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"Sometimes a Letter is Like a Prayer"
What do a widow, a relief worker in Haiti, a homeless shelter director, and a grieving girlfriend have in common? In the case of singer/songwriter Alex Woodard's multimedia project "For the Sender," all four wrote letters that inspired him to write songs. In his new book he writes about how he was feeling adrift, trying to pursue his artistic dreams, feeling discouraged, and then on top of it all, mourning his dog/best friend, when a letter from a stranger changed everything. Along with a group of musician friends, Woodard set about turning this letter, and three others, into a series of songs. (Check out the official site for facsimiles of the letters and more about each letter-writer's story -- each heartbreaking in its own way.) Then he traveled to meet each letter-writer and perform their songs for them, in private concerts that were culminations of each woman's original act of reaching out.
The project is, in a way, the crystallization of the artistic process: the wordless pain Woodard felt when his dog died and he felt his life had stalled; how connecting with others helped to find both his musical voice and the stories he wanted to tell; then the final closing of the circuit, when he reconnected with his unlikely muses. It calls to mind the advice of the late, great Kurt Vonnegut: "Write to please just one person." When Alex Woodard found someone -- in this case, his letter-writers -- to create for, he found his reason to create.
I found the Haitian relief worker's story especially compelling -- learn more about her, and see some priceless footage of Haitian school kids enjoying an impromptu concert, in the video below:
Sharing the Work of Haiti's Artisans
How Creativity Can Be Applied to Anything
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