Telling yourself stories

Just about all of Jodi Thomas’s books are set in Texas, a place where her roots are deep. She’s a fifth-generation Texan who writes both historical and contemporary stories. At the moment, she’s working on a series of contemporary books set in a small fictional Texas town. Jodi has won four RITA® Awards (the Oscar of the romance industry) and she’s the Writer in Residence at West Texas A&M University. So I was surprised when she told me she couldn’t read in the fourth grade, and that no one thought she’d make it to college! Find out what turned things around for her. . .

I love Texas history. And we spent every summer with my kids when they were little going to all the historical sites. And I like to walk the land. I can feel it. You know, Texas isn’t—we don’t have thousands of years of history, you know. And you can just almost still hear it.

I asked, “How many books have you written?”

I just finished my 34th. And since my third one, they’ve all been national bestsellers.

I grew up with younger sisters telling bedtime stories. And when my sons were born, we began a tradition of every night, I would tell them each a story, related to the things they loved. And one night, it was really late, and we were trying to get to bed. And I said, “Tell yourself a story, like everyone else in the world does, and go to sleep.” And I walked out of their bedrooms. And my husband was out there. And he said, “Jodi, everybody doesn’t tell themselves a story and go to sleep.” Until that moment, I didn’t realize that they didn’t.

I didn’t think that I could be a writer. Because English was my worst subject. I couldn’t read at all, and I was in the fourth grade, and my teacher had been to a seminar about learning disabilities. And I didn’t really catch up until high school in the reading. And I look back, and I think if it hadn’t been for Ms. Dickerson, one teacher, I probably would’ve been able to read the paper, but I never would’ve read books.

When I first started writing people would say, “Are you still writing those little books?” like I was writing little, tiny books. And I wanted to say, “Yeah, they’re a hundred thousand words. It’s 50 percent [laughs] of the market. They’re not little books.”

It’s a kind of scary career, but it’s been fun career. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I’ve met some fascinating people, both in my head and real [laughs], so it’s been fun.

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