Laura Roser’s Q&A with Carew Papritz About His Multi Award-winning Book, The Legacy Letters
LR: What gave you the idea for The Legacy Letters?
CP: I was inspired to write The Legacy Letters after an early mid-life crisis (best to have them early!). I needed the opportunity to take my soul out for a long walk. While working in Hollywood on feature films in the art department, I realized that the celluloid bright-lights lifestyle I was living was making me materially richer but spiritually depleted. The long journey back to reclaim my soul began with a series of “drive- abouts” throughout the Western United Sates and ended up in a small bar in Southern Arizona. I asked an old cowboy if there was any work nearby, and he told me about a fencing job “far from the heck and gone.”
Thirty miles by dirt road, and without a house in sight, I ended up at my job on the open range putting up post holes and barbed wire fence — mostly alone for days on end. Twenty-five years had gone by since I had last seriously picked up the pen and, like a God-given divining rod, that pen roared back to life. For six months, I worked by day, washing in a horse trough, cooking by campfire, and living in a tent. At night, I wrote by lantern light on the back of my pickup.
In a sense, I had come full circle. When I was growing up, my grandfather had a small ranch in Washington State. And now, here I was, back on a ranch, working as a cowboy in the high mountains of the Great Sonoran Desert. Imagine a place where the stars are so bright at night that they almost hurt your eyes. Imagine not seeing a soul for days on end. Imagine what true quiet is — the noise of wind and rain, coyotes and birds, grass rustling, and the chink of the pickaxe against the hard soil.
I had come back home to write this book. This is where I reclaimed my soul and began the life I was always supposed to live — but never knew quite how to find. Only by giving up the security of everything I knew could I then begin to discover everything I was meant to know. The Legacy Letters was the genesis of this amazing journey that I am continuing to the present day.
LR: What did you personally learn from writing it?
CP: I grew as an artist — as a writer. My rule became heart first, hammer second. If you write what you love, then you have to translate this love into words — and that is the craft of writing. You can have all the heart in the world but if you don’t have the craft — the ability to translate emotions and ideas into words — then forget being a writer. And the craft is tough — the rewriting, rewriting, and more rewriting to discover the perfect balance of words, clarity, and emotion. And craft takes time. More time than you would ever imagine to really become a good writer. What do you ultimately owe your audience? Your mastery of the craft of wielding words that excite, move, and inspire your readers.
I grew as a person and found I was becoming a philosopher (something I never dreamed I would become). When you leave the everyday world to become the lone cowboy on a desolate ranch in the high mountains of the Sonoran Desert, you begin to realize what it means to really live life to its fullest. The solitude, the aloneness, teaches you about yourself in the most fundamental way imaginable. And when you write about the most essential practical, moral, and spiritual issues in one’s life, with words that must contain the deepest of emotions and wisdom and humility, you cannot help but be changed by the experience.
LR: How has it helped others? Do you have any specific examples?
CP: The response I receive from people who read the book is extraordinary. People seem to be hungrier than ever to rediscover meaning in their lives, and the book seems to fill that need. In a 24/7 technology-filled world, where we’re living faster than ever, the book reminds people to slow down — a “go-slow” book filled with timeless ideas and values that never go out of fashion. I think another reason the book resonates so well with people is that it guides by example — the same way the father in the book uses his life stories as examples of how to live — how not to live. But what really fills me with wonder is the way people will open up to me, with countless amazing, beautiful, and powerful stories about their life’s trials and tribulations. The honesty with which I was inspired to write the book now become the gift of honesty returned — an ever-fantastic journey of revelation that continually humbles this author.
LR: Do you believe it is important for parents or grandparents to have their own version of The Legacy Letters to pass on wisdom to the next generation?
CP: I love Valentine’s Day because I get to get on my soapbox and orate about the importance of writing a “real” Valentine’s Day letter. What holds true for a Valentine’s letter holds true for a legacy letter —they are both written for love and with honestly. Here’s what I wrote recently about why all generations still need to write letters — love or otherwise . . .
“Why do you need to send a letter? A letter takes time. Your time. And your time becomes part of the letter — part of the gift you give to your partner. For time is not a thing you can buy. It’s the most precious part of our lives to give to one another. Real romance takes time. It’s not instant. There’s a dance involved, and the dance of love take time. All of that time and dance and love is woven into this love letter of yours. To then give to the person you love.
Letters are real. They are made of paper and the paper holds the time that you place into the words. And the paper can be held. It is human- sized and made for hands to hold and touch. It is not electronic or made of electrons. And because letters are real, they can be saved and cherished for a long time. And you can always feel the person in the way they write. Over and over again. Now if that isn’t romantic, I don’t know what is. Besides, who saves a love text and prints it out? Or a love e-mail? You get the point.”
LR: What kind of legacy do you hope to leave behind?
CP: I’ve really thought long and hard these last years about the meaning of legacy. I’ve never been satisfied with just the leaving behind philosophy of it. That’s why I choose to think of legacy as how you live now.
Sometimes I will talk to groups about my legacy “Regret Test.” Imagine that you are now 95 years old and are looking back at your life. What regrets would you have?
And now imagine being your age at this moment and watching the beginning of these-regrets-to-be. That’s a wake-up call to change your life. To get living now! At the end of this game called life, you better have more delights than you do regrets.
So live your legacy now. It’s not just capturing the moments in your life but creating the moments.
Creating “Legacy Moments.” Moments that contain the deepest of meaning, happiness, and thoughtfulness. And by creating these moments, we once again become true to ourselves. These moments can be as small as smelling a flower after a summer rainstorm or as amazing as holding hands with your lover atop the Eiffel Tower. We forget how easy it is to create meaning in our lives. It’s so easy and doesn’t cost a thing except to make a decision. And that decision is to live your life to the fullest.
And when you stack up enough of these “legacy moments,” you will have created a legacy life. A life truly worth living and a life truly remembered as well lived.
Lastly, I was asked two questions in a recent interview. The first was, “What advice would you give to your younger self?” I answered, “I wouldn’t give him advice. I would give him a big pat on the back and even bigger thank you for staying true to himself for all these years.”
The second was, “For your own reading, do you prefer e-books or traditional paper/hard back books?” I answered, “I’m biased. I like my football in the fall, my Scotch to come from Scotland, and my books to be made of paper.”
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Carew Papritz is the bestselling author of the five-time award winning book, The Legacy Letters. Though fictional, The Legacy Letters has won acclaim as a life lessons book for all generations, gaining the distinction of being the only book in publishing history to win awards in both fiction and non- fiction categories. A Renaissance Man in an age that lauds the specialist, The Huffington Post says Papritz “intrigues and enlightens, charms and catalyzes change for every reader.” Carew loves to speak to groups about all aspects of “living a legacy life.” To learn more or about Carew or to have him speak to your group, please visit www.carewpapritz.com.
As part of his many innovative and adventurous first-ever book signings, Carew truly lives his book’s central message to “live life to the fullest” while signing books from the top of volcanoes to the back of horses. These events and other YouTube videos, such as the “I Love to Read” series and his annual literacy-driven charity event, “The Great Book Balloon Launch,” inspire kids and adults to rediscover the joy of reading! Find his videos at http://bit.ly/CarewPapritz_YouTube_Channel.