This summer, Lee Woodruff, New York Times bestselling writer and contributing reporter for “CBS This Morning,” will be speaking at the Amherst College campus. Woodruff garnered critical acclaim for the compelling and humorous chronicle of her family’s journey to recovery following her husband, journalist Bob Woodruff’s roadside bomb injury in Iraq entitled In an Instant. Woodruff has also published a collection of essays, Perfectly Imperfect – A Life in Progress, and, most recently, her first novel Those We Love Most, which became a New York Times best-seller and won the Washington Irving Book Award for fiction.
As a preview of her talk, we asked her a few questions about her love of literature, her writing career, and any advice she had for writers.
Great Books Summer Program: What role did literature play in your childhood?
Lee Woodruff: Books played a huge role in my childhood. My mother was an avid reader. Each afternoon she would sit in the living room before dinner and read and she instilled in me and my two sisters the absolute enjoyment of losing yourself in a book. I was the kid who would choose a book over a card game or running around the neighborhood.
GBSP: Did any one person in your life stand out as fostering a love of writing or literature?
LW: My mother is my hero. She always read to us, and reads constantly still at 82. Currently, she is working her way through the classics. My mother is proof that you can never stop learning and that books can transport you out of your life, in wonderful ways.
GBSP: What was your favorite book as a teenager?
LW: This is a hard question as I’m not a “favorite book” kind of person but I remember when I finished the Chronicles of Narnia I was so sad that it was over.
GBSP: Prior to publishing your first book in 2007, did you want to be a writer?
LW: I always wanted to be a writer and when I was a girl I wrote lots of stories—most of them not very good. But everything was fodder for a story – a set of dolls from Portugal, a pair of my mother’s shoes, an excursion. One of my regrets is that I didn’t write more, that I didn’t just keep writing and working on my craft from the beginning.
GBSP: If you could give one piece of advice to young writers, what would it be?
LW: Looks like I already answered that one. One regret? I wish I had written more. Lots of writers talk about journaling and I’m not sure I share that passion as it regards to just putting history and events down on paper. I DO wish I had simply tried to write more, ideas, thoughts, and stories, no matter what the quality of the output was. Writing is like a muscle, the more you work it, the more you just sit down and put your hands on the keyboard, the stronger it becomes, although there are certainly days so maddening that you want to quit.