Lee Woodruff: A witty writer warrior.
What do you write about a witty writer - who's gonna read what you write about her?
-Val Haller, @valslist
Warriors are fierce. Warriors are fighters. Warriors are fearless.
Warriors are foolproof. Warriors are facile. Warriors are formidable.
My warrior is funny.
And that is her superpower.
My name is Val Haller and I'm not easily impressed. I will take a pass on designer handbags, studded heels, VIP exclusives, the newest, hottest, latest... I won't remember who you know or where you've been, but I will remember the story you told. Your story impresses me.
And one of the best storytellers I know is Lee Woodruff --
Writer, Author, Speaker -- a witty, word-smith warrior who captures my heart and "makes the room go away"
(my ultimate compliment)
whenever I read her writing. It's something I highly recommend you try.
I interviewed Lee for this post, and as I prepped for our chat I knew one thing for certain - I wanted to get inside this writer's head, to see what makes her tick. She has experienced more in her lifetime than one could fathom in a worst nightmare. I believe that
writing about her writing
will better tell the entire story of this fierce warrior whom I'm proud to introduce in this first annual
So what makes Lee Woodruff tick? She tickles her own fancy and ours with a five letter word:
When I read her blog posts and her books, I often HOL (howl out loud) by her clever wit and rogue descriptions: for example, her dog's
to punish Lee for being gone. She uses not-real words as adjectives,
"You! the scoldy face says".
.. And she has a super cool knack for throwing in old-fashioned, fuddy-duddy words and still sounding hip. In her 12.8.16 post
"A Lesson In Hitchhiking"
(where she picked up a hitchhiker while taking her sixteen year old twin daughters to work one morning) she quipped,
"they've been lolly-gagging in the bathroom...",
"I wear my annoyed face as they scurry to the car, but secretly I'm proud of them.."
She oft describes her inner angst with bold, urban-dictionary speak -- this one to the hitchhiker,
"I make an apologetic face as I blow by him, as if to say I can't chance this..."
followed by this visual sacrilege:
"The girls, heads bent in prayer to their cell phones..."
Lee's writing would get an A+ by my high school English teacher who always preached, "show me, don't tell me" in your writing. She does this with a touch of magic every time: back to the hitchhiker -
"the man slides in, smelling like the bottom of an ashtray" ... "his gratitude sifts around the interior of the car like a fine mist.."
And then a biggie - a phrase that I'll write in my
notebook (word nerd):
"...there were a million other things I could have said after that, but ... a good sermon doesn't need a conclusion."
Walking with the wounded in England - for charity
Lee and I have some funny things in common. We're both first-borns in families where every year another baby was brought into our domain (hers 3 kids in 3 years, mine 5 kids in 7 years), Type A, talkers, in-charge type, super driven with something always going on the side, we both have 4 kids including twins, we both have a scar above our eyebrow from a skin cancer removal, we each write a blog and are constantly frustrated when our writing gets interrupted by real life, we've each launched a big gig (startup & foundation), married right out of college 30+ years, we public speak, do TV, put family fiercely first, we both like to swear, we both type in lower case a lot with -- dashes-- between thoughts, we're both learning to meditate. yeah right. we are.
On the flip side, she's accomplished so much more than I ever could, and much of it wasn't by choice. Lee's life came to a shattering halt in 2006 when her husband Bob, who had just been named co-anchor of ABC's World News Tonight,
suffered a traumatic brain injury
that nearly killed him while covering the War in Iraq. Surviving this family crisis, Lee decided to use her voice and tell their story. She's written and published 3 New York Times best-selling books:
In An Instant: A Family's Journey of Love and Healing
Perfectly Imperfect: A Life In Progress
(2010), and a fictional novel,
Those We Love Most
(2012). Together with her husband Bob, they launched an impressive & impactful annual charity fundraiser called
Stand Up For Heroes
at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, sponsored by
The Bob Woodruff Foundation
and (her signature spice) the
New York Comedy Festival
. Their story immediately brought in heavy hitters such as C.K. Louis, Jim Gaffigan, Jerry Seinfeld, Bruce Springsteen and Jon Stewart, raising $45 million to date for Brain Injury Research. They've also launched a program with
to help wounded warriors cope through music therapy in a band. Between running to reclaim a life interrupted, running the Foundation, running to personal speaking and business engagements, and running after two teenagers who are still at home, Lee is a warrior decorated with the Medals of Life.
Stand Up for Veterans with Joint Chief of Staff
Lee had some words of wisdom which I'm going to fiercely hang onto. When I asked her how she gives the constant chatter in her brain a rest, she easily replied,
"be in motion - that lets the brain rest; it resets and settles down."
How ironic and true. That alone was worth the entire interview. Noted. Next, some sage, simple advice: She recently took a week-long immersive class in meditation. She says she's doing well, but because she's a self-proclaimed
"Type A in a Type B's body"
she continues, "
there's no way I'm meditating two times a day... that's the goal, but no way..."
I asked her bluntly if she ever simply crashes & burns sometimes.. and she shouted firmly,
"Absolutely! Every successful woman does... Every day is not a Doris Day!"
(another for my notebook). Wondering if she had any personal goals for improvement? she offered,
"I'd like to listen better. I'm a good listener but I often interject my own experience as friendly advice or counsel, and really, listening is not about you, it's about the other person."
(yet another rolls off her tongue straight from the heart.) Other than the obvious, I wondered what she would like to be remembered for? She answered unequivocally,
"that I was there for my kids, that I've raised kind human beings who will give back ... I want that to be my crowning achievement."
I decided to turn the funny on her when I asked,
"how does your husband Bob tolerate your impassioned personality?"
(stealthily seeking advice for my poor husband who has to deal with same)... she softly replied,
"He always tells me I'm one of a kind. And hopefully I'll keep coming out with things that entertain him and make him laugh. Those are two important things in a marriage..." she chuckled and continued,
"I have a sick sense of humor and crack a joke when it's not really appropriate just to lighten things up -- opposites attract and that's a good thing." Her perfect dream day (which of course never happens) would be
"to sit and actually read the entire newspaper first thing in the morning, followed by a good sweaty yoga class, then an afternoon walk, and lots of time for a writing session... oh, and not cook!"
We ended our chat with some open-ended questions, big picture strokes, Lee's personal outlook. She believes that life comes in chapters. As I stated earlier, she's a poser: a Type A posing as a Type B. Says she's intuitive about people, can read a room, survey a situation, adaptable, chameleon-like. When others played school as little kids, she wanted to play office like her dad. She knew of her husband (Bob Woodruff) in college but they didn't really meet formally until after college. She first introduced him as Bob Woodward, the Watergate journalist -- that went over big -- (but he still married her - she claims because they laughed their entire first date). She says she leads with her heart but follows through with her head, claiming she has a complete anal side that no one sees,
"I would never spend two hours trying to make a decision." (ok, I need some of that.) Her dream would be as a travel writer. When I asked what gets her through, she immediately replied:
"The 4 F's: Family. Friends. Faith. Funny."
Females are strong.
Boomers are wise. Female Boomers are Fierce.
~ I dedicated a Playlist to Lee ~