On November 20, 2011, in , by Jody Ewing

About Jody


Jody Ewing was born and raised in Onawa, Iowa, the second of five children born to Don and Hope (Archer) Ewing in less than five years.

She began writing at age eight, both penning and illustrating her dog-napping short story “The Mystery of Kalo’s Disappearance,” for her four siblings to read and critique.

She spent much of her childhood traveling the U.S. with her father — an ATA Hall of Fame champion trapshooter — and brother Brett, both of whom broke world records with their sharpshooting skills. Jody often tagged along, carrying shells or lugging her father’s 12-gauge shotgun and chronicling each day’s events in her daily journal.

Don Ewing

Don Ewing

Encouraged during junior high by her parents and West Monona English teacher Jerry Laffey, Jody had classmates reading and writing book reports on her western novel Gentry, an epic-length story about an early frontier town’s struggle for unity despite countless setbacks and Mother Nature’s wrath. By the time she finished high school she’d completed three full-length novels, two stage plays and numerous short stories, none of which she submitted for publication.

On Labor Day weekend, 1987, her father’s car hit a guardrail near Turin, Iowa, before hitting the Little Sioux River bridge and landing in the water below. For three days, Jody and her family walked the river banks until an underwater search and recovery team — along with their specially trained dogs — located his body. His death came 11 days before his 51st birthday.

In 1988, Jody signed on as a freelance correspondent with The Sioux City (IA) Journal, writing regular features for the Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota “Siouxland” region until relocating to northern California in early 1991. Her first book, One Way: Bumps and Detours on the Road to Adulthood (a collection of essays on childhood and growing up), was published in 1992 by R&E Publishers. While living in California, Jody’s weekly newspaper column, From Jody’s Journal, began running in northern California newspapers as well as some Iowa and Illinois weeklies.

Earl Hamner, Jr.

She has since had more than 500 feature stories published (print publications), completed two more novels, two and one-half non-fiction books, and penned six screenplays, including a commissioned adaptation of Mary Dutton’s novel, Thorpe. Dutton’s novel — compared to To Kill a Mockingbird — was first adapted several years earlier for a “CBS After School Special” by one of Jody’s favorite authors and longtime role model, The Waltons writer and producer, Earl Hamner, Jr.

As a child, Jody imagined she’d grow up and become a famous novelist living in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Instead, she returned with her family to western Iowa in 1995, where a sequence of more detours led her down roads few others have a chance to travel or are willing to navigate. She immersed herself in raising a son with Asperger’s Syndrome, became politically active, went to work as a staff writer for the alternative newsweekly Weekender, and when her son’s challenges began taking her away from work, returned to freelance status to accommodate her son’s needs while writing from her home office.

Shortly thereafter, and based on a suggestion from then-Weekender editor Thomas Ritchie, Jody began researching and writing a cold case series on unsolved homicides and missing persons cases in the Sioux City area. She transferred her college credits from University of Iowa to Iowa State University in order to finish her Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree and add a Criminal Justice Studies minor, and graduated from ISU magna cum laude with honors.

Jody and Dennis

Jody and Dennis

Jody ran for the Iowa legislature in 2002, and has served in roles ranging from county chair to state co-chair for four presidential candidates.

In 2004, she and longtime partner, Dennis Ryan, bought a 100-year-old home with an enigmatic past and took in and cared for a family friend with Parkinson’s Disease, along with his 90-pound Chesapeake Retriever, Hagan, and his Pilot-to-Bombardier-WWII-obsessed African Grey parrot, Clyde.

With painstaking attention to dialog and details, Jody meticulously documented everything in her daily journal just as she’d done since childhood.

In 2005 she launched the Iowa Cold Cases website, which now includes case summaries for more than 500 unsolved Iowa homicides and missing persons cases. In an ironic twist of fate, her stepfather of nearly 25 years, Earl Thelander, died Labor Day weekend in 2007 from burns sustained in an explosion caused by copper thieves. His case remains unsolved today and is now included on the Iowa Cold Cases website.

Six days after her stepfather’s funeral, Jody’s mother, Hope Thelander, was diagnosed with Stage 3, Grade III breast cancer and subsequently underwent a mastectomy. After one full year of chemo and radiation, she is currently in remission.

Jody’s current writing projects, in various stages from rough drafts to final edits, illustrate a deeply lived-in life reflecting themes most important to her: familial bonds, second chances, finding courage to pursue that which “makes one’s heart sing,” and the healing power of humor when persevering against all odds.

Ultramarine Publishing, a New York publishing company founded with the goal of keeping in print serious works by American writers, put Jody’s One Way back into print. Her ‘Short’ — Pull — was published in January 2006 and made Amazon’s Top 10 list in Literature and Fiction two days after publication.

Jody is the mother of three grown children and two grandsons. Her oldest son Bill is an iOS applications developer and co-founder of Simply Made Apps. He and his wife Jen (who works for Blue Cross/Noridian) live in Fargo, ND, with sons Adam and Tom. Jody’s daughter Jennifer also lives in Fargo, where she works for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the Fargo Youth Commission. Jody’s youngest son Rhett is pursuing a college degree and plans to become a history teacher.

Jody remains extremely close to her mother and four siblings, and continues to share her century-old home with Dennis and their four family pets — dogs Hagan, Jack, and Quincy, and of course Clyde, the fighter pilot parrot.

Johnny Cash Rocks (My!) Website

On November 19, 2005, in Authors, Entertainment, by Jody Ewing

Okay, so I’ll admit that in the year and one month since I’ve had my official website up, I’m still learning when it comes to deciphering all those webpage stats such as Total Unique Sites, Total Unique Referrers, Total Unique User Agents and the like, but the one statistic I have gotten to know well is Total Hits per specific web page — and that’s not counting my own visits (which, with all due respect to the articles I’ve written, is something I don’t need to do. Hey, I wrote it. I don’t need to re-read my own articles or see if they’re still there).

So, in light of the fact I’m doing another Johnny Cash story (there’s the film, you know, the documentaries and the books and all that juicy chatter about The Oscars), I decided to check my website stats. (I differentiate here between my personal website and the Weekender website, where most of my articles have their first online run after print, thus stats to which I don’t have access.) I didn’t question interest in the Man in Black or how sexy Joaquin Phoenix would be saying “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash” — of course there’s interest in that, what with “Walk the Line” and all — but to see if there’d been any interest showing up on my website for one of my recent articles on Cash. (Heck, isn’t every journalist writing about J.C. right now?) But did they visit my site? Did they read my article on Hugh’s book?

(With a big gulp here) — SURPRISE!! And a big Thank You to Hugh Waddell, author of “I Still Miss Someone,” Hugh’s brilliant, insightful, heart-tugging and fabulous tribute book to J.C. with more than 40 individual tribute chapters from some of “John’s” closest friends. (If you were a close friend, you’d know why it’s John and not Johnny. And if because I call him J.C. it gives away I wasn’t a close [sniffle] personal friend, so what?)

I mean, we’re talking tributes by Cash’s daughter Cindy Cash, his son John Carter Cash, Luther Fleaner, W.S. Holland, Merle Kilgore, Lou Robin, Bob Wootton, his #1 fan Dennis Devine (from Iowa, yeah!) and many more, and that’s not even counting the beautifully written forward by the Rev. Billy Graham and his wife Ruth.

Okay, so the big question: did they or didn’t they? Well, I may not be the New York Times or the Chicago Tribune, but for a year-old website still in its infancy, I didn’t think 941 hits to Hugh’s story — in October alone — was too shabby. And here it is, only Nov. 19, and already 1446 hits for November! And these were just to the story on Hugh’s book, not counting the hits to the J.C. images that accompanied the story. (Special thanks here to Michelle Brown at Cumberland Publishing.)

(Between you and me, I think I’m developing a close relationship with Cumberland — on Monday I’ll be interviewing Earl Hamner, Jr. [yes – The Waltons‘ Earl Hamner, Jr.] as well as James Person, author of the new bio, “Earl Hamner: From Walton’s Mountain to Tomorrow” — and yes, also published by Cumberland.)

Like I said, I’m not USA Today or People Magazine, but the highest number of hits I’d had before in any one month for one specific story were within the 300-mark, so to have over 1440 hits in less than a month just to read that one article is truly a big deal to me. And (in case you haven’t guessed) Hugh’s book is a big deal to me; it’s simply phenomenal, and Nope — I’m not receiving a dime for promoting it here. It’s just one of those must-have books if you’re a Johnny Cash fan. Or, if you’re not and know someone who is, I think you know your way to and also know the number of days until Christmas…

Oh, and when you leave your review on, make sure to include your shoe size and hometown. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ll have to read the book to find out.

Parting thoughts (solicitations?): on Nov. 24, be sure to check back and read my article (under my Author Interviews) on Peggy Knight’s three books on Johnny and June and Mother Maybelle, as well as comments on the film. You Cash fans know who Peggy is. I’ll also have more JC photos and some “Devine” comments from Johnny’s #1 fan.

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