Willa Pilla Award

The Willa Pilla was awarded for the first time in Boise in 1981 to the best paper on “literary offenses.” At this point, we are not sure how long the tradition lasted. Some of the original Willa Pilla award winners were:

1981   James Work
1982   Coralie Beyers
??   Melody Graulich
??   Martin Bucco
??   Diane Quantic
?? Arthur Huseboe

After a hiatus, the Willa Pilla was again awarded in 2003. Currently, the Willa Pilla is awarded as a way of acknowledging the long tradition of western humor and is given to the funniest paper delivered at the conference.

2003   Nancy Cook
2004   David Mogen
2005   Drucilla Wall
2006   John Price
2007   Beth Kalikoff
2008   Marc Dziak
2009 Bob Thacker (for lifetime achievement)
2010 Al Kammerer

According to tradition, the “pilla” and accompanying hat are passed down from the previous year’s award winner to the new recipient, in this case, from Nancy Cook to David Mogen.


4 thoughts on “Willa Pilla Award”

  1. The Willa Pilla, after a turbulent ride in the cargo hold, is safely in cold storage here in Duluth. Due to Bob Thacker’s qualms about micro and macro organisms accruing on or about the pillow, I’ve taken the liberty and considerable expense of placing it in a brand new zip lock bag and destroying the old one.
    Let me say that there is nothing I wouldn’t do to fulfill my duties as this year’s recipient and reigning king of comedy in the west. I’m also willing to do nothing itself.
    Even now, I’m planning a session on humor writing that could provide a springboard for not only discussion, but the lightening bolts of big laughs that all humorists should aim at, avoiding at all costs what Twain called the lighting bugs of “mere humorists.”

  2. I purchased the Willa Pilla while at the Boise conference in 1981 as a prize for the best “Literary Offenses” paper, a panel dreamed up at the previous year’s conference in St. Louis by James Work, Wayne Ude, Mick McAllister, and me. Jim Work’s fabulous paper on The Professor’s House (later published in the journal) won the prize; the following year, Coralie Beyers’ tour de force paper on The Manly-Hearted Woman took the prize. (Coralie passed away in February 2017.) The Victoriana pillow that was purchased exemplified the over the top approach that was to be typical of Literary Offenses papers.

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