What exactly is art; who defines it; who makes it, and where in Atlanta do poets, thespians, and artists congregate and create? We’ll use this space to catch up with a few for a few…some you may know; others we hope you’ll be pleased to meet their acquaintance. – Teri Elam

Scott I. Zucker

After Scott I. Zucker’s father died in 2001, he happened upon a short piece of creative nonfiction his father had written. The story detailed his father’s World War II experience and his fears, faith, and how honored he was to serve his country. This moment shifted Zucker’s life trajectory—he knew one day he would have to share his father’s story.

Now over twenty years later, Zucker, who you might spot with his wife, Melanie, on the Beltline walking their Labradoodles, is the author of three works of fiction: Chain of Custody, Rally on Two, and the recently released Battle for Life. He’s also the founding partner of the Atlanta law firm Weissmann Zucker Euster + Katz P.C. and has been practicing law since 1987. 

Can you share how Atlanta inspires you and your work as an artist?
My wife and I have lived in Atlanta for 35 years, during an amazing time for growth in the City where there is tremendous creativity. I’m inspired by the people I have met and the stories they have shared with me, and I am awed by other writers here I have met while working on my own novels.  

Speaking of your novels, I read that your latest book, Battle For Life, was challenging for you to write. I know it blended fiction with your true story, but can you discuss why this was difficult and your writing process?
All families have some dysfunction; be it challenges from raising children and managing elderly parents or sibling relationships. I wanted to center my novel on the stress families experience daily, and at the same time incorporate my father’s real-life experience during World War II. My difficulty was how best to merge these two stories. I hope I’ve captured the intensity of my father’s experience on that historically fateful day, May 11, 1945, blended with a fictional modern-day family’s life with the shared theme:  Life can be a battle, but worth the fight.

How do art and creativity intersect your practices as an attorney and writer?  
As a practicing lawyer of over thirty-five years, my writing is typically about factual events and, as a natural consequence, is not necessarily creative. I began writing stories to express myself differently, even though I use a similar structure in writing fiction as my legal briefs; linear and straightforward. I call my chapter structure “staccato writing,” short chapters designed to be a fun and quick read. I’m also inspired by other lawyers turned writers like John Grisham and Scott Turow.

I found your TedTalk on writing an ethical will really moving. I’d never considered a will to be a form of art, a compelling narrative that, in addition to your wishes, also leaves behind your personal stories, wisdom, and hopes for your loved ones. Please share a little about this form of storytelling from your perspective as an artist.
Ethical wills were first used in Biblical times to share wisdom and instill guidance for the following generations. We all want to be remembered somehow; everyone’s life has a significant purpose and meaning. Capturing these stories, dreams, and life lessons leaves the storyteller and their family members a legacy for future generations.

What advice would you share as an artist and attorney with our readers?  
As an ethical will advocate, I want families to capture and share their family stories to survive for generations. They can keep these collected experiences, and the lessons learned alive, even after those family members are gone. Today, with our technology, these stories can be captured in writing, audio, or video. They range from creating art to recording songs, even letters shared at significant times. We all have something to say and stories to share; we just have to be courageous enough to share them. I believe you should start now. There is no reason to wait.

Teri Elam is a poet, screenwriter, and storyteller who believes there’s an art to most things. She’s exploring what art means to creators in and around Atlanta.