Writer, Musician, and Racer Lepley Ready for the Real World in Word and in Deed

Pitt-Johnstown

posted April 16, 2018


Coltt Winter Lepley’s foot is on the gas pedal, both figuratively and literally.

The Pitt-Johnstown senior from Bedford County will earn his degree in communication and minor in creative writing, but is already:

  • Writer and winner of
    • the Mckaig Scholarship,
    • The Academy of American Poets’ 2017 University and College Poetry Prize,
    • Humanities Prose Award,
  • Musician, and
  • Sprint car driver.

“It’s hard to pin down one thing I like doing more than another,” he said. “I’m the kind of person who needs multiple irons in the fire to feel like I’m using my time to make an impact.”

Coltt has compiled hundreds of original songs in the Folk and Americana genre, and writes fiction as well. And then, there’s the sprint cars.

“Racing and playing live shows offer an adrenaline rush that are different feelings of performance altogether," he said. "I will say that writing – whether songs, poems, or short stories – is a relaxing activity that has brought me some accolades and publications in the last year. In that sense, writing is a nice contrast to the high-energy, high-preparation environment of performing and racing.”

Whether writing or driving, it’s all about the ride.

“I never take a break from gathering potential writing material,” he said. “If I hear someone use an interesting phrase or descriptor for something, I write it down in my phone notes or notebook. If I see a memorable place that looks like it could lend itself to a setting in a piece, I try to write down some of the more minute details about it to include later.

“For example, I’ve turned a story I overheard at a doctor’s office between two old men into a short story that I combined with a lecture from my high school geometry teacher. It’s just a matter of always keeping an open mind to your surroundings and being aware that an overheard story at Starbucks could be the foundation for the next American classic.”

Work ethic is the common thread. He presented his work at the Western PA Undergraduate Literature Conference and the Sigma Tau Delta International Conference, and helped with the planning of the Year of the Healthy U Conference on campus. 

“While the writing is relaxing, the active side of things gives me an outlet to relieve stress and just have a good time. I guess my main philosophy is that if I work on the race car for 40 hours a week, then I want to show up on Saturday and run well. The same goes for writing. I like to watch people read my stories, because I look for that long, drawn-out-breath kind of response that people do when they mean to say, ‘Wow’.”

He says the future is wide open in terms of songwriting, novels, poems, and short stories.

“I would love to teach future generations about great works of writing, and would like to incorporate songs as literature into a class at some point. I’ve also looked into what it would take to start a publishing company recently, and down the road, would love to look into that some more.

“The only thing I know for sure is that I will continue to pile up my plate with as many activities as I can, and I know if I can keep pulling it off, eventually some kind of break will come.”

To summarize a philosophy for creating one's own luck, Lepley cited a Bob Dylan quote that incorporated a more famous quote: “'Half of the people can be part right all of the time. Some of the people can be all right part of the time. But all of the people can’t be all right all of the time.’ I think Abraham Lincoln said that.”