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.

Meet 2022 Judge Johnny Boggs | Guidelines | Past DOWNING Award Winners

The DOWNING Journalism Award Finalists for 2022 are:

Corinne Joy Brown for “Architectural Gems”
Carolyn Dufurrena for “Sisters On Fire”
Kayann Short for “In the Land of the Sky Blue Weather”

Finalists are listed in no particular order.
The winner will be announced at The DOWNING Journalism Award ceremony at the WWW annual Conference in Oklahoma City, OK, October 20-22, 2022.

Congratulations to 2021 The DOWNING Journalism Award Winner and Finalists

It is my honor to announce the 2021 DOWNING Journalism Award winner is Chris Enss for “Women of the Wild West – Jenny Murphy” published in Cowgirl Magazine.

Congratulations to Chris and to the finalists, Susan Tweit and Sofia Jeremias.

Linda Wommack, DOWNING Journalism Award Chair

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.  

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


“Living Space” by Susan Tweit.

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

2022 DOWNING Journalism Award Judge

Johnny D. Boggs is a prolific writer of short nonfiction with works appearing in more than 50 magazines and newspapers; is a professional photojournalist, and edits Western Writers of America’s bimonthly Roundup Magazine. A native of South Carolina, Boggs is a 2011 Distinguished Alumnus from the University of South Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communications, where he worked almost 15 years in Texas as a sports journalist at the Dallas Times Herald and Fort Worth Star-Telegram before moving to New Mexico in 1998 to concentrate full time on his novels and books. True West magazine named him the Best Living Fiction Writer in its 2008 Best of the West Awards, and the magazine’s readers voted him Best Living Fiction Writer in 2012.

In 2020, Boggs received the 2020 Owen Wister Award for lifetime contributions to Western literature and was inducted into the Western Writers Hall of Fame, housed at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming. He has also won a Western Heritage Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. His Spurs came for Best Western Novel in 2006 for Camp Ford and 2012 for Legacy of a Lawman; Best Western Juvenile Novel in 2008 for Doubtful Cañon and 2010 for Hard Winter and Taos Lightning in 2018; Best Mass Market Western Novel in 2012 for West Texas Kill, in 2017 for Return to Red River and 2021 for A Thousand Texas Longhorns; and for Best Short Fiction in 2002 for A Piano at Dead Man’s Crossing.

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, 2022
* 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 2021.
* Article must be at least 1000 words and no more than 4,000 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 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

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