The DOWNING Journalism Award

Rewarding Journalism Excellence

The most recent addition to the roster of prestigious awards offered by Women Writing the West, The DOWNING Journalism Award, recognizes journalism and articles first published in the year prior to the entry period. The inaugural year of 2018 brought substantial submissions, and WWW looks forward to honoring future recipients of this significant award.

Congratulations to The DOWNING Finalists

Thank you to all who entered. The 2021 judge, Mark Boardman, Editor of the Tombstone Epitaph, America’s oldest newspaper publication indicated that it was a strong competitive field with thought-provoking submissions from talented writers.  The winner will be announced on award night during the conference, October 9. 

In the meantime, hearty congratulations to these DOWNING finalists.

“Wild Women of the West: Jenny Murphy” by Chris Enss

“Ripple Effect: Will the West Figure Out How to Share Water?” by Sophia Jeremias

“Living Space” by Susan Tweit.

Women Writing the West is pleased to announce the DOWNING Journalism Award for 2020.

The 2020 DOWNING Journalism Award winner is
Roni McFadden for “The Case of the Confounding Cough


Second Place:
Gayle Gresham for “Heart of the Pueblo Chile”

Colorado Country Life

Third Place:
Jan Cleere for “Sharlot Hall Told the Region’s Stories as Writer, Historian”
Arizona Daily Star

Congratulations to all!
Linda Wommack
DOWNING Journalism Award Chair

The DOWNING Journalism Award
2021 Call For Entries

Guidelines and Rubric

Open to all WWW Members and the public

Select your finest article published in a printed publication in 2020.

*Must pertain to the West
*No longer than 3,000 words.
*The article can take place in the past, present or future.

Entries are accepted from January 1, 2021, through March 31, 2021. But don’t delay!

This year’s judge is Mark Boardman, editor of America’s only continuously published newspaper, the Tombstone Epitaph, and feature editor of True West magazine, America’s #1 publication of western Americana.

Entry form and $25.00 fee are only accepted online.

For any questions contact Linda Wommack, DOWNING Journalism Award chair

2021 DOWNING Journalism Award Judge

Mark Boardman has been involved in the Old West field for the past 25 years.  Since 2005, he’s been the Features Editor for True West Magazine.  In 2017, he became the Editor for The Tombstone Epitaph.  Boardman also serves as Pastor for Poplar Grove United Methodist Church in Wilbur, Indiana.

In keeping with the rich history of Women Writing the West, The DOWNING Journalism Award is presented in honor of the late Sybil Downing, a noted journalist and author in Boulder, Colorado, who was also a founding member of Women Writing the West. 

Sybil Downing, founding member of WWW

Sybil Smith Downing graduated as valedictorian of her high school class in 1947. She and her husband, Mancort Downing, moved to Boulder in 1967 where she became active in community affairs, including her local school board. Downing took advantage of “mini classes” at the University of Colorado and received her bachelor’s degree in 1976.

Sybil Downing was the great-granddaughter of U.S. Sen. Thomas Patterson, a one-time owner of the Rocky Mountain News. Consequently, she became a prolific writer for the Rocky Mountain News, focusing her articles about women. She also reviewed books for that paper and later for The Denver Post.

For several years Sybil Downing chaired the Colorado Center for the Book and was dedicated to improving literacy, a cause she was devoted to until her death on November 20, 2011.

When Women Writing the West was formed in 1994, Sybil Downing served as its first president. It is therefore fitting that this new journalism award be named in her honor to further the legacy of Women Writing the West.

We believe that through a working relationship with the various editors of the media WWW will be able to gain added exposure, a new venue in networking, and partnerships that will benefit all. For example, the print media will be able to tout their winning article while WWW gains a new audience and prestigious coverage.

Guidelines for The DOWNING Journalism Award

Magazine or Journal Article – Entries must be a western-themed nonfiction article or essay published in a commercial or literary North American publication.

* Entries must be received January 1 – March 31, 2021
* Entry fee is $25.00.
* Eligible entry topics include farming and ranching, gardening, environmental, geology. animal husbandry, family issues, local and history topics as well as Native American issues and education.
* Entries are open to all, and not limited to WWW members.
* Professional media editors from newspapers, magazines, history journals, etc., not affiliated with WWW, will select the Winner and two Finalists.
* Publication date must be 2020.
* Article must be at least 750 words and no more than 3,000 words.
* Winner receives a trophy, Finalists receive a certificate. Publishers also receive a certificate.

Entry form and payment will be available online during the entry period. Entry must contain one complete copy of media publication from newspaper or magazine that contains article, as well as three tear sheets or photocopies of said article (must include publication date) to be mailed to:

C/O Linda Wommack
4284 W. Monmouth Ave.
Littleton, CO 80123

View The DOWNING Journalism Award Rubrics Here

For more information, contact The DOWNING Journalism Award Chair, Linda Wommack at or phone 303-798-4470

The DOWNING Journalism Award Winner and Finalists 2019

The DOWNING Journalism Award Winner and Finalists for 2019

WINNER: Julia Bricklin for “Georgia Ann Hill Robinson” published in California History periodical
FINALIST: Jan Cleere for “Hopi Girl” published in the Arizona Daily Star newspaper
FINALIST: Amy Hale Auker for “Work Song” published in The Center for Basque Studies periodical