Western Writers Online

Writers’ Guidelines

October 2013


General Editor:

Tara Penry, Assoc Prof of English, Boise State University tpenry@boisestate.edu

Dr. Penry served as Editor or Coeditor of the BSU Western Writers Series, 2000-2006.


Western Writers Online is a web-based scholarly journal and research hub publishing peer-reviewed shorter articles and reprints, 1500-4000 words, illuminating the lives and work of authors of the North American west. When fully launched, the site will also include research links and book reviews.

Are you looking for the sister site to WWO, Western Print Culture Online? Click here for guidelines. That site is in an earlier stage of development, but we are currently accepting proposals and reviewing manuscripts for it.

Article Types:

We publish peer-reviewed articles advancing our editorial objectives and shorter reprints with contextual essays and notes. Articles may include brief portions of longer original research in progress, critical readings of western books, cases for calling a writer “western” who is not usually considered through a regional lens, and recoveries of little-known western texts. Appropriate documents to reprint in our short format include single letters or small groups of letters, forgotten book reviews, short manuscripts, logbooks, etc. We accept proposals for article or reprint series to be published over multiple installments, as well as individual items.


The body of all articles and reprints should total 1500-4000 words unless prior permission has been given for a longer or shorter submission. (If you have a longer work to propose, consider proposing it as a series of separate articles.) Notes are included in the word count, though captions and author bio are not. Notes will appear as scroll-over pop-ups over the main text and as endnotes on the last page of your article. Please include bibliographic data in the notes. See current articles for examples. For reprints, the word count includes both the original document and your contextual essay. Query if you have a longer project in mind that you think fits our editorial objectives and digital format but not our word count.


We accept unsolicited manuscripts that meet these guidelines. We encourage queries and proposals first.

In the latter:

  1. Identify the kind of article you propose – Do you envision a 1500-4000 word article or a short reprint with critical and historical context?
  2. Be as specific as possible about how you plan to approach your topic, how it relates to existing criticism on your topic, and what it contributes to scholarship. Refer to specific scholarly works and authors in the field. This narrative section of your proposal will demonstrate to specialist reviewers that you know your field well and can make a contribution to it with your proposed article or reprint.
  3. Tell us when you propose to submit the manuscript you describe.

Proposals will be sent to one or more specialist reviewers and one editorial board member for review.

Artwork & Other Media:

Please send us one or two high-quality image files of artwork appropriate to your essay. Images may include: Author photographs, maps and site photos, graphics, copies of letters or manuscripts, copies of book covers, etc.

For each item, please provide a caption, credit line, and copy of your permission to reproduce the item in Western Writers Online. Number captions for artwork in a separate section of the manuscript called “Captions” that follows the endnotes. Please label and number each artwork to correspond clearly with its caption.

We will consider other kinds of media, as well. Please inquire about recordings, video clips, or other media that you would like to publish with your article.

Format for materials:

Email one electronic copy of the manuscript complete with any attachments (photos, sound files, etc) to tpenry@boisestate.edu with “WWO” and the subject of your contribution in the subject line. Use a zip file for multiple or large media attachments. Use MS Word or a software that may be opened in Word. (Do not send initial manuscripts as pdf files.)

So that we do not need to rename each of your files before sending them to reviewers, please give every item a project filename, not your personal name. Do not use a title page or other self-identifying information in any of your attachments. Only use your name and institution in the cover email.

We can open most standard media file formats. Inquire about particulars.

Quotations / Permissions:

Authors are responsible for obtaining necessary permissions for textual, visual, or media reprints.

Authors of reprints should describe in the proposal the copyright status of the work they propose to reprint. Prior to publication, authors will need to supply permission to reprint any works under copyright.

Verification of facts:

Authors are responsible for fact-checking their contributions. Please verify facts with at least two credible sources.


Please see current articles for our style. We are developing a style sheet specific to our needs as a web-based publisher working in WordPress.

Since WWO is aimed at professors, students, and the general public, the style of each article should be somewhat less scholarly than would ordinarily be found in an academic paper; however, we do not wish you to weaken your scholarly content by oversimplifying your material. We borrow some style points from journalists and bloggers to make our articles look appealing and easy to read, though the quality of writing and scholarship is equal to that of any academic journal.

With these points in mind, please observe the following:

Avoid academic clichés. For example, instead of:

  1. Imagining your article as a scholarly “intervention” → Be specific about your contribution
  2. Namedropping (“I take a Foucauldian approach to . . .”) → Describe your approach & cite sources
  3. Dropping jargon (“She is the quintessential New Western writer.”) → Define and illustrate
  4. Long strings of abstract nouns & “be” verbs → Promote nouns to verbs whenever possible to activate prose (The quality of her prose was weak. Reading it was like wading through a swamp when what a person really wanted was a good, clean swim! → One waded through her prose as through a swamp, only wishing for a good, clean swim!) – See Richard Lanham’s Revising Prose if “be” verbs and unnecessary abstract nouns recur often in your writing.

Also avoid an excess of breeziness. We do not aim to be as chatty as a typical blog.

  1. Write out contractions, numbers, and abbreviations (per MLA style).
  2. Refer to authors by their last name (per MLA style), never their first name unless two authors share a surname in your essay or you are speaking of someone’s childhood.
  3. Minimize parenthetical expressions that interrupt your prose.
  4. Write respectfully of everyone. Do not engage in racist, sexist, ageist, etceterist prose. When it is necessary to quote someone else’s disrespectful or dated language in quotations, be sure to distinguish between your point of view and the source’s.

Formatting for the web:

  1. Titles – If you can manage without a colon, please do! (We agree that this is a challenge! We will use them when a colon provides the best title.)
  2. Subheads – We encourage the use of subheads to mark section breaks. The current design of our site calls for articles to be paginated with about 300-500 words per page. Subheads at these intervals will correspond most closely with pagination. We will use your subheads to aid readers in navigating through your article (like a clickable table of contents for your article). Sections do not have to be of equal length. See recent articles.
  3. Embedded links and media – Please provide appropriate web links that you would like to link within the text or notes of your article. Hyperlinks are not required. If you use them, please be selective about choosing those most important to your article (not every online source that you cite). We want to take advantage of our digitality but be aware that any links will need to be kept up to date. If we notice that they become broken, we will delete the link.

Sample Date in Text of Article:

16 June 1987

What is The West?

With its sister site, Western Print Culture Online, Western Writers Online seeks to interrogate and define the meaning of the “North American west” based on the diverse histories and viewpoints of peoples inhabiting North America from the time Europeans identified the “western” or inland parts of this continent as somehow different from the Atlantic seaboard, to the globalized twenty-first century. We are interested in authors from the Great Plains/prairie westward to the Sonoran borderlands, Alaska and the Northern Territories, and Hawaii, and we are interested in authors from other places insofar as they help us to explore the meaning of westernness and regional identity in North America. Some essays may focus on interactions between western and other regional identities, such as El Norte/northland, continental interior, Gold Mountain, or global cosmopolis.

WWO welcomes a variety of critical approaches to writers identified by genre, residence, or subject matter with the North American west as defined above, including regional readings of particular authors (i.e., making the case for reading someone as western).

Given this broad construction of westernness, WWO is  interested in research that leads scholars, teachers, and general readers to see more than genre convention and regional mythmaking in the writers most readily associated with the west. Query if you are uncertain about the fit of your research area for our mission.

We invite contributors to make an explicit claim in proposals and manuscripts about how their research deepens, tests, or troubles ideas of westernness, regional identity, and trans-regional relationships. In short, our contributors define the west, explicitly. We welcome variety and precision of argument.

Join us!