Les Woodard arrived promptly at 4:00 on a Monday afternoon for his interview with Carol Ottoman – an author with a peculiar reputation who tutored publication-crazed, would-be creative writers in her dusty parlor. She made no bones about her passion. She lived to write.
“Wes! Please come in.” She greeted him warmly in a kimono-style housedress and plastic flip-flops, and ushered him into her library. “So you’re doing a feature on writers?”
Les settled into the leather-covered overstuffed chair next to the fireplace and opened his laptop. “Yes, m’am.”
Meanwhile, Carol patted the bun on the top of her head, as if to make sure the bulk of her auburn hair was still obediently in place, and tucked a few stray wisps behind her ears. She positioned herself in the rocking chair directly across from Les and draped her delicate hands on the chair’s arms while waiting for the awkward silence to end.
“I haven’t done a story like this before,” he confessed. “Why don’t you just tell me what you think sets creative writers apart – what makes you, um, different.”
“Well certainly, Les,” Carol responded. “Writing is a lifestyle, really.” She gestured widely, swooping her arms as if to figuratively embrace the thought and gather all its tentacles. “In the midst of living life you study the little intricacies both around and within you – even the tiniest small print in the human script. You intentionally address and celebrate the typically unnoticed but important things as well as the obvious.” She paused to stare at the shadows dancing through her windows as sunshine splattered the leaves of the tree outside. “Then all of THAT provides fodder for your writing.”
Les pecked at his keyboard, recording her words.
“But to do this you have to pay attention all the time,” she went on, clasping her graceful fingers as if in prayer. “That means noticing when the spring winds bathe your aging mother’s face until she swoons, when a child’s laugh breaks through the traffic noise on a busy city street, when the freshly-made lemonade is too sweet or too sour, when you become a little ant and a big shoe threatens to squash your newly-built anthill but you are saved by grace.”
“I’m not sure I understand.” Les said, scratching his head.
Carol’s face seemed pensive and almost worshipful. “You record all this and then weave it together … so people can relate.”
“So people … relate.” Les repeated her words robotically. “Relate to you as the author, or to each other?”
“Oh Les! Both! And hopefully to God as well.”
Les shifted uncomfortably in his chair and changed the topic. “How do you keep track of so many unrelated thoughts and ideas until it’s time to use them?”
“Oh, that’s easy!” Carol laughed out loud, her eyes sparkling. “I carry a folded piece of paper and stubby golf pencil with me at all times – in my purse or hip pocket, or tucked inside my shoe right beside my ankle. That way on a moment’s notice I’m prepared to jot down images, insights, observations, or other tidbits that might come in handy when writing. I have a whole file of them, loosely categorized by topic.”
She creaked the rocker forward, rose from it, and walked across the room to a desk where she affectionately patted the top a large wooden box. “Right here.”
“Um, yes, I see.” Les sighed. “How would you summarize your life as a writer? What can you say that might help an observer get a glimpse from the outside-in?”
“That’s easy!” Carol seemed excited by his question. “It’s like life is an opportunity to earn a PhD in ‘observance and expression’. And as you go along you have all these dissertations to do.”
“So you LIKE living life as a student with ongoing assignments?”
“ABSOLUTELY! When I die, I hope to see my life was about being a tool – God’s tool.” Her faced glowed. “I hope He is using me to help my readers know they’re not alone on the journey.”
“Not alone. On the journey.” Les seemed limited by his logical verbiage and mindset. “I see.”
Carol searched for a way to summarize. “Let’s say it this way. The creative writer’s life is a matter of opening closets that might not otherwise open. Then we all can collectively breathe, forgive, and be free.”
Les’ fingers stopped typing as her words struck his heart. He suddenly wanted this to be his calling as well.
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