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SOURCE Western Writers of America
ENCAMPMENT, Wyo., Feb. 3, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Cherokee author Robert J. Conley is the 2014 recipient of the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Contributions to Western Literature. The award is given by Western Writers of America as its highest honor and is scheduled to be presented during the organization's annual convention in June in Sacramento, Calif.
The nonprofit Western Writers of America (www.westernwriters.org) was founded in the 1950s to promote and recognize literature of the American West. Past winners of the Owen Wister Award, previously called the Levi Strauss Saddleman Award, include Max Evans, A.B. Guthrie Jr., Tony Hillerman, Dorothy M. Johnson, Elmer Kelton, Louis L'Amour, Elmore Leonard and N. Scott Momaday.
Conley's first novel, "Back to Malachi" (1986), was written "out of anger," he says, rooted in misrepresentations of Ned Christie, "a Cherokee who was falsely accused of murder and hounded for 4½ years before he was killed by a huge posse." At the time, many publishers did not believe that they could publish a Western with an Indian protagonist, but Conley's work broke the threshold. He went on to assist in the early development of Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers, which encourages American Indian writers.
A member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, Conley, 73, is the Sequoyah Distinguished Professor in Cherokee Studies and Founding Director of the Tsalagi Institute at Western Carolina University. He is the immediate past president of Western Writers of America and the author of roughly 80 books, including the Spur Award-winning novels "The Dark Island" and "Nickajack." He also won a Spur for his short story "Yellow Bird: An Imaginary Autobiography," published in "The Witch of Goingsnake."
His poems and short stories have been published in numerous periodicals and anthologies over the years in Germany, France, Belgium, New Zealand and Yugoslavia. They appear in multiple languages: English, Cherokee, German, French and Macedonian.
Conley has written in almost every genre – poetry, fiction, nonfiction, critical essays and works for the stage. "He is master of them all," says Luther Wilson, who published many of Conley's books while at the University of New Mexico Press.
The Wister Award is a bronze statue of a buffalo created especially for Western Writers of America by artist Robert Duffie. It is scheduled to be presented June 28.
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