I just got back from a very dry California. Our rain has been great for all except folks who have not been able to bale all their hay yet. However, it’s the first of July and I have white clover blooming in my pasture, which means we’ve had a great year so far.
I was in Sacramento for the gathering of Western Writers Convention. I have been attending their conventions since 1985 in San Antonio where I first walked among giants in publishing western books. For the past two years I have been president of this organization and my term ended at the close of the convention. Some over 600 strong members attended including western songwriters, poets beside the historical writers and fiction ones like me. For my service they presented me a wooden plague and a pair of the fanciest spurs I have ever owned. I’ll never wear them but they are great keepsakes.
On a sad note, a man that helped me so much in my career as a writer, Jory Sherman, passed away while I was out west. Back in February 1985, I went to a writers meeting in Branson, Mo., for the first time. The Ozark Creative Writer meetings are still held there quarterly. Jory was a very out going guy for a man that then had written over 300 western books. Here I was with three short stories in obscure magazines as my accomplishments. When we talked right after his speech about writing, he handed me an application to Western Writers of America. I knew about that organization but I had no idea I could belong to such a prestigious group with so few credits. He laughed and said, “Send it in. You have to start somewhere and we need new members.”
To make the story shorter, they accepted me. Pat and I drove to San Antonio that following June and met the writers who I had read for years growing up. Like most organizations they needed more money and I told them I could auction, Pat would clerk and we’d have a fundraiser the following year in Fort Worth, Texas. Something I have done every year since then.
After that meeting Jory became a mentor to this green hand in the publication business. He knew all about book contracts, who to trust, who not to use. The man never gave me a bad bit of information. That was so important to a novice wading through the unknown waters to get published.
My friend continued to print books until his body and mind slowed him to a snails’ pace. Last year after much campaigning, I pushed for him to receive the Wister Award. A man with over 400 western books written and generous untold help to so many novice writers needed the highest award that WWA could give him. The awards name comes from Owen Wister who wrote the “Virginian.” He, as many claim, was the founder of today’s western fiction. So weary by many things that strained his body, Jory made it to our conference last year to address the members about his life, starting as a poet in San Francisco and his years after pounding out some great books about the American West. How he believed in the West as America’s unique form of fiction that told the tale of our own knights in armor in a formative part of history. I’ll miss him.
God bless you, your family and America, Dusty Richards


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