Historical

A Place Called Harmony By Jodi Thomas

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

In A PLACE CALLED HARMONY readers will be looking at Harmony for the first time. I enjoyed writing about the three men who were brave enough to travel half of Texas to build a town. All three men came to me full and strong as did the women who loved them. From the opening I was running full gallop with a plot.

Over the years, beginning writers come to me and say, “Do I have what it takes to be a writer? Am I gifted?” I always remember the night I followed my writing teacher out of class. I’d just read my first chapter of my first novel. I knew nothing of plotting, viewpoint, characterization or even manuscript format. I’d just signed up for a community class at the college and had dreams of hitting within months.

While we walked to her car, I asked her one question after another. I’m sure she was wondering if I could be some kind of writer/stalker by the time we reached her car. With the door open, I blurted out my last question. “Do you think I can be a writer? I mean a real writer.”

She smiled (or at least I think she did for we were standing on a dark parking lot) and said, “If you work really, really hard you’ll make it.”

I danced back to my car thinking my writing teacher had seen something in me that meant I had what it takes to make it big. I was gifted. I followed her advice. I learned to type and use a computer. I wrote an hour or two a day. I read all the books on writing. I joined a critique group. I tried to learn to spell.

I pulled small amounts of time out of my day and tried to learn one thing each day. And at night, I dreamed of autographing. (I also dreamed of being thin, but that never worked) But, I was sure writing would. After all, my teacher believed I could do it.
Months passed. Nothing.

I didn’t see failure. I only decided I wasn’t working hard enough. I doubled my efforts. I worked three hours a day. I took my lunch so I could work during lunch and breaks. I subscribed to writer’s magazines and went to the library each month to read the ones I couldn’t afford. I entered contests. I tried harder to learn to spell.

Nothing.

I still didn’t see failure. (I did however lower my goal from making a million to being able to make enough to pay postage and fees on all the contests I entered.) I could still hear my teacher’s advice, “If you work really, really hard.”

I pushed writing time into hours I should have been sleeping. I entered more contests. I scraped together enough money to attend two conferences a year. I rewrote so many times I wanted to kill most of my characters. I wrote openings to book after book trying to develop hooks. I read in the fields I was trying to break into. I bought used books by the big names and outlined them. I tried to learn to spell.

Finally, the money began to come in. Ten dollars for a short article. Five for a poem.

Twenty for third place.

I pushed harder, using my newfound wealth to prime the pump. I bought more books on writing. I attended more conferences. I asked so many questions I’m surprised they didn’t ban me from attending. I drove miles to take writers to lunch so I could find out how they did it.

But, most of all I worked really, really hard. One day in the teacher’s lounge when I was sleeping between classes, someone asked me, “Jodi, you’re killing yourself. What are you trying to do?” I wanted to say, “I’m gifted. My talent's gold, but no one knows and if I don’t mine it, no one will ever know. Mining is hard work, so I’ve got to work really, really hard.”

I didn’t listen when people kindly told me I was wasting my time. I did give up on spelling however and decided to just trust spell check.

Then, one day, it happened. After years of study and work I sold a book. In fact, I sold five in fifteen months and from then on I sold as fast as I could write.

Now, many years and eight Harmony books later I’ve been on the New York Times and USA Today’s lists. I’ve received five RITA’s including one for being a member of RWA’s hall of fame. The walls of my office on the university where I am Writer in Residence are lined with awards and my book covers.

It surprises me sometimes when people come to visit and say, “Oh, you’re so lucky to be gifted. I wish I had such a talent.”

They have no idea. I’m not gifted at all, or lucky. I’ve stumbled hundreds of times. For every award there are a dozen contests where I didn’t place. For every book that sees daylight, there are at least four drafts still hiding in the dark.

I love writing the Harmony books and if you’ve read one, you’ll feel like you already know the characters. If you’ve never read one, this book would be a great place to start. So, step into Harmony for the first time as the three families build a town while they form bonds and loves that last a lifetime.

One lucky reader who comment(s) on my blog will be randomly selected to win an autographed copy of A PLACE CALLED HARMONY. Good luck!

Jodi Thomas
www.jodithomas.com
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