Jodi Thomas makes her mark on the WT campus

Jodi Thomas is WTAMU’s award-winning writer in residence.
Jodi Thomas is WTAMU’s award-winning writer in residence.

Well over a million published words on page after page. Book after book, each representing different personalities, different characters, different loves and different lives. After 40 novels, Jodi Thomas continues to write new books within the walls of West Texas A&M University.
Thomas is the writer in residence at WTAMU. She is a New York Times Bestselling Author who has currently published 41 novels and 12 short stories. She has also won four RITA awards, given annually to the best published Romance novels, and was inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame in 2006, which is currently home to only 13 other authors. She is available in the library Monday through Thursday from 9 – 11 a.m., and on Fridays by appointment.
“I planned from the beginning to write for the money,” Thomas said. “I mean, I love writing and I would still probably write my stories in my journals if I didn’t want the money, but I wanted to make a living writing. My goal was to do that.”
Thomas spent six months studying the market and many years taking classes before she began writing, but in the late 80’s, she began writing Historical Romances.
“Since I was looking at it for a career, I thought, ‘Okay, I’m going to write Historical Romance,’ which was right down my alley,” Thomas said. “So I began writing and my first three books were very much Historical Romance. But I never dreamed I would write more than two or three.”
Thomas’ 41st novel, “A Place Called Harmony,” was released Oct. 7 in paperback.
As a writer in residence, one of her jobs is to talk to students and provide advice or critiques.
“When they hired me, they said the only thing they wanted me to do was write on campus,” Thomas said. “They said I just need to be on campus so that students that would like to meet me or like to talk to me can come up.”
Thomas said the administration only wanted her to maintain four – and – a – half hours a week for the position, but she felt she could do more.
“Most writers in residence, that’s what they do, just once or twice a week,” Thomas said. “But I run my business part of my office out of here because it is more convenient. I hire students that work for me as well as interns that can get up to graduate credit for working a semester with me. So, I work here about three or four days a week.”
Thomas said she is proud to be a representative of WTAMU.
“Now, when I travel, in a way I am a representative of WT and I am very aware of that,” Thomas said. “I always proudly say I am the writer in residence at West Texas A&M. I’ve even had students come here and say’ I came here because you were the writer-in-residence’, and they ended up working with me.”
The Director of Information and Resources, Shawna Kennedy-Witthar, said Jodi has been very supportive of WTAMU and the Cornette Library.
“Jodi is a great ambassador for WTAMU when she goes out on book tour signings, speaking engagements, and does research for her books,” Kennnedy-Witthar said. “She is a great communicator, teacher, and person besides being an award winning author.”
Kennedy-Witthar said Thomas’ thinks her writing is fantastic and is fond of one series in particular.
“I especially enjoy her ‘Harmony Series,’” Kennedy-Witthar said. “The books in this series all take place in the fictional Texas Panhandle town of Harmony. Her characters are all people I feel like I have met before. It’s a West Texas Panhandle feel.”
Although the writer in residence position is  administered through the Provost’s office, Thomas works on the second floor of the library.
“We enjoy working and interacting with her on a professional and personal basis,” Kennedy -Witthar said. “She also brings students to the library. Some work as student interns in her office and others meet with her to have their writing critiqued.”
Kenndy-Witthar said she would like students to realize that Thomas may be an award winning author, but she is also very approachable and a wonderful teacher.
“She can guide [students] in becoming a better writer and possibly someday, a published author,” Kennedy-Witthar said. “She knows the good and the bad in becoming a published author and working with the publishing industry and can help [students] avoid some possible pitfalls.”
Thomas said her general advice to students who want to write is to major in something that really interests them, not just English, because the experiences in life are what matter most.
“Writing is not the English skills or the wordsmith skills that it used to be,” Thomas said. “People used to read books for the beautiful language. But today, it’s about the storytelling. It is the ability to tell the story. What’s important is living life. Experiences. I can tell a good writer when they walk in just by their interest. It’s almost insatiable.”
Thomas said an important piece of advice was to simply write.
“Start with a sentence,” she said. “I don’t always know where my stories are going. But no matter what you do, write. Keep a journal, keep stories, because the more you use creativity, it’s like a muscle, and the more creative you get. The stories are just going to pile on top of each other.”