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.

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 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

We had a wonderful response and numerous submissions for this new award.

The selection process, as stated in the application, consisted of screeners who followed the DOWNING rubric and scoring. The top entries were then sent to our judge, Greg Lalire, of Wild West Magazine. Using the same score sheet and rubrics, he chose the top three finalists.

The Winner and Finalists were honored at the 2019 Women Writing the West Conference.

THANK YOU—to all who entered and those who participated in this, the first DOWNING Journalism Award.

Linda Wommack – DOWNING Journalism Award chair

2020 DOWNING Journalism Award Judge

Bob Boze Bell is the judge for the 2020 DOWNING Journalism Award

Bob Boze Bell is the president and executive editor of True West magazine, currently celebrating his 20th anniversary in the magazine business. His work has appeared in “Arizona Highways,” “Playboy,” “National Lampoon” and the “Arizona Republic” magazine. For ten years (2002-20012) he did a video version of “True West Moments” which ran on the Westerns Channel. Bell can currently be seen on the series “Gunslingers” which runs on the American Heroes Channel. He has also written a dozen books on Old West characters like Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Wild Bill Hickok and a three-part series (so far) on Classic Gunfights which appear in True West. As for retirement, BBB says, “Work is only work if you’d rather be someplace else. And I’m exactly where I want to be.”

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, 2020
* 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 2019.
* Article must be at least 1,000 words and no more than 3,000 words.
* Winner receives a trophy, Finalists receive a certificate. Publishers receive a certificate designed by Jenny Hancey, Hancey Design.

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