THE WILLA LITERARY AWARD

The WILLA Literary Awards, named in honor of Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Willa Cather, recognizes the best in literature, featuring women’s or girls’ stories set in the North American West that are published each year. Women Writing the West (WWW), a nonprofit association of writers and other professionals writing and promoting the Women’s West, underwrites and presents the nationally recognized award annually at the WWW Fall Conference.


WWW is proud to announce the 24th Annual WILLA Literary Award Competition Winners and Finalists, representing the best of 2021 published literature for women’s or girls’ stories set in the North American West.

Winners and Finalists will be honored during the 28th Annual Conference, October 20 – 22, 2021, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

MULTIFORM FICTION

WINNER:  Striking Range: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery by Margaret Mizushima (Crooked Lane Books)

FINALIST: The Lockhart Women by Mary Camarillo (She Writes Press)
FINALIST: Site Fidelity by Claire Boyles (WW Norton)


HISTORICAL FICTION

WINNER: The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin (Penguin Random House)

FINALIST: The Healing of Natalie Curtis by Jane Kirkpatrick (Revell)
FINALIST:  You Belong Here Now by Dianna Rostad (William Morrow-HarperCollins)


ROMANCE

WINNER:  A Texas Christmas Miracle by Justine Davis (Tule Publishing Group)

FINALIST:  Montana Cowboy Miracle by Jane Porter (Tule Publishing Group)


CREATIVE NONFICTION

WINNER:  The Forgotten Botanist: Sara Plummer Lemmon’s Life of Science and Art by Wynne Brown (Bison Books/University of Nebraska Press)

FINALIST:  The Last Layer of the Ocean: Kayaking Through Love and Loss on Alaska’s Wild Coast by Mary Emerick (Oregon State University Press)
FINALIST:  Burning the Breeze: Three Generations of Women in the American West by Lisa Hendrickson (Bison Books/University Nebraska Press)

SCHOLARLY NONFICTION

WINNER:  Sally in Three Worlds: An Indian Captive in the House of Brigham Young by Virginia Kerns (University of Utah Press)

FINALIST: The Girl Who Dared to Defy: Jane Street and the Rebel Maids of Denver by Jane Little Botkin (University of Oklahoma Press)
FINALIST:  Only Connect: Creating and Sustaining Community by Belle Zars (Nauwa Press)


POETRY

WINNER:  Sometimes a Woman by Kimberly K. Williams (Recent Work Press)

FINALIST:  In Plains Sight by Bonnie Larson Staiger (North Dakota State University Press)
FINALIST:  Stone Roses by Linda Neal Reising (Kelsay Books)


CHILDREN’S FICTION & NONFICTION

Winner:  Headstrong Hallie!: The Story of Hallie Morse Daggett, the First Female “Fire Guard” by Aimée Bissonette (Sleeping Bear Press)

FINALIST: Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna by Alda P. Dobbs (Sourcebooks)
FINALIST: Carry Me Home by Janet Fox (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers)


YOUNG ADULT FICTION AND NONFICTION

WINNER: Runaway Moon by Carole T. Beers (W & B Publishers)

FINALIST:  Rescuing Hope by Heidi M. Thomas (SunCatcher Publications)
FINALIST:  Ski Weekend by Rektok Ross (SparkPress)

Previous WILLA Literary Award
Winners and Finalists


WILLA Categories

View the WILLA Literary Award Rubrics below for help deciding which category your book fits into and for criteria info.
Click on the genre listed below to see if your book is eligible.

MULTIFORM FICTION:

Entries include a variety of genres such as literary, mystery, contemporary, or any fiction EXCEPT Historical or Romance.
VIEW RUBRIC

HISTORICAL FICTION:

Books featuring women’s or girls’ stories set in the North American West prior to contemporary times. WWW defines Historical Fiction as any story set a minimum of 50 years prior to the publication date.
VIEW RUBRIC

ROMANCE:

Entries in the Romance Category should have a central plot focus on the development of a relationship between two people. The plot builds toward an optimistic conclusion without including the use of erotica or erotic themes.
VIEW RUBRIC

CREATIVE NONFICTION:

Entries are true accounts, well told, featuring the story of a woman or girl and set in the North American West. Includes autobiographical works.
VIEW RUBRIC

SCHOLARLY NONFICTION:

Entries in this category are typically academic or
educational in nature. Scholarship, research, organization and presentation are some of the judging criteria. Includes edited diaries, also anthologies.
VIEW RUBRIC

POETRY:

Individual collections or anthologies.
VIEW RUBRIC

CHILDREN’S FICTION AND NONFICTION:

Books featuring women’s or girls’ stories set in the West, which includes women’s stories written for young readers.
VIEW RUBRIC

YOUNG ADULT FICTION AND NONFICTION:

Entries can range from young adult books with mature themes to picture books and graphic novels; from fiction to nonfiction to poetry.
VIEW RUBRIC

The WILLA Literary Award Guidelines

Download The WILLA Literary Award Guideline PDF for complete information

APPLICATION PERIOD FOR THE 2023 WILLA LITERARY AWARD WILL OPEN NOVEMBER 1, 2022

Honoring Books First Published in 2022
Entry deadline February 1, 2023
Application fee – $65 per entry

Winners and Finalists will be announced in August, and Awards presented at the 29th Annual Conference in October, 2023.

Questions? Please contact WILLA Chair Barbara Froman at b.froman@yahoo.com