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Jason Offutt, a senior instructor of mass media in Northwest's School of Communication and Mass Media, teaches a photography course in Wells Hall. Offutt, who began his professional career in journalism, recently published his 16th book. (Northwest Missouri State University photo)

Jason Offutt, a senior instructor of mass media in Northwest's School of Communication and Mass Media, teaches a photography course in Wells Hall. Offutt, who began his professional career in journalism, recently published his 16th book. (Northwest Missouri State University photo)

Feb. 3, 2022

Offutt’s interests in writing, teaching led him to Northwest, publication of 16th book

By Patrick Glenn, communication assistant


Growing up, golden fields held mysteries for Jason Offutt that led him to a life of writing and teaching at Northwest Missouri State University.

Last month, Offutt, a senior instructor of mass media, published his 16th book and his first horror fiction, “The Girl in the Corn.” The book features a young man who must work alongside a fairy to distinguish good from evil to save the world.

The novel communicates an unsettling message that evil may be found where you least expect it.

“It means that evil is not always the creature that is lurking in darkness,” Offutt said. “It can be something pretty that’s right in front of you.”

Offutt’s inspiration for “The Girl in the Corn” stems from his 7-year-old daughter, who obsesses about Disney princesses and other fairytale characters. Offutt, a self-described nerd, researched fairy lore and discovered fairies don’t fit into the Disney genre as they are traditionally mischievous creatures.

The Orrick, Missouri, native drew upon his farmhand upbringing to construct an eerie scene for his characters. When he was a child, Offutt’s parents urged him not to play in the cornfields where coyotes and other animals could harm him. His interest in the mystery of the cornfields led him to the title of the book.

“I was always a voracious reader, even as a child,” he said. “As soon as I learned to read, I just read on my own and when I was 10 years old, I remember telling my mom and dad that I wanted to write books when I grew up, and they thought that was hilarious. It’s always been a goal. I don’t ever remember not writing or wanting to pursue that goal.”

Following his father and attending college himself, Offutt wanted to escape the farm. He began his professional career as a print journalist, a profession in which he worked for 17 years before entering the education field. Offutt always wanted to be a teacher, but he thought it was important to have done the work that he would be teaching others to do. He began teaching at Northwest in 2005 – the same year he published his first book.

As Offutt gained experience with writing and publishing, he became accustomed to the nonfiction genre and wanted to branch out. His four previous novels were humorous science fiction, but Offutt wanted to prove to himself that he could conquer a range of genres.

“I’ve always been fascinated with science fiction, with horror, with fantasy,” he said. “Those are the books I grew up reading. Those were the types of movies I grew up watching, and I wanted to tell my own stories.”

The mass media instructor has continued his interest by writing magazine and website articles to keep his skills sharp. Publishing books has earned Offutt credibility that he uses in the classroom to keep students engaged, and he has a collection of works to back up his instruction.

Offutt uses his summer and winter breaks to write as he prioritizes teaching during the academic year.

“I’m what’s called a pantser,” he said. “You’ve got your pantsers who fly by the seat of their pants, and the plotters who outline everything. I’ve got a general idea of where I’m going. I’ve got my characters firmly in my head, and I just let my characters do what they do, and the story unfolds for me as I’m writing it, just as it unfolds for the reader. It’s really cool not to know what’s gonna happen next until it happens.”

Even though Offutt fell in love with the process of writing, he discovered it is not always so straightforward.

“It wasn’t until after I graduated (college) that I realized, ‘Wow, I’m not very good at all,’” Offutt said. “So I spent years studying the craft of writing, and I still try to improve everything that I put down. I don’t think any of us are gonna reach a point to where we’re the best we’re gonna be. We’re all still learning and getting better.”

Offutt emphasizes perseverance as a necessity.

“Persistence in any goal is key to achieving that goal,” Offutt said. “Every writer goes through a stack of rejection slips, and if we’re not persistent we’ll give up. I’ve had a stack, a drawer full of rejection slips, and if I would’ve listened to those I wouldn’t have this book or all my other ones.”

To learn more about Jason Offutt and his writing, visit www.jasonoffutt.com.


Media contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager | mhorn@nwmissouri.edu | 660.562.1704