10.22.15 - On How I Came to be a TV Host

A Word on Words

There are things that happen in your life that are, to say the least, unexpected. Back in June, I received an email from a producer at NPT (Nashville Public Television) letting me know they were considering rebooting the Nashville literary classic, A Word on Words. If you’re not familiar with it, for 40 years, it was was a Sunday morning staple on Channel 8, hosted by the amazing John Seigenthaler. I was really excited to hear this, because I did my first EVER interview with John on the show, and since we lost him, there has been a real void in the literary community, as well as all of our hearts

What I wasn’t expecting was an invitation to be the host. "Caught short" is a good term, actually. I mean, y’all know me. I have a serious public speaking fear. I’ve overcome it for the most part, but I still get a wad of butterflies in my stomach before events, and cameras — yeah, right. The idea of voluntarily sitting down in front of a camera multiple times seemed a little masochistic. So my immediate reaction was . . . no.


John Seigenthaler

What John did for the book in Nashville can’t be discounted for a moment. He was the beating heart of literature in this city for a very, very long time. I always loved being on the show (I think I did it six times over the years.) John made me think about my stories in ways I hadn’t before. He could find that kernel in the book, the why behind the story, and make it come alive for the viewers.

The idea of having even a small part in continuing his legacy drove me to the screen test, then to accepting the offer to shoot a couple of pilots, and through the first shoot. I nearly threw up on Patti Callahan Henry, I was so scared.

But I didn’t. And after a while, in the joy of talking story with a fellow writer, I forgot about the cameras. The end result was awesome, and I can’t wait for y’all to see it.

And I decided that maybe, just maybe, I could do this after all. 

Mary Laura Philpott is my co-host — if you’re not familiar with her hilarious book PENGUINS WITH PEOPLE PROBLEMS, you should definitely get it. She’s kind and gracious and gorgeous and one heck of a writer and will be the perfect complement to round out the show. I can't wait to work more with her.

I need to say thanks to a bunch of people who made this happen. Linda Wei, first and foremost, who found a unique way to reboot the series and thought ML and I would be a good fit; our amazing crew, including Matt Emigh and Will Pedigo, for their incredible generosity making me at ease behind the cameras, and making us look so good; Hank Phillippi Ryan, who gave me the bones for how to build a good interview; Andy Levy, who shared all his secrets; Laura Benedict for cheering me on; Ariel Lawhon for helping us get things kickstarted; Patti Henry and David Bell, for agreeing to let me use them as pilot episodes, coming to Nashville and knocking it out of the park; Amy Kerr, who does just about everything; ML, for being the co-hostess with the mostest; NPT, and especially Beth Curley, for having the bravery and vision to let us try this; our lovely sponsors, Judy and Steve Turner, for funding this awesome show; and of course, Randy, who encouraged me when I needed it the most. As he always does.

And John. You are forever in our hearts, kind sir. I hope we do you proud. 

Here’s some shots from the most recent episodes. A Word on Words will begin airing in late October. Specifics to come. Announcement here



J.T. Ellison

J.T. Ellison is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of fifteen critically acclaimed thrillers and is the co-author of the Nicholas Drummond series with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter. With over a million books in print, Ellison’s work has been published in twenty-five countries and thirteen languages. She is also the co-host of A Word on Words, Nashville's premier literary TV series, which airs on Nashville Public Television. She lives with her husband and twin kittens in Nashville. Visit JTEllison.com, and follow her on Twitter @Thrillerchick or at Facebook.com/JTEllison14.