Colgate alumna and esteemed novelist, Lee Woodruff (’82), visited Colgate this past weekend both for the Homecoming celebrations and to speak at the Real World Series. In addition, Woodruff spoke to a crowd of writing and reading enthusiasts about her most recent publication, Those We Love Most, on Friday afternoon.
Woodruff co-wrote her first book, In an Instant, with her husband, Bob (also a Colgate alumnus), about his traumatic brain injury while working as an ABC news anchor in Iraq. Upon receiving momentous acclaim, this book served to enlighten the healing process for injured soldiers and the continuous battle they face once home. Woodruff’s newest book is her first work of fiction about a family struck by sudden tragedy and the emotional toll such an event causes in the aftermath. Yet Woodruff did not publicize her newest book to us, but rather she chose to discuss her method of writing and provided a few tips to the eager, young writers in the audience.
Woodruff believes that less is more, and she strongly suggests that as writers, we leave a bit of mystery and room for imagination for the reader. She said that too many details can bog down a piece and that the very skilled writers can provide snapshots in order to create a collage of characters, plot and dialogue. The words we opt to choose can both adversely affect or revitalize the attitude of a book. As many critics warn to show and not tell, Woodruff added on to this idea by reminding that some words have lost meaning due to their overuse. She encouraged the audience to carry a pad and when we come across a new or unusual word to write it down and save it for later use. Finally, Woodruff admitted to using what she calls, “The Barf Method” in her writing. She prefers to write every detail and idea that comes to her, allowing the inspiration to pour onto each page without second guesses and saving the edits for another time.
To the aspiring writers, journalists and media students at Colgate as well as those whose brains are dominantly creative, Woodruff’s speech served a strong purpose. She was both candid and honest about the world after Colgate for those who plan to avoid Wall Street at all costs and assured us that the media world operates as its own, independent animal. There are plenty of companies that are searching for creative, well-educated writers and thinkers, and Woodruff reminded us that a liberal arts degree can take a graduate almost anywhere, especially one from Colgate.