Twenty-Third Annual Thompson Awards

Ten $500 prizes will be awarded to CU Boulder students in the Spring of 2022.

We invite submissions from graduate and undergraduate students in the following categories:

These categories include separate awards for graduate and undergraduate entries in each genre. Entries must address issues pertinent to the American West or be set in the American West:**   

  • Fiction: short stories and excerpts of novels and plays
  • Poetry: single poems only (no collections)
  • Memoir: autobiographical essays
  • Creative Nonfiction: journalism and journalistic essays
  • Academic Nonfiction: research papers and other academic writing
    1. Eligibility:
      Contestants must be enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program at CU Boulder for the duration of the Fall 2021 semester and/or the duration of the Spring 2022 semester; or have graduated from a degree program at CU Boulder in the Spring 2021 semester. Students may submit no more than one unique entry per prize category and may not submit any entry into more than one category. If you have won a Thompson Award in the past, you may not resubmit an entry that won in a past contest. You may, however, resubmit a piece that did not win.
    2. Entries must go in the appropriate category:
      We may change an entry’s category if we find it is not correct, and if this results in two entries in one category for any contestant, we will keep the one that the contestant chose to enter to that category and reject the second entry.
    3. Length Limit:
      Entries should be no longer than 50 pages. If contestants want to submit an excerpt of a longer piece (dissertation, novel, play, etc.) we advise contestants to ensure the selection is a cohesive, stand-alone piece.
    4. Criteria:
      Entries will be evaluated on relevance to an understanding of the American West* and on the quality of the work. Entries should be proofread carefully and, with the exception of poetry, should follow standard manuscript format (double-spaced, paragraphs indented five to eight spaces, page numbers included, etc.). Grammar and mechanics should be precise, and organization should be strong.
      **It is no easy matter to define the West or the quality of “Westernness.” In general, we think of the West as the territory between the 100th Meridian and the Pacific Coast, including Alaska and Hawaii. We recognize that the myth of the West has played a great role in history and still carries much influence in regional life today, and so we understand that some eligible writings will address the material reality of the West (cities, highways, ranches, mines, resorts, suburbs, national parks, dams, wildlife, etc.) and some equally eligible writings will address the West of dreams, expectations, hopes, and imaginings (factors which, in truth, shape material reality and human behavior in very concrete ways).
    5. Prizes and awards reception:
      Winners will be invited to an awards reception in their honor. First place winners will receive $500 per winning category and honorable mention winners will receive $100 per winning category. First place winners will be asked to read an excerpt of their winning entries.
    6. Publication consent:
      Submission of written material implies the author’s guarantee that the work has not yet been published (with the exception of publication in any CU journals); is not scheduled for publication, and is the creative work and property of the contestant. Submission also implies consent for Center of the American West to use the winning and honorable mention entries in marketing and for website posting. Winning authors will be required to sign a consent form before prizes will be awarded, but authors will retain ownership of their winning entries.
    7. Submission deadline and method:The entry deadline is 11:59 PM on Monday March 14, 2022.
      The author’s name should not be included on the file name or anywhere in the work.  File upload size is limited to 31 MB. Please label the file with the title of work or the first few words of title of work. If your submission is larger than 31MB, please email your submission (up to 100GB) through CU Boulder’s Large File Transfer Service to:
    8. Judging:
      Prizes will be awarded at the discretion of the judges. If the judges of a category do not deem any entries worthy of the prize, the prize may not be awarded in that category. Entries may be submitted to a plagiarism detection service.
    9. Although the judging is “blind,” contestants are not guaranteed anonymity:
      Judges will not be given entrants’ names during their review and decision-making process, but once the winners have been selected, judges may request and receive students’ email addresses if they wish to send comments.