scheduled for publication, and is the creative work and property of the contestant. Submission also implies consent for Center of the American West to use the winning and honorable mention entries in marketing and for website posting. Winning authors will be required to sign a consent form before prizes will be awarded, but authors will retain ownership of their winning entries.

        Video Entries:
         Submission of the video implies the entrants’ permission for Center of the American West, University of Colorado Boulder, to use, reproduce, reprint, distribute, and display the video for any organizational purpose, without notification, consent, or compensation to the entrant(s). Center of the American West’s “organizational purpose” includes, but is not limited to, displaying the video on the Center’s website, and in other marketing and promotion of the contest. Winners will be required to sign a consent form before prize will be awarded, but they will retain ownership of their winning entries.
      7. Submission deadline and method:The entry deadline is 11:59 PM on Monday March 15, 2021.
        Written Entries: The author’s name should not be included on the file name or anywhere in the work.  File upload size is limited to 31 MB. Please label the file with the title of work or the first few words of title of work. If your submission is larger than 31MB, please email your submission (up to 100GB) through CU Boulder’s Large File Transfer Service to: thompsonawards@centerwest.orgVideo Entries: Please label the video file with the title of work or the first few words of title of work. If your video is larger than 31MB, please email your submission (up to 100GB) through CU Boulder’s Large File Transfer Service to:
      8. Judging:
        Prizes will be awarded at the discretion of the judges. If the judges of a category do not deem any entries worthy of the prize, the prize may not be awarded in that category. Entries may be submitted to a plagiarism detection service.
      9. Although the judging is “blind,” contestants are not guaranteed anonymity:
        Judges will not be given entrants’ names during their review and decision-making process, but once the winners have been selected, judges may request and receive students’ email addresses if they wish to send comments.
      10.  Additional Video category guidelines: 
        • May be a solo work or may be the work of a team of students.
        • Must be an original work that has not won any previous awards.
        • Should be 1 – 30 minutes in length.
        • Must not discriminate or support prejudice toward otherson the basis of ethnicity, race, religion, gender, or sexual preference; or promote any illegal behavior.
        • Must not invade the privacy of any person(s).
        • Should adhere to the guidelines and rules established at CU Boulder when filming and producing your video.
        • Should be a 1920 x 1080p HD digital file (MOV or MP4).
        • Should include English subtitles, if applicable.
      11. No copyrighted material (music, images, etc.) or trademarks (company names, logos, brands, etc.) may be used unless you own or have obtained a license to use the material. Written permission must be provided upon request for all copyrighted or trademarked materials.
      12. Release forms are required for each person involved in production of the video, each person who has a speaking or performing role in the video or is distinctly featured in the video, and each person who creates music, choreography, script, costuming, art, design, etc. or serves on the production crew, for the video or contributes to the work in any creative and/or technical way.
      13. The cash prize will be awarded to the solo entrant or to a team of entrants upon receipt of required forms. If the video is submitted on behalf of a team, the prize will be divided evenly between each team member, provided that each team member meets the eligibility requirements (see item 1, above).