04-20-19 – In Praise of a “Bad Pick” by Linda Lovely and Robin Weaver

Monday, August 6, 2018

My Dream Almost Came True by Paty Jager

Acceptance, that seems to have always been my struggle. Growing up in a small rural community where most of my classmates were from families that homesteaded the area, I felt like the "California Girl" all of my childhood even though I was 2 when we moved to Oregon.  I didn't fit in. I read all the time, I was shy, and I was always around boys when I wasn't at school. My two brothers and my mom's best friend's boys. Our families did lots of things together so it was me and six boys.

I went to college for one year. It was my father's choice of my career not mine. But I wanted out of the county. I felt it would help me find me and find acceptance. The college I went to was mostly male. I ended up hanging around with guys in the diesel program more than with any girls. I made one close female relationship, but that wasn't until halfway through the year. But the last trimester when I was only taking classes I wanted to take, I had a creative writing class. I loved that class but felt picked upon. When the papers were handed back out mine always had more red marks all over it. I finally got up the courage to ask the instructor why. Was I that bad at writing? He told me "No, the opposite. He saw potential in me and therefore took more time in correcting my work. That made my little heart pittypat. And I worked harder at getting less red marks.

Time passed. I married, had three kids and they were soon to all be in school full time. I told my hubby I wanted to take some college writing classes and an art class. He loves me and indulges my creative side. :) I took the classes, loved them, and started writing children's stories. My daughter's kindergarten teacher loved my short stories I wrote about trips the kindergartners made(this was before kindergarten was put into public schools in Oregon) I also wrote and illustrated a story about Zero the Hero. That inspired me to attend a Children's Writing conference by Highlights for Children in New York. I saved up the money, my mom took the kids, and I flew to New York. Only to be told by Dayton O. Hyde and several other instructors that I wrote too adult.

Undaunted I returned home, and started writing what I loved to read- Mystery. I volunteered in the school's new computer room at my children's school to learn how to use a computer because I hated making revisions on the typewriter. Soon the head instructor allowed me to come in early and type up my work on a floppy disk I bought. When I received a small bit of inheritance money, I bought my first computer. I was in heaven. Revision were so easy now and I was cranking out the pages. 

But I was wise enough to know I didn't know enough about mystery writing to do it justice. Unfortunately, at that time, none of the mystery groups allowed anyone in who wasn't already published. How was I to find help? There wasn't as much online presence as there is these days. I gave up on mystery writing and turned to writing historical western romance. I'd read LaVyrle Spenceer and loved her stories. They felt like something I could write. Then I was introduced to Romance Writers of America and I had my place to learn craft and hone my skills.

I attended the RITA awards during their 25th anniversary. This is like the Oscars for romance writers. That year they gave everyone a chocolate RITA that was wrapped in silver paper. I kept that for years, wanting to be a finalist or recipient of that award. It hasn't happened.

However, this year I was a finalist for the Daphne du Maurier award. This one is given out by the Kiss of Death chapter of RWA and is one of the top 3 mystery awards. While my dream hasn't come true, I came pretty darn close this year. I'm hoping to eventually win one of the top mystery awards and maybe, just maybe a RITA.

Paty Jager is the award-winning author of the Shandra Higheagle Mystery series. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it. This is what Mysteries Etc has to say about her Shandra Higheagle mystery series: “Mystery, romance, small town, and Native American heritage combine to make a compelling read.”
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Photo source: Canstock


Judith Ashley said...

In some circles the Daphne is as impressive as the RITA. Having read almost everything you've written, I know you do the research to back up the Native American elements in your stories. Congratulations!!!

Paty Jager said...

Thanks, Judith! I seem to always be the bridesmaid and never the bride in this awards. LOL One day, though, I'll pen a book that makes it.

Diana McCollum said...

I enjoyed your post as usual!!! Thanks for sharing your story.

Maggie Lynch said...

Wow! Loved learning about your childhood struggles. I knew you hung out with boys a lot but didn't realize quite how much.

I agree with Judith, I love your writing. It is straightforward, interesting, well-researched, and the mysteries and suspense books especially keep me guessing. The historical romances are beautiful and emotional.

Literary awards are funny things. Some our really based on popularity. Others are based on a small group of judges specific ideas around what makes good literature. The Rita and the Daphne are judged by a large swath of members. But, it istill kind of a luck-of-the-draw judging system.

Your writing is definitely as good as books who have won categories in both of those awards. I hope that dream comes true for you one day.

Paty Jager said...

Thanks, Diana!

Maggie, Gives you an idea of why I have tough heroines and always try to right injustice? ;) I know most awards are based on popularity and subjective to the judges, but it was being a finalist in many of the RWA chapter contests that kept me writing when I wondered if I really did have the talent to write. It's that acceptance. I love hearing from fans and knowing people enjoy my stories, but I crave the validation. I think because I grew up hearing, "You can do better" when I graduated with a 4.85.... I taught my kids, "You do your best and know you did your best; that's all that matters." But I have trouble following my own advice. :)