Reading the West 5-24-10 |

Reading the West 5-24-10

For the first time ever, Western Writers of America will hold its annual convention east of the Mississippi River. And when I say east, I mean far east … in East Tennessee where there will be an opportunity to tour the homeland of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians – these are tribal members who did not follow the trail of tears west, but instead remained in North Carolina. There will also be a chance to visit Cumberland Gap and other areas that were pivotal to the frontier expansion of the nation.

The Convention will be held in Knoxville, Tenn., at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is among those who will be honored at the Convention June 22-26.

O’Connor, the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court and a member of the Court from 1981 to 2006, will receive the WWA Spur Storyteller Award for “Finding Susie,” an illustrated children’s book. It is one of 15 WWA Spur Awards that will be presented during the organization’s awards banquet June 26 at the Crowne Plaza.

The convention, which includes panel discussions, tours, auctions and the awards banquet, is open to both WWA members and non-members. Participants may register on site at the rate of $115 for members and $150 for non-members. Tours and meals are priced individually. (Visit for full details.)

Two WWA events, including one scheduled on the eve of the convention’s start, are open to the public. They are “Redefining the Western,” a round table discussion and Q&A with WWA authors from 7-9 p.m., June 21 at the East Tennessee History Center, 601 S. Gay St., and a book signing by WWA authors from 5:30-7:30 p.m., June 25, also at the East Tennessee History Center.

Other convention highlights include the presentation of the Owen Wister Award for lifetime achievement to Pulitzer Prize-winner N. Scott Momaday, the induction of Harold McCracken into the Western Writers Hall of Fame; and announcement of the all-time greatest Western songs, as voted on by WWA members.

Momaday, a Kiowa-Cherokee author, won the Pulitzer Prize for his 1968 novel “House Made of Dawn,” the story of a young Native American man who, on returning home from war, finds himself torn between the traditional world of his father and the industrial world of 20th century America. The novel led the breakthrough of Native American writing into the literary mainstream. Momaday’s other works include “The Way to Rainy Mountain” (1969), “The Names: A Memoir” (1976) and “In the Bear’s House” (1999).

“I think we have a fascination with the Wild West,” Momaday said. “It’s very much a part of the American imagination, and it’s easy to understand that if you consider there is this part of the country, a very large part of it, which really has to be seen to be believed. Best of all, it has to be imagined.”

Hall of Fame inductee McCracken (1894-1983) was a noted writer, explorer and museum director. The McCracken Research Library at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyo., is named after him.

A panel discussion devoted to the top Western songs is scheduled for 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m., June 24 during the convention.

O’Connor’s book, illustrated by artist Tom Pohrt, was published by Random House Children’s Books. It tells the story of a little girl name Sandra who searches for the perfect pet to share her life on a ranch. She cares for a number of wild animals but comes to realize that each of them would be happier in their natural habitat. And then Sandra finds Susie, a little, stray dog that needs Sandra as much as Sandra needs a pet. O’Connor grew up on a cattle ranch near Duncan, Ariz., so the story, although presented as fiction, is rooted in her own childhood.

Other Spur winners this year include Robert Olmstead for “Far Bright Star,” Best Western Short Novel; Robert Flynn for “Echoes of Glory” Best Western Long Novel; John D. Nesbitt for “Stranger in Thunder Basin,” Best Mass-market Original Paperback Novel; Douglas C. McChristian for “Fort Laramie,” Best Western Nonfiction-Historical; Johnny D. Boggs for “Hard Winter,” Best Western Juvenile Fiction; Candy Moulton for “In Pursuit of a Dream,” Best Western Documentary; and Wylie Gustafson and Paul Zarzyski for “Hang-n-Rattle,” Best Western Song. Zarzyski also won for “Bob Dylan Bronc Song,” Best Western Poem.

For a complete list of 2010 Spur Awards, please go to

For more information about the WWA and the convention, please e-mail or call (505) 277-5234.

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