Jodi Thomas helps WT students with writing skills

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Jodi Thomas was speaking at a library grand opening in 2003 when Russell C. Long, then the president of WTAMU, walked up and asked to speak to her.  Thomas, a writer, thought that he wanted to write a book and did not call him back.

“A lot of people don’t want to write a book, they want to tell me how they want to write a book,” Thomas said.

Thomas is a writer of historical romance novels and women’s mainstream fiction. She wrote her first book in 1987 and since then has written a total of 34 books and 11 short story collections. Thomas is a New York Times and USA Today Bestseller.

Long contacted her again because he wanted to invite her to take the position as the in-residence writer at WT. Thomas agreed to meet with him and visit the school.

The job required that Thomas maintain four and a half office hours a week. Her book topics or writing style would not be interfered with or controlled.

The point of the program is to give students a chance to speak and interact with a writer to learn about the career field whether it be the plotting, character creating, writing or publishing aspect.

“Nine years ago when I took this opportunity, I really took it with the idea that I wanted to help the writers of the future,” Thomas said.

Thomas said that one of the most important things she teaches students is the business of writing. It is important to her that students understand what is going on and how the publishing world works.

Thomas makes a point to have her doors open to students all morning from Monday to Friday. Anyone is welcome to meet with her to ask any questions they might have. Sometimes she will have storyboard progressions set up that shows students an element of her writing process.

“I do the business of writing here, and I do a lot of other things, so I work 5 days a week just like everybody else,” Thomas said.

Thomas also accepts an intern each semester that gets to learn about the writing process and helps with the daily things that writers have to deal with.

“She expects you to work, but she is very understanding and doesn’t have unreal expectations,” Carmen Terrell, an English graduate student and past intern for Thomas, said.

Thomas’ mornings are spent at her office in the WT library, and her nights are spent at her home study where she works on her writing.

Thomas did not start out as a writer. She tried out a few other fields including teaching, but realized that she could not be as creative as she wanted to. At the age of 35, she decided it would be fun to write a book, but did not realize how much work it would take.

“Most people think you write it, send it off and sell it,” Thomas said.

According to Thomas, it is a much more elaborate and complicated process that requires a lot of effort and determination.

It took Thomas two years to get her first book published, and it did not sell very well. But, that did not stop her from moving forward with her writing career, and she continued to get books published.

At the time, she was writing historical romance novels. She spent three months researching the market.

“I did it with the idea of what would sell, and I loved historical romance because I read it,” Thomas said.

After writing several historical romance novels, Thomas decided to move on to a new genre. She had won many awards for her historical romance writing and had hit the top of her game.

She made her decision to write mainstream women’s fiction. Her books mostly focus on the life of people in small towns and their relationships.

“I didn’t have any idea they’d be so popular,” Thomas said.

Her mainstream books did very well so she has stuck to that genre of writing. She still likes to write at least one historical romance a year because she loves it and she has fans who appreciate her doing so.

“Sometimes I just write,” Thomas said. “I don’t really know what’s going to happen.”

Along with her position at WT, Thomas gives up to a hundred talks a year with various groups and organizations, and she also does some various blogging.

For Thomas, writing is a very rewarding career. She often hears from fans that her books offered an escape from reality. Thomas not only offers her audiences enjoyment through her books, but also gets to guide and teach students.

“The thing is, she cares about the students,” Jere Ellison, an English graduate student and past intern for Thomas, said. “She’ll work with you if you’re serious about working with her…I started the semester looking for a mentor, and ended it with a new friend.”