The 44th annual Western Literature Association (WLA) Conference will be held in Spearfish Sept. 30-Oct. 3 with Black Hills State University as the host university. The conference is expected to draw more than 300 attendees from across the country.

David Cremean, associate professor of Humanities and English at BHSU and current president of the WLA, says hosting the event in Spearfish will be a marked change from the usual larger city venues that he thinks will be appreciated by attendees and also provide economic benefits to the community. He is proud to introduce fellow WLA members to the unique Black Hills area.
“Having this conference in Spearfish is a way of saying thanks to the University, town, and state that have become my own and to share them with an organization that I also care deeply about,” Cremean says. He notes that the majority of attendees hail from outside South Dakota.

The conference theme is “High Plains Drifting: Which Way(s) West?” The keynote address will be given by author Charles Bowden Wednesday, Sept. 30 at 7:30 p.m. at the conference headquarters, Holiday Inn Convention Center. Black Hills State University’s Writer-in-Residence Kent Meyers will do a reading from his latest novel, Twisted Tree, at 9 p.m. The release of this novel was timed to coincide with the conference. Meyers will be available to sign copies of his book.

Other speakers during the four-day event include Terri Jentz, Doug and Andrea Peacock, Gary Ferguson, Linda Hasselstrom, Dan O’Brien, Susan Powers, Jim Stiles, Allison Hedge Coke, and M. John Fayhee. A concert featuring local music legends Hank Harris, Kenny Putnam, and Ricky Jacobsen playing from the Deadwood Songbook will take place at the Holiday Inn Thursday, Oct. 1 from 2:15-4:15 p.m.

Other conference events include Thursday’s “A Night on the Town” where attendees are encouraged to go into or near Spearfish for dinner followed by a gathering at the Western High Plains Heritage Center for a humorous Reader’s Theater version of the end of “Deadwood” and a performance of traditional Lakota song and dance by the Porcupine Singers and accompanying dancers, explained by BHSU Professor Emeritus Ronnie Theisz, a Lakota musicologist. A conference ‘field trip’ will consist of a trip through Spearfish Canyon ending in a visit to Lead-Deadwood.

This event is open to the public at a special local conference attendance charge of $40 per person and is free to BHSU students (for non-ticketed events). Please contact DavidCremean@BHSU.edu for more information about attending.
The WLA practices and promotes Western American Art and Culture. For more information visit: www.usu.edu/westlit/conference2009.htm.