Argyle author Jane Roberts Wood will join the pantheon of great Texas writers with induction to the Texas Literary Hall of Fame on Oct. 19 in Fort Worth.
Wood’s name will join those of such luminaries of Texas literature as Katherine Anne Porter, Larry McMurtry, Horton Foote and Sandra Cisneros.
Wood’s novels and other works reveal an intimate knowledge of the Texas landscape, incorporating the nature, music, folklore, speech patterns and values of rural life and small towns. She has an unerring gift for language and a keen eye for detail.
A reviewer for The New Mexican commented, “Wood handles whatever she touches with delicate precision, and leaves an impression, not of the bitterness of life, but of the tenderness of the human soul.”
Wood’s first novel, The Train to Estelline (1987), follows the story of Lucinda Richards, a 17-year-old who leaves home for her first teaching job in rural West Texas.
That work became the start of the Texas trilogy, joining A Place Called Sweet Shrub (1990) and Dance a Little Longer (1993) in telling the funny, courageous journey of Lucinda from maiden to motherhood. Each of the novels made The Dallas Morning News’ list of local best-sellers.
Wood’s fourth novel, Grace, gained national recognition at its publication in 2001. This novel focuses on a teacher in a small town during World War II. Two years later, Wood saw the publication of Roseborough, the story of Echo, the 14-year-old runaway daughter of a Gypsy father and a mother who works at a Dairy Queen.
Wood, a third-generation Texan, earned a bachelor’s degree at Texas Tech University and a master’s at Texas Christian University. She was an English professor at Brookhaven College and Mountain View College in Dallas County, then retired early to devote herself to writing full-time.
After her five novels, Wood turned to another type of literature with a children’s book, 2003’s Mocha: The Real Doctor.
In 2011, two more works of fiction appeared. The catalyst for Out the Summerhill Road was the infamous unsolved murder of a Texarkana high schooler who was a friend of Wood’s. Although Wood’s novel is an examination of a brutal murder, it is also a riveting story of four sometimes outrageous, always extraordinary women and their deep, sustaining friendships.
When Wood chose Southern Methodist University as archivist for her papers, the university’s DeGolyer Library published Seven Stories, a collection of short works by Wood. It includes stories that earned honors from the Texas Institute of Letters and the Dallas Arts and Letters Live series.
Of her writing, Wood has said, “I go at it playfully, and then I revise and revise and revise. When I read a sentence or a paragraph or an ending that I know I’ve got right, there is this feeling of ecstasy.”
Wood’s writing career has brought her many honors. She is a fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. She was awarded a fellowship at Yale University for study with Harold Bloom, and in 2006 she received the West Texas Book Festival’s A.C. Greene Award for Distinguished Writing.
For ticket reservations and more information about the Texas Literary Hall of Fame induction ceremony, call the Friends of the Fort Worth Public Library at 817-346-2255.
PHYLLIS BRIDGES is an English professor at Texas Woman’s University.