Why I like Writing Short Stories by Jodi Thomas

Jodi Thomas has graciously agreed to fill in for Phyliss Miranda today. Let’s make her welcome!

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Thank you for having me. I’m happy to be back with everyone and talking about one of my loves. Writers often ask me why I write short stories. And, I have to say simply, “For the love of writing.”

But in truth, the benefits are far more than that. 

It all started one week before Christmas in ‘93. I’d just finished a novel and mailed it in. I was free and had a list. Shopping, making cookies, decorating, and cleaning house. I put in my first batch of cookies when the phone rang. It was my agent, who rarely called. “Jodi, I want you to write a short story. Think it over, come up with a few ideas and we’ll talk in January.” We talked about a big publishing house that was offering me the bottom slot in an anthology. She hung up. The cookies were burned. 

I scraped the cookie sheet and started again. As I put the next batch in, the phone rang again. “Hello, Jodi,” an editor at the big publishing house said. “What is your idea?”

Now, I’d had about ten minutes to think and so I said, “Two old men go to a train station in Texas the Christmas after the Civil War. They’ve ordered their boss, Holly, a mail-order husband for Christmas. One man steps off the train. He’s tall, dark, and handsome and he’s wearing a Union uniform. Before they can get to him, the man passes out drunk. Sam looks at Ben and says, “Great, we not only got her a Yankee, we got her a dead drunk Yankee.” 

“Sold,” the editor said, “Can you get it to us by January?” 

I hung up, took out the second batch of burned cookies and danced around the kitchen. I bought gift cards, let my two boys decorate, picked up Christmas cookies from the bakery and went back to my tiny study to work. 

A year later A HUSBAND FOR HOLLY hit the NYTimes thanks to Pat Potter the lead writer. 

And, I fell in love with writing short stories.

Here are three of my favorite short stories. I’m proud as can be of each one.

    

JODI THOMAS: THE OLD BUTTON TIN

Jodi Thomas Author PicThis month my 41st novel (not counting 14 novellas) comes out and I’m excited.  A new series!  The best and deepest I’ve ever written.  RANSOM CANYON

 

Like most writers I get the same question again and again.  “Where do your ideas come from?”

 

Sometimes I have no idea where the seed of an idea started to grow in my mind.  But, then I get out Grandma Kirkland’s button box….

 

Button TinWhen I was little, her big box of buttons always fascinated me.  I played with it for hours.  Now, in an upstairs room off my office, I gather the grandkids (6,5,4,2) around the old sewing machine.  They all get excited as I open the box and let each one pick a button.  Old rusty ones, bright diamond bling, tiny pearl ones, some still have tiny pieces of fabric connected from worn out clothes.

 

Then as each shows his or her button, I tell the story of where it came from. 

 

Winter's CampThat was your great uncle Austin’s button. He was called Wildhorse and had three ships shot out from under him during World War 2.

 

That pearl one belonged to Mema Bailey.  She went to church every time the door was open and died at 92 still singing hymns.

 

That metal one belonged to a pirate who sailed the Galveston coast and buried his gold on Pelican Island.  Some say the tree he was hanged from was the very site where he buried his loot, but no one dares go near it because his ghost haunts the place.

 

That silver one is magic.  Just holding it for a minute will make you talk backward.  Now it’s time to say, “Night Good.”

 

And on and on we go.  With all the games and videos downstairs, they still love the old button box.

 

Ransom CanyonI’ve often said creativity is a muscle.  The more you use it, the stronger it gets.  I’ve been in the gym of my mind working out all my life.

 

The idea for RANSOM CANYON came from living in the Texas Panhandle.  I wanted to write about the real west of today.  I wanted my people to be like the men and women I grew up with, honest and true.  Not the cowboy on a book cover who has never been on a horse, but the cowboy who gets up at five to load his own horse and make it to the ranch before dawn.  He doesn’t work by the hour, but by the day.

 

As I began my first book in the series, Staten Kirkland jumped off the page.  He’s strong and good, a rancher everyone looks up to, but he’s broken and only one woman can calm his heart.

 

So come along with me on a series set in today’s West.  You’ll love it.

 

By the way, if you have a Button Box or Jar or Tin, tell me about it.  You might win a copy of the first book of RANSOM CANYON. Meanwhile, WINTER’S CAMP is free to download at these links:  AMAZON        B&N

 

MANY STORIES TO YOU ALL.

 

Jodi Thomas

www.jodithomas.com