WC English instructor achieves authorship dream
The fall semester has started at Weatherford College, but one English professor is absent from campus for the first time in a decade.
For the past eight years, Dr. Lisa D’Amico, pen name Lisa Edmonds, has devoted her time outside of academia to developing her Alice Worth series which has garnered such a large audience that this past year she knew it was time to take the plunge into becoming a full-time author.
“I’ve always written,” she said. “I wrote my first story when I was 6. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a storyteller. But a writer has to be able to pay the bills.”
She started college as an international business and Spanish double major thanks to a scholarship from the School of Business at Wichita State University but soon changed her focus of study.
“All it took was one accounting class for me to realize that was not going to be my day job,” she said. “So, I switched to being an English major my sophomore year. And that’s also when I came under the wing of a great English professor who introduced me to the awesomeness of being a college professor.”
It made sense. Her parents taught in the K–12 setting, and teaching English in higher education would allow her the flexibility to pursue her writing goals.
After earning her bachelor’s degree in English, D’Amico completed her master’s degree at Wichita State, her doctorate degree at Texas A&M and found her way to WC.
From basic composition classes to specialized literature courses in “monsters and monstrosities,” D’Amico’s favorite part of teaching was cultivating students’ critical thinking skills, structuring arguments and finding supporting evidence.
“Those are universal skills,” she said. “No matter what field you go into, you’ll be writing. And the further up the ladder you go, the more writing you’ll have to do.”
She also appreciated the community created in the classroom, where the students could learn from one another. It’s what she’s going to miss the most.
“I learned so much from my students because we all have different backgrounds, and though I may know more in my subject area, they bring different perspectives to whatever we’re reading or discussing,” D’Amico said. “It could be something I’ve read dozens and dozens of times, and I can’t think of an exception to a student noticing something I haven’t.”
D’Amico came on as a faculty member at WC the same semester as fellow English instructor Dr. Trey Jansen. They became good friends and worked together as advisors for the Phi Theta Kappa honor society.
“My favorite memories are when we would chat about the books she was working on,” Jansen said. “It was a joy to see her imagination at work and a treat, as someone who spends most of the time editing, to get to offer an oddball idea on occasion.”
When she wasn’t lecturing or grading papers, D’Amico spent most of her waking hours at The Full Cup, a Weatherford coffee shop, creating the world of Alice Worth, a magic-wielding private investigator with a ghost sidekick and a werewolf love interest. And there’s vampires too.
D’Amico grew up reading Nancy Drew and, by her teens, was invested in hardboiled detective fiction, sci-fi and fantasy. The one thing missing in many of these stories? A strong female lead.
Enter the urban fantasy genre, which D’Amico dove into and added a paranormal twist with a focus on what she calls her self-rescuing princess who isn’t afraid to race towards the impossible and is looking for a romantic partner who is their equal.
“And that’s really what the Alice books are,” she said. “It’s an amalgamation of all those things. I wanted a private investigator, a la Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky. And I want it to have supernatural elements and fantastic things. Alice is all of those things coming together.”
Bridget Talmage, one of the owners of The Full Cup, remembers when Edmonds first started coming into the coffee shop to grade papers. A few months later, she brought the first chapter of her book up to the counter and asked Talmage and her business partner, Jennifer DeWitt, to read it.
“And that’s how she started,” Talmage said. “We got to the end of the chapter and turned the page looking for more.”
Talmage and DeWitt, have supported many local authors by selling their books in the store, but Edmonds is the only one who made The Full Cup their second home while writing.
“She had her own key to the store,” Talmage said. “So, if she wanted to stay late, she could lock up when she was done.”
D’Amico completed her first novel, “Heart of Malice,” in 2015 and had a publication offer from the small indie company City Owl Press four months later. Her book was available to the public on her birthday in June 2017.
The novel exceeded expectations for a debut author, and D’Amico immediately started writing book number two, “Heart of Fire,” along with the novella “Blood Money.” By the time her third novel was published, Kindle Unlimited and Audible had picked up the series.
D’Amico’s goal had always been to become a full-time author. And last year, she began to feel the weight of teaching, writing and marketing herself.
“It was becoming difficult to do everything to the best of my ability,” she said. “Then the Storybook House went up for sale, and it was like, ‘You’re out of excuses now.’”
The Storybook House is a Victorian-inspired home in Little Rock, Arkansas, next door to her sister, that D’Amico has dreamed of living in for the past eight years.
“My sister and I nicknamed it The Storybook House because it looks like an author should live there; it looks like something out of a storybook,” she said. “But never, ever did I imagine getting to own it.”
When it went on the market in October 2022, D’Amico and her husband, Bill, immediately put in an offer, and in 48 hours it seemed her entire world had changed. But really, it was just the puzzle pieces falling into place.
She finished the school year and spent the summer packing and saying her goodbyes with more mixed emotions than she expected.
“I really do love teaching. It’s going to be tough to not be in the classroom,” she said. “I’m so grateful for my time at Weatherford College. My colleagues are amazing, and I’m going to miss them so much.”
As a published author, she was a popular guest speaker with the Creative Writing Club led by English instructor Dr. Diann Ainsworth.
“Working with Lisa has always been fun,” Ainsworth said. “Lisa has offered students tips about writing fiction and suggestions for getting their writing published, and she has shown our students that dreams of being a published author do come true with a lot of hard work and creativity.”
While her friends at WC are back in the classroom for a new semester, D’Amico is settling into her new writing space in Arkansas and working on Alice Worth book nine. She has a contract for the series to go through book 12, plus some short stories mingled in along the way and the first four books of a new series.
With plenty to keep her busy writing for the next four years, D’Amico’s next goal is to find an agent so she can pitch her work to one of the five large publishing companies. And one day, her friends at WC may see her grace a national best-seller list.
“Lisa’s departure from academia marks a bittersweet farewell, but as she embarks on
this new chapter her talent and dedication will undoubtedly continue to shine through
the pages of her stories,” said English instructor Dr. Shannon Vails. “We both miss
her and celebrate her success.”
(Photo by Madison Hurley Photography of Hot Springs, Arkansas)