Nineteenth Annual Thompson Awards for Western American Writing

Four $500 prizes will be awarded to CU-Boulder students in the Spring of 2018 for writings on Western American topics.

We invite submissions in the following categories*:

  • Fiction: including short stories and excerpts of novels, plays, and screenplays*
  • Poetry: single poems only (no collections) – open to students at all levels of study
  • Memoir: autobiographical essays open to students at all levels of study
  • Creative Nonfiction: journalism, journalistic essays, and writing aimed at a wide general audience


  1. Eligibility: Contestants must be enrolled in a degree program at CU-Boulder for the duration of the Fall 2017 semester and/or the duration of the Spring 2018 semester, or have graduated from a degree program at CU-Boulder in the Spring 2017 semester. Students may enter no more than one unique manuscript per prize category, and may not enter any manuscript 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. Criteria: Entries will be evaluated on relevance to an understanding of the American West*, and on the quality of the writing. 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, though Alaska or Hawaii should not be so easily excluded. 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).


  1. 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.
  2. Publication consent: Submission of material implies the author’s guarantee that the work has not yet been published, is not scheduled for publication, and is the creative work and property of the contestant. Submission also implies consent for the 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 publication consent form before prize will be awarded, but authors will retain ownership of their winning entries.
  3. Submission deadline and method: The entry period is now open for 2018 and the deadline for entry is Tuesday, March 20th, 2018. File upload size is limited to 31 MB. Please send an email to for instructions on how to submit a larger entry. Winners will be notified mid April 2018. Click here for the entry form.
  4. Judging: Prizes will be awarded at the discretion of the judges. A prize may not be awarded in any of the categories if the judges do not deem any entries worthy. All entries will be submitted to a plagiarism detection service.
  5. Although the judging is “blind,” contestants are not guaranteed anonymity: Judges will not be given authors’ 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 and suggestions.