Show goes in search of West Texas wordsmiths

March 11, 2019

Tom Parks has done many things in his life. He’s been a writer and an educator and now a television host.

His show is called “In Search of the West Texas Wordsmith.” It will begin airing at 3 p.m. on Saturdays starting May 4.

The interview show will be filmed at the Hotel Settles in Big Spring and feature Parks interviewing local poets, novelists, short story writers and songwriters.

Produced in cooperation with Kathryn “Kat” Copeland of the Permian Basin Poetry Society and Parks, a former University of Texas Permian Basin professor and dean, it is directed by award-winning filmmaker James Fite.

The idea came from watching “Central Texas Gardener” every Saturday at noon, Parks said.

’“It’s out of Austin and it’s on PBS. I’ve enjoyed watching it and I thought, ‘What about West Texas?’ We don’t have that many gardens as they have in Austin,” Parks said.

However, Parks said he knew of at least three strong, active writers’ organizations.

“So I thought ... that would be a good topic ... to interview a different writer every week, so I ... pursued it from there and went to the Marie Hall Foundation for possible funding,” Parks said.

The foundation was interested in the show. Parks submitted an application and was funded for $20,000.

“It’s a good strong start that will pay for 13 weekly episodes, which is sort of a season in television. We’re hoping to get funding for 13 more,” Parks said.

He added that the response has been tremendous, especially from writers.

His first interview is with Gardendale novelist Ann Swann.

Swann said the fourth book in her Phantoms series, “Stevie-Girl and the Phantom of Forever,” was released this week by 5 Prince Books.

She said it’s a “clean, teen read.”

Swann said making the episode was fun. She added that the crew made her feel comfortable and she felt a connection with Fite, who makes horror films, which she loves.

“The only reason I agreed to do it was because of Tom,” Swann said.

She added that Parks asked some good questions, probably because he’s a writer himself.

Swann noted that she thinks people in this area will be glad to see the show.

“We have a lot of people in the writing community out here, believe it or not. I think they will be very interested to see local people,” Swann said.

Other interviews Parks has lined up include songwriter Harry Nutter; poet Loretta Diane Walker; non-fiction and fiction author Glen Aaron; and science fiction writer Joshua Simpson.

Also, writer/journalist, editor and publisher Mark McDonald; self-help counseling writer Stephanie Moses; and Copeland, an activist and advocate of the arts.

Parks said he prepares by reading the work ahead of time.

With Swann, for instance, Parks said he read one of her books, “Lilac Lane.”

“That gave me enough ammunition to talk to her about it and discuss it,” Parks said.

“For these people I’ve got lined up, it will give me time to dip into their work and find some common basis for (discussion). I want to do two things — learn about them and then also learn about whatever kind of writing it is. I’m going to try for two points of focus during the 30-minute interview,” he added.

When the process for the show started, Basin PBS didn’t have a studio. They got one, but it was under construction, so Parks said he wrote a letter to the owner of the Hotel Settles and asked him if they could do all the filming there and give the owner credit at the end.

The owner thought it would be a good swap and Parks said it’s worked very well.

“They’ve been totally cooperative,” he said.

The show will probably start broadcasting in early May.

“Most of these people that I have scheduled, I’ve come to know over the last 16 years,” Parks said.

He’s currently looking for a children’s book author and short story writer.

Because the show is nonprofit, it doesn’t pay the guests, but Parks said he did budget a $50 fee to help pay for gas.

“Every single person I’ve asked has agreed to do it,” he said.