I'm very pleased to present online the program for our upcoming 38th Annual Meeting of the Western Literature Association. It's an exciting and provocative program, with something for everyone. We have some pretty different and new kinds of panels for WLA. Often I have organized established topics in what I believed to be novel ways, putting papers together that don't seem at first glance to match. Many of you have also organized panels that ask us to stretch. In all, it seems clear we are an organization growing in new directions, and doing so with the guiding help of many long-standing members. To them I am very grateful.

This year's main event is a public reading on Thursday night by contemporary literary darling Sandra Cisneros. She's the WLA's Distinguished Achievement Award Recipient for 2003. This reading is free and open to the public, and sure to draw a large Houston crowd. Such an event is meaningful to me for the ways it links scholarly with non-scholarly publics, and for the fact that the reading will be held in a ballroom that itself is located in the nation's fourth largest mall. I am proud our organization will sponsor a non-shopping public event in the middle of a major mall - let's start a trend!

WLA also will present a Distinguished Achievement Award to a trio of sibling/critics this year, Ramón Saldívar, José David Saldívar, and Sonía Saldívar-Hull. Originally from south Texas, these siblings are the "first family" of Chicano/a Studies. The work of all of them together has reshaped Americanist scholarship and feminist scholarship, contributing some of the keywords common to new transnational studies. Agreeing, for the first time, to appear on the same panel, each will discuss in a plenary session the role of place in their own work and life history, and the future of regional studies more broadly defined. Finally, two local troupes of writers will appear prominently in our program. Opening our conference on Wednesday night is the organization Voices Breaking Boundaries, led by Sehba Sarwar, Artistic Director. Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say, led by Tony Diaz, Artistic Director, will precede Sandra Cisneros. Each group is a multifaceted grassroots organization, and together they put voice to much of what is new about the "new" west.

Our Annual Awards Banquet tops off Friday’s events.  Various awards are made, including the Distinguished Achievement Award to the Saldívars.  WLA is particularly pleased to feature the well known journalist and prose writer Rubén Martínez as our main banquet speaker.  In addition to being the first to hold the Mexican American Chair in Creative Writing at the prestigious University of Houston Creative Writing Program, the praise for Rubén Martínez’s last book, Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail, has brought him well-deserved international acclaim for his work as a stylist as well as political theorist.

By the time Saturday arrives, WLA members will be yearning for non-mall environments, and I invite you to partake of any of our three Saturday options. One is to Galveston, where the first stop will be the beach and anyone can walk, swim or even surf (for surfing you must contact me directly). The MFA Houston (along with the Menil) is a lovely and very well-resourced major museum, and no trip to Houston is complete without visits there - especially given the MFAH's holdings in western landscape painting. A third choice is to see some of Houston's more vernacular art sites, also known as "The Orange Show." This is a local favorite.

Over the next couple of months I look forward to putting the final touches on everything, and then to your arrival!

Until then, all good things,
Krista Comer,
Western Literature Association President