“I want to do everything and anything I can do well.” That’s the life motto of Honors student Caroline Woodson, and it seems she’s doing exactly that, plus some. Therefore, it hardly comes as a surprise that she’s balancing a double major in theater performance and psychology with the goal of one day earning a graduate degree in drama therapy. On top of all of that, she also intends to pursue her love of acting and writing. Her purpose simply put? To help others in whatever way she can.
Being the ambitious student she is by nature, Caroline began a writing journey several years ago that has ultimately led to the summer 2020 publication of her first poetry anthology, Puking Glitter. Originally a challenge to herself to write a poem a day, minimum, it quickly evolved into something so much more, she explains, stating “there was no one moment that I took to writing with one motivation, but rather so many moments and their individual needs/wants that brought being into writing.”
Even in publishing her poetry, Caroline expands, her interest in earning money from the project was more of an afterthought. Rather, she clarifies, it was a means of sharing her “words and art,” to which she adds “I never want my work to be solely fueled by a desire for money. With Puking Glitter, I wanted to prove to myself that I could publish a book and that people would want to read it. Knowing that people relate to my work in some way is extremely rewarding.”
[View Image] [Caroline with a copy of her book]
In the beginning, establishing the daily habit of writing was difficult for Caroline, yet through “tiny bursts of writing,” she eventually became quite prolific, writing poetry in places such as “on the train to visit my dear friends from high school, on the balcony as I studied abroad in Greece, [and] on the corner of my notes as I began replaying events in my mind during class.” Eventually, over the course of several years, she compiled enough content to fill multiple volumes of her work. With that, however, came the laborious task of winnowing her poems down to “the ones deemed worthy” of keeping, an editing process that proved “tricky” due to the subjectivity, or lack of “right or wrong,” of poetry.
When it at last came time for Caroline to take the leap into publishing, though, the experience proved much more challenging than she’d anticipated. “Being turned down by a myriad of publishers was definitely a liminal moment for me and the process of producing my work,” Caroline opens up. “After having put together these words and being told ‘no’ or ‘not right now’ by professionals in an industry I wasn’t even studying, I was intimidated.”
Nonetheless, Caroline refused to back down, using those ‘Nos’ and ‘Not right nows’ to fuel her creativity further, resulting in a self-published work that is undeniably more “her.” “When I first sent this book off to publishers,” she describes, “it was just a word document in Times New Roman font without any pictures. However, after receiving no taking from publishers, I began to make the work exactly what I wanted it to be by adding pictures, drawings, and backgrounds. I wanted this work to look more like a scrapbook or journal so I went through and hand wrote or manually typed on my typewriter each page. Then, I began doodling. I placed my art on many of the pages and asked all my talented, wonderful friends to find other art to include. My roommate (and fellow Honors student) Paxton O’Bryen offered to take photos of me for my book. Slowly, it began to come together.”
Unfortunately, the process continued to have hiccups along the way, yet, through her perseverance and fierce determination, she overcame each one. From reluctantly swapping out her broken typewriter named Andy for an old-fashioned, rickety one she borrowed from a neighbor, to the “devastating” moment where she realized she would have to reformat all 250 pages individually due to scanning limitations, Caroline’s work transformed into something greater than she’d ever imagined.
[View Image][Caroline with her typewriter]
By taking ownership of her work and fighting through those challenges, Caroline simultaneously became more confident in her writing and her identity as an artist. Consequently, the feeling of her accomplishments became infinitely sweeter for her. “Receiving the first printed copy of my book was surreal,” reminisces Caroline. “I tracked the package on Amazon all day, they kept pushing back the delivery. Right before dinner, I checked reluctantly again and it said it was delivered. I opened the front door and my book was sitting in a package on the stoop. Seeing it in person was insane, as though I had brought the item into existence purely from thinking about it so fervently.”
Without missing a beat, Caroline is excitingly already well underway with self-publishing the second volume of Puking Glitter, set to release on Amazon in December 2021. Furthermore, she plans to expand her writing endeavors, exploring the realm of fiction (even drawing inspiration from old postcards she’s collected to date), children’s books, and personal blogging. Yet, for the most part, she’s simply enjoying “getting back into the practice of writing after devoting all my energy to publishing,” a daily practice which she has begun to miss.
All in all, Caroline whole-heartedly recommends the art of writing and self-publishing to others, stating that it is “marvelous because your work will look like your work [because] every step is done by you.” Nevertheless, she admits, “I will say there is little to no revenue from going this route and there is no marketing besides what you do for yourself.”
That being said, Caroline continues to explore life in as many creative ways as she can. Serving as the VP and Event Coordinator for the Shafer Alliance Laboratory Theatre (a VCU student run theater), acting, hosting a variety of artistic events, doing improv, and selling her artwork on RedBubble, Caroline never stops creating. She also never fails to remain humble, thanking “all the artists for allowing me to showcase their work” as well as her parents for “editing the many, many drafts of this piece and helping me clean the typewriter ink off of everything in our house.”
In sum, Caroline closes, “People have been telling me that I ‘do a lot’ or ‘do too much’…for years. I hope that everyone does too much too, because who only wants a little? Do more than you think you can, more than you should.”
Caroline, the Honors faculty and staff are so proud of you! Keep up the great work and we cannot see all of incredible things you do in life.