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WCU’s Robert Conley becomes first American Indian to lead Western Writers of America

Robert J. Conley, WCU’s Sequoyah Distinguished Professor of Cherokee Studies, is the new president of the Western Writers of America. Conley, a member of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, is the first American Indian in the role.

Robert Conley

Robert J. Conley

The Western Writers of America promotes literature of the American West and has more than 500 members, whose writing covers mainstream fiction to local history. Conley, a prolific author with more than 80 works of fiction and nonfiction, became president in June.

Excerpts below are from a column by Johnny D. Boggs titled “Meet Robert J. Conley,” which appeared in and are reprinted with permission from True West. For the full article, click here.

    I knew Robert J. Conley was not your typical Western writer when he came up to me and fellow author John D. Nesbitt at an Albuquerque bar and started quoting-not Louis L’Amour or Larry McMurtry (don’t get Bob started on McMurtry, by the way) – Lord Byron.
    The taciturn Conley, born in Cushing, Oklahoma, in 1940 is a genius. He brings to the Western Writers of America presidency a certain wit and dry sense of humor. …
    Actually, Ned Christie, the famous Cherokee statesman-turned-“outlaw,” decided Conley’s career path – or rather a bunch of white writers who tried to write about Christie did. “I got pissed off at some of the stuff written about Ned Christie, and I decided I’d write something and fix it. That’s all I was thinking: I’ll get those sons of bitches. Boy, I killed a lot of marshals.” …
    In 2005, the American Library Association selected his nonfiction “‘The Cherokee Nation: A History” as one of that year’s Outstanding Academic Titles. …
    Yet don’t call Conley an academic. … “For years I was a member of Academics Anonymous,” he says, “but they made me resign when I became the Sequoyah Distinguished Professor in Cherokee Studies. I still have never written any footnotes, and I’m not planning to.”

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