“Put feet to your dreams.” –Jodi Thomas
by Sharon Stevens
I took my first creative writing class at Amarillo College in 1993 with the encouragement of a friend, Connie Hirsch. The class was taught by Jodi Thomas and DeWanna Pace, not only teachers but authors in their own right. I was surrounded by every conceivable genre known to man…or woman…or beast as the case may be. One gentleman was a Civil War buff, one lady historical romance. There was a man who was writing a book on the murder of his daughter by her husband, but also wrote the most moving stories of his family during their time in a hospital ICU. You could tell there were some serious writers as well as those who wanted only to publish the great American novel bypassing the work it took to get there, obviously impatient with the entire process.
I didn’t fit into any niche. My passion was not to write a novel or publish a book. I just wanted to set down simple family stories into a tangible medium to preserve from my generation to the next.
Connie had told me that the first night they used a writing exercise about coming across a single shoe and telling its story. The wonderful thing about Jodi and DeWanna’s class is that you never had to read aloud if you didn’t want to. You could just listen to the other stories and share if you wished.
I never wished. I agonized over my story again and again. I knew what it entailed and where the characters were led. I understood the dynamics and shared the pain and the joy involved with my lost shoe. But I never could finish. There was something so painful in the memories that led up to the shoe being lost. These weren’t ugly memories per se, and there was love involved within the family so it wasn’t a pure loss. But for some reason my thoughts made me cry and tugged at my heart. Maybe because I knew the ending ended with sweetness, or that I knew it would never end that way, could never end that way, should never end that way.
I have written so many stories since that first night of class, wonderful, joyous celebrations of community and heritage. Surrounded by family and friends my heart has been full as I witnessed kindness and care, but also ugliness and stupidity with bullies and charlatans galore. I have seen true acts of faith and patriotism coupled with treason and discrimination, all in one day. Each and every one has found a place in the thoughts I put down on paper.
Over all I have taken three separate creative writing classes from Jodi. I joined the Panhandle Professional Writers, attended several Frontiers in Writing Conferences, submitted articles for publication, some published, most not, and was one of the co-founders of the Jodi Thomas Fan Club with friends Connie Hirsch and Natalie Bright. I shared “Sowing Jodi” with Claudia Wilson as she and her husband traveled around the country as park host, and visited local libraries to celebrate the books of Jodi. I wish I could list all the others who have crossed my path on my writing travels, but it would be endless.
I also can’t tell you how wonderful it is to celebrate the journey of Phyllis Miranda and Linda Broday as they come into their own right with their “Give Me A Texan” anthologies along with Jodi and DeWanna. At the recent book signing for the launch of their latest anthology, “Give Me A Texas Outlaw” at Barnes and Nobles in Amarillo, DeWanna shared with me that August would be celebrating thirty years since she and Jodi took their very first creative writing class together at Amarillo College. As I watched Linda, Phyllis, Jodi and DeWanna sign book after book and visit with fan after fan I was overwhelmed. Never once, not once in all the times I have known these wonderful ladies have they been unkind, or impatient. They have answered questions, shared tips and celebrated the success of every writer who crosses their path.
I may never finish the story of the lost shoe. Jodi and DeWanna understand. But you can bet if I do complete the memory they will be the first to give kudo’s.
My shoe was lost by the side of the road. It was real, it was tangible and it was there, and will remain there until I am ready to go back, pick it up, and place it among my heirlooms to treasure. After all its only one shoe. I realize now that Jodi and DeWanna share the other.
Congratulations on their journey! Sharon Stevens