Thankfully, some people still write letters
And others turn them into music for your soul. A good book resonates with your heart. Good music resonates with your soul. So what happens when a talented songwriter pens a memoir? You’re taken one step closer to understanding life. That may sound a little over the top, but the pure emotion that flows from Alex Woodard’s FOR THE SENDER can hardly be contained within its small size. The short book and accompanying CD tap into rich veins of creativity, sorrow, pride, despair, and most of all, love. Woodard’s songwriting background brings a richness to his writing that allows us the honor of feeling our way through the story of his life, reveling in his accomplishments and crying with his tragedies. In fact, it only took me 14 pages into the book before I finally had to give in and get a box of Kleenex. Woodard’s life story and the letters of inspiration he used to write the book are both emotionally wrenching and life giving at the same time. The song lyrics he includes aren’t just poetic, they’re cathartic, helping move the reader through the sometimes-painful memories each song unearths. Since the universe is always on our side, it’s easy for me to see why this particular book made its way to me at this time in my life. Within the first few pages, I was hooked into Woodard’s storyline, feeling my own life mirrored in his discontent of dreaming for a better life for himself. While I’m not an aspiring songwriter or musician, I think he adequately captures the denseness of living a life that isn’t quite fulfilling. “These cold realities of the music business slowly begin to creep under my skin and some nights, as I lay alone in bed, I weave a make-believe coat of dreams as protection to keep me warm: dreams of ‘making it,’ dreams of having somebody to grow old with, dreams of little feet on hardwood floors. That imaginary coat of protection keeps the cold out, but it also keeps most of myself hidden from anybody else,” he writes. That metaphor creeps in and out of the storyline as Woodard takes us back a few years so we can understand his own state of mind as he learns to let go of the life he thought he should be living and accept the life he has. The storyline FOR THE SENDER is more than Woodard’s life story. It’s a story of how he came to accept and understand his life by reframing the stories of others through songwriting. Those stories come in the form of four letters he received over a period of several years and the 12 songs that were written from each letter’s inspiration. In all, the letters and songs connect us to Woodard’s life and our own stories, which are as natural as the world can be. The four letters Woodard received became inspiration for Woodard and some of his musician friends, pushing their creativity to capture the feelings and emotions emanating from the letters’ authors. The letters came from four women, sharing their intensely personal stories:
- Emily, who met her soulmate only to have him pass away. She began writing letters to her lost love and she included one in her letter to Woodard. The grief, despair, hope and acceptance in that letter made a profound impact on the songwriter.
- Woodard and some friends visited a homeless shelter for teens to inspire the kids and in the process became inspired by the center’s director, Kim. The story of her troubled youth and understanding of her own unique gifts is fodder for two songs.
- Alison is a medic who was one of the first responders after the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Her selfless devotion to the people of Haiti and her questioning of the will of God caused Woodard to reflect on his own faith.
- Katelyn was struggling to handle the demands of a newborn when her police officer husband was killed in the line of duty. Her resilience to move on touched Woodward and his friends as they wrote about the circle of life.