Writer's Workshop
Collected items from all chapters.

Chapter 1
     (1) The introductory paragraph is literate, picturesque, and provides all the proper elements of setting.  Look closely at the imagery used here.  Make a complete outline of this paragraph, showing the structure clearly.  Then make a list of the verbs and adjectives it contains.  Do you notice any patterns, rhythms, or connections between them?

     (2) The author's description of the AUK XXII-E is pretty detailed.  Do you think you could draw a picture of it from his written imagery?  Find an unusual but interesting item about which to write such a description.  (Maybe it will help to imagine that you are an alien viewing this thing for the first time.)  See if you can get an artistic friend to draw the object solely from your description.
     (3) Four new characters are introduced in this chapter (John Dubonnet, Dreama Jenkins, Cuke Snoddy, and Tag Farmer)  Form a hypothesis about the role each of these characters will play in the story.
     (4) Tag Farmer says of Cuke Snoddy, "Trouble there".  We would assume that this is foreshadowing, but the phrase could mean many different things.  What are some of the possible meanings you can think of?
     (5) The author relates that Mrs. Laird had once predicted that Sonny would make his living as a writer.  Do you recall predictions people have made about your future based on some work you've done?
Chapter 2
     (6) As the author describes Coalwood, he depicts it quite differently than we might usually stereotype a West Virginia coal town.  Might we chalk this up to "selective memory"?  Do all of us have a way of softening our memories as time passes?  Why might we be inclined to do that?
     (7) Poppy is not introduced until well into a chapter that is titled for him.  What might be the author's reason for doing so?  Can we, as writers, learn anything from this about plot and pacing?
Chapter 3
     (8) Though the author is never showy in his vocabulary, he also refuses to "dumb down" conversations or characters in order to make them more simplistic.  Here, Elsie quotes their preacher by saying, "Knowledge puffs up, but charity edifies."  To which Homer replies, "What in Sam Hill does that mean?"  Look up the definition of "edify" and see if you can fully explain just what she means by this.
     (9) What is the source of the title of this chapter?  How does it relate to the part of the story told here?
Chapter 4
     (10) Sonny gets his first exposure to the different economic classes in his small community.  What signs exist in your community of either growth or deterioration?  How could you write about them to affect an audience the way the author does here?
     (11) Perhaps you have overheard a conversation in your life that was altered because you ignored or did not hear certain significant parts.  How did (or could have) the situation turn out?  Maybe you could draw on it to create a humorous, wistful, or even painful literary situation.
     (12) This is the first really short chapter in the book.  What do you think the author is trying to accomplish by putting so little information in a chapter?  Would he have been better served to put this information in either the previous or succeeding chapters?  What do you expect to happen in the next chapter?
Chapter 5
     (13) Sonny describes Mrs. Dantzler as a "glorious" queen.  She is obviously a memorable and archetypal character in his life.  Perhaps you have met a similar character whose persona was so dramatic that it stuck in your imagination.
     (14) The author does an artful and clever job of building up the dramatic tension in this chapter.  Try drawing a diagram of the various issues he raises that could become important to the overall story.  (Use a sort of timeline and then "weight" each of the items according to the importance you think it will have.)  What can you learn about writing well from this structure?
     (15) The author also gives us a little history lesson in this chapter.  He refers to events of 1949, the activities of John L. Lewis and the UMW, and the role of Harry Truman in the mines.  How does the story benefit from these interjections?  Why do authors include such historical data in their books?
     (16) Why does Sonny suddenly resort to sarcastic humor when referring to the furnace?  How does this change of pace benefit the story line?  What does it say to you about the author?
     (17) Sonny reflects on a moment when he felt "warm down to (his) toes".  Have you had such a moment?  What were the elements that caused that to come about?  How did the timing of it (age you were, sequence of events, connections to other events or people in your life at the time...) help cause the significance of it?  Can you think of the first time this happened?
     (18) Would it improve or diminish this chapter if it was entitled, "The Furnace Blows Up"?  Why isn't it?
Chapter 6
     (19) Look closely at the author's description of his recollection of Sherman in his French uniform.  What are the elements he uses to provoke us to laughter?  Try describing someone you've seen before in an unusual costume.  Remember, it will be more humorous if there is a serious aspect to the situation, just as it is here.
     (20) Our author resurrects the theme of the snow goose, but now applies it to Dreama, differently than he earlier applied it to himself.  How does he advance the story by doing this?
     (21) In reference to his assault on the cookie table, Sonny puts a new twist on a possible adage, "The advantage is always to the persistent over the weary."  It is often effective as a writer to put a unique spin on a seemingly familiar phrase.  Find an adage that you think can be turned "inside out" or "upside down" and write a passage that utilizes it.
Chapter 7
     (22) The author does a wonderful job in this chapter of describing both the way that anticipation builds excitement about a major event and the way it seems to rush past you much faster than you expected.  Describe a much-anticipated event in which you participated, where the speed of the action was so great that the event itself was nearly over before you fully realized that you were involved in it.  Is there both joy and pain in such an experience?
     (23) The author creates a neat package in this chapter, with tension between Homer and Elsie at a low but palpable level throughout the entire chapter.  Look at the way in which he accomplishes this.  How many times does he hit this note?  How does he keep from overdoing it?
Chapter 8
     (24) Utilizing another potential aphorism, Sonny says, "You don't have to stir the pot if you don't put anything in it."  There are many different applications of the concept of "stirring the pot", but how is Sonny using it here?  Often we don't want people stirring the pot, but here Sonny seems to be encouraged to do so, yet refuses.  Look how he turns this around from its regular usage.  What would he accomplish here by stirring?
     (25) In a masterful segment, the author interjects no less than 6 different plot lines into the scene surrounding the disassembly of the Veterans' Day float.  List the plot mentioned and make a note as to how each one is summarized or advanced.  Note particularly how the final one adds a new plot line that contains the element of foreshadowing as well.  Why is this chapter an appropriate time for such a structure?  Looking only at this part, what would you predict to happen in the next chapter?
Chapter 9
     (26) The author gives us only a quick flash on the subject of Billy, which we sense to be an important story line, but Sonny is busy at the time and pays little attention.  Why do we get so little information here?  What is your prediction about where this plot line is headed? (Be assured that our author never drops a plot line carelessly, nor loses track of one.)
     (27) Jake Moseby, Gerhard, and Dieter are introduced in this chapter.  There are a variety of reasons (some positive, some negative) for introducing characters this far into a book.  Write down as many as you can think of.
     (28) Good writers create not only visual images with their words, but also emotional context as well.  What are the feelings engendered when Dieter says, "We help him at 11 East"?  In what direction do you expect this revelation to take the story?
Chapter 10
     (29) Make a list of all the things 11 East represents, and the people who recognize those meanings.  As you look at the plot lines you've been tracking since the beginning, where must this one rank in importance?  What can you learn about the structure of a good book by the timing of the introduction of this plot line?
     (30) Mr. Dubonnet figures that Homer is "out to prove something on this one."  What do you think of his theory about what Homer wants to prove?
Chapter 11
    (31) In a key moment early in the chapter, Sonny decides he is finally ready to open Principles of Guided Missile Design, given to him by Miss Riley.  He desires to design a "more sophisticated nozzle" for his rockets to improve their performance.  Describe a time when you decided to improve the quality of your work on a project that you considered important.  What strategies did you use to enter a new phase of your production?  What resources did you use that you had previously overlooked?
    (32)  Homer drops into his room to give him a lesson on how to keep his pencil point a consistent width.  Sonny wonders what other lessons Homer could teach him "if only he took the time".  Recount a lesson that you were taught once by someone wiser.  Try to be as descriptive as possible about your conversation and the feelings you had about the advice you were receiving.  It will be better if you can recall advice that was cryptic or an outcome that was unexpected.
    (33)  Sonny is shocked when Quentin's dramatic discussion with him leads to the realization that his friends see him as "rich".  Think of a time when you suddenly discovered that someone had a very different view of you than you would have expected.  Recall how it felt to be judged differently than you normally judged yourself.
    (34)  Quentin ponders on collective terms, and Sonny decides that squirrels would be a "disaster".  What is a collection of squirrels actually called?  Think of at least 10 new collective terms that you think would be more appropriate than the terms usually used.

Chapter 12
    (35)  After a few paragraphs that relate to the previous chapter, our author makes a dramatic change in the direction of the plot.   What is the purpose in such a switch?  What are the elements that make it so dramatic?  Can you find other examples from stories or books you like of these types of dramatic scene changes?
    (36)  Another increase in the tension occurs when there are two injuries at 11 East, intensifying rumors of a general strike.  Why is Homer pushing so hard on this issue?  How does his approach to this situation intensify the feelings surrounding it?  How does the author's return to this issue both reinforce the importance of the plot line and build tension in the overall story?
    (37)  Look at the rapid scene shift between Sonny's encounter with the Mallett boys and his discovery that Jake Moseby is returning to town.  Look at the elements that create this scene shift and how it could be used in different situations to create surprise on the part of the reader.  Have you seen other such scene shifts in other books?
    (38)  Sonny has great respect for Jake, and Jake has connections to many other characters in the book.  How does the author use these connections to advance the overall plot, and to throw a few "curves" into the storyline?  Outline all the elements of the book on which he has some effect.

Chapter 13
    (39)  Principal Turner "accosts" Sonny, asking him why Billy Rose is quitting school.  Sonny is thoroughly caught off guard by this news, sputtering in his reply.  The principal delivers a tough shot by saying, "a man should take care to observe his friends lest they be needful."  Why is Sonny held accountable for his friend's decision?  How does the nearly Biblical wording of the principal's statement add emphasis and meaning to it?  Can this technique be used in every sort of story by nearly any writer?
    (40)  Sonny is suddenly afloat in femininity as he finds himself attracted (and attractive) to a trio of girls: Dorothy, his former flame; Melba, a "real" woman; and Ginger, who is characterized as "okay".  How does this situation add complexity to the storyline?  Is this situation serious or humorous or both?  Look at how carefully the girls are described and separated.  What are the qualities that put each of them into different "categories"?  Why are triangles such an appealing strategy to authors?
    (41)  Sonny also rhapsodizes on all of Jim's good qualities, then says, "otherwise, I couldn't imagine the attraction."  What does Sonny really think of his brother?  Why does he use sarcasm at the end of a list of good qualities his brother possesses?

Chapter 14
    (42)  Why does our author interject this silly story into what has mostly been a serious process so far?  How does the term "comic relief" apply to what is happening here?  Is this sort of thing appropriate in all stories?
    (43)  Sonny is asked how Elsie would know if he had gone to Cinder Bottom, and he replies, "This is Coalwood."  We are returned here to the meaning of the title of the book, because getting such news around is part of the "Coalwood Way".  What other parts of the "Way" have you discovered so far?

Chapter 15
    (44)  Why does the author not introduce the line that causes the title until the very end of the chapter?  How is the title both accurate and misleading?
    (45)  There is a fabulous sequence that begins when Sonny determines that Ginger is a "Rocket Girl" and continues until they are interrupted by a commotion upstairs.  Try to diagram the emotions that Sonny experiences as this conversation takes place.  Can we learn to use such patterns to create similar sequences in our own writing?

Chapter 16
    (46)  Though extremely short, this chapter does a lot to develop several story lines.  The author does a wonderful job of "sneaking in" information about the various plot lines while seeming to tell us a simple story.  Make a diagram of this chapter, showing how each plot line is added to.  Once again, we have an opportunity to see a master craftsman at work, and learn excellent techniques for creating interesting writing.
    (47)  An element of mystery is interjected when Homer says, "I don't want him to know what we're doing there."  Why is he being so secretive?  Who all is he trying to keep from knowing about his work at 11 East?  Look how well the author has kept us in the dark, as well.  What do you think is happening at 11 East that would require secrecy?  How do you expect this plot line to turn out?
    (48)  Even in a short chapter, things can happen suddenly.  Two of the "legs" of Sonny's triangle seem to disappear here.  Do you think these developments are permanent?  What would now seem to be Sonny's only remaining choice?  Do you expect a good writer to conclude this plot line so early in the book?  (A good book is a lot like a chess game.  It has a well-defined opening, middle, and closing "game".  At this point, we are in the "middle game", where development of characters and plot lines must take place in order to give the thoughtful reader plenty to think about.  Are you thinking?)

Chapter 17
    (49)  At one point, the boys see a jet flying past, causing Sonny to say, "I'm going to ride in a jet someday."  This touches on the theme of setting goals, one which I think we can safely say the author has accomplished.  What is the purpose of this interjection?  Is this goal overly simplistic?  How does it affect our view of the characters when we hear them setting goals that we assume they surely accomplished later?
    (50)  Following his experience on Sis's Mountain, Sonny is comforted by his cat, Lucifer.  Is there a certain "poetic justice" to this?  Why does the author choose an animal to comfort him at this point?  Can you think of other authors who have used this same technique?  (FC) What roles do animals serve in our emotional lives?
    (51)  Sonny has to bind the greens together with wire, which caused me to think of the similarity to an author weaving his most important plot lines through a variety of other ideas.  Consider the plot lines that are woven throughout this chapter, including the animals, the struggling economy, Sonny's romantic troubles, his blues, his relationship to his friends, his concerns about Homer and Poppy, and the Potter's Wheel.

Chapter 18
    (52)  Writing at its best is definitely an art.  When Sonny and Dorothy begin dancing, he uses a long list of adjectives to describe her eyes, painting a beautiful picture for the reader.  For each of the major facial parts (eyes, ears, nose, hair, and lips, make a list of adjectives you might use in relation to someone who is attractive to you.  Then make separate lists for parts that might go with certain expressions: anger, sadness, meanness, joy, etc.
    (53)  The final scene is extremely well constructed.  Look at the way the author has Sonny and Ginger sort through a variety of issues that concern them.  Do you now feel as though this plot line has concluded, or is there more to follow?  If there is more to come, what might it be?  Why does Sonny think of Jake at this point?

Chapter 19
    (54)  During his discussion with Reverend Richard, all the important pieces of Sonny's list come into the conversation, though it doesn't really sink into his head at this point.  This is a fabulous way for our author to remind us of all the key elements of one storyline.  Compare the conversation here with the list Sonny created in earlier chapters.  What resolutions do you think Rev. Richard might be suggesting?  Will Sonny follow his advice?
    (55)  On the other hand, Rev. Richard says about his windows, "Sometimes a thing can't stand to be talked about before it happens".  How does this apply to Sonny's various problems?
    (56)  Jake drops by to ask Sonny what his plans are for Saturday.  His request that Sonny wear boots is rather mysterious.  Why does the author leave this conversation unresolved?  Why does he create a sense of mystery here?  What do you think Jake is up to?
    (57)  To create a full circle, the author closes the chapter by having Sonny add items to his list.  What do you think of the items that are added?  He feels that one thing is missing from this list.  Can you sense what that one thing is?  Is it part of the writer's art to make the item both obvious and uncertain?
    (58)  Since the horses (Trigger and Champion) actually do nothing of great importance in this chapter, why is the chapter named for them?

Chapter 20
    (59)  The setting is marvelous in the way it supports the underlying themes.  Make a list of all the words that are used in this chapter to set the environment of Six Hollow.  Think about how these words also relate to the plot lines that are related to it.
    (60)  Another wonderful thing about this chapter is the way it is actually a story within a story.  Why would an author introduce and (at least mostly) conclude a plot line this late in a novel?  Can you see how it ties in to plot lines we discovered earlier?

Chapter 21
    (61)   Within two pages, our Author provides all the elements of a nifty little side story that helps us see several of the characters in a more complete way.  Outline the process he uses to show one character's dream, another's method and reasons for assisting, and a third's reason for hesitating.  Then add in the effects of the actions of "Santa", Cleo Mallet, and Tag Farmer.  Look how quickly our Author changes the mood, then changes the subject altogether, providing us with key plot information that actually makes our head spin.
    (62)   Another nice writing trick is performed when Ginger questions Sonny about why he looks tired, and he supposes that it has to do with trying to get all A's.  When he notes that she doesn't look as worn down, she puts the entire conversation into context by hitting Sonny hard on two fronts.  Saying, "That's because I don't go around trying to save the world all the time.", she nails one of Sonny's most trying character traits (and one that causes him plenty of difficulty) while initiating a comparison with his father.  This moment becomes even more interesting from a literary standpoint when we remember that Sonny is actually Our Author in teenage form, so he is forcing this comparison on himself.  Imagine that you are writing a scene in which you (in another form or at another age) are a character, and another character points out some of your traits that are disconcerting to them (the more you can think of, the better).  What would they choose to point out?  The traits should be those that have both good and irritating qualities, and which you can trace directly to a parent, friend, teacher, or other "character ancestor".
     (X)   Note only: in a chapter that has nothing to do with the subject, our Author brings 11 East into the chapter through a casual Roy Lee comment to Sonny.  Keep in mind how important it is to maintain the reader's contact with all plot lines, especially when they have not been discussed in the story for awhile.  Good writers keep track of all plot lines and the pace of their development so they can refer to all important thought lines regularly to prevent the reader from forgetting what's going on.
Chapter 22
     (63)   Notice how this chapter is relatively short when compared to those on either end of it.  An author like Dan Brown (The DaVinci Code) intentionally uses short, fast-moving chapters that change scenes quickly to keep the reader turning pages.  Such a pace would be inappropriate for a memoir like The Coalwood Way, yet Our Author has a marvelous way of pacing his story to make it just as compelling.  If you haven't already done so, make a chart that shows the length of each chapter and some sort of column that allows you to record the number of themes or plot lines that are touched upon in the chapter.  Is it possible that Our Author created such a chart before he actually began to write the story?  (If so, it should make a nice technique for any young writer to copy!)
     (64)   Our Author completes an amazing analogy when Sonny recalls the snow goose, which takes the reader all the way back to Chapter 1.  Though we may have forgotten our original feelings about it, this metaphor comes to a dramatic completion with which we can all identify.   It is one of the most poignant lines in the book when Sonny thinks about the snow goose flying away and ponders, "Overwhelmed and oddly disheartened, I wished with all my heart I could do the same."  Think of some analogies you could use in your writing that would communicate some of the strong emotions you feel.

Chapter 23
     (65)   In mid-chapter, Our Author gives us an extensive description of long-wall mining.  Considering that he grew up in a coal town, it seems obvious that he'd have much more knowledge about this process than his average reader.  In spite of that, can you find evidence that he has done extensive research to prepare for this part of the book?  Why would he do so if he was clearly more knowledgeable than his audience?  Imagine some elements of your life that you might like to include in a story some day that will require further research in order to be expressed completely.  (This is a good reminder that believability in a story is held by the details, and our ability to hold a reader's interest may very well depend upon the effectiveness of our research in gathering those details.)
     (66)   Another excellent example of Our Author's craft comes at the end of the chapter.  Sonny realizes that the Jake he knew has mutated into an adult and that Homer has been the catalyst for that change.  Ironically, while Jake sees Homer's contribution to his entry into manhood as an important and valuable thing, Sonny is angry, believing that Homer is a "grinding wheel" that has ground Jake down "into somebody I hardly knew."  Our Author treads a delicate path here, because he has to describe feelings he held as a young man about his own father, even though we feel that he must long since have come to understand Homer's actions and motivations.  What do you think are some good techniques for recapturing the thoughts and feelings of moments we did not understand when they occurred, but which have become clear with the passage of time?  Do you think it possible, at this stage of his life, that Sonny needs a little "grinding down" as well?

Chapter 24
     (67)   A nice technique used by Our Author here is the climax of the tension over Sonny's trip to the mine.  Secrets create tension in a story (as in life), so it always provides a nice twist when the person from whom the secret has been kept (in this case, Elsie) has been a party to the conspiracy all along.  Perhaps you can think of some times when secrets you were trying to keep ended up coming out differently than you expected.
     (68)   Sonny is greatly surprised when he meets the kids from Welch, who turn out to be much more similar to his friends than he would have expected.  He has built up all sorts of assumptions and expectations of them that prove false.  Our prejudices usually turn out to be unfounded once we are confronted with the truth.  Part of my great enjoyment on my trip to Russia was in discovering that the people were very much like us, despite what I had been taught as a child.  Perhaps you can recall an instance where some person or group you met up with turned out to be much different that you had anticipated.

Chapter 25
     (69)  It seems as though Our Author is giving us more frequent short, breather chapters as we approach the end of the book.  Do you have any ideas about why he would pace the book this way?
Chapter 26
   note only: pay attention to the way Our Author transforms the disaster with the car into something completely different than we thought it would be.
Chapter 27

     (70)   In the moment when Sonny finally reaches a crisis about the root of his sadness, we get some of the most pithy, portentous writing of the entire book.  It behooves the young writer to look closely at these types of moments, because it takes a special art to bring out such emotion in a character.  Notice his desperation, grappling to fully understand the cause of his depression, even to the point of making an extended list in order to analyze its origins.  Having failed to do so logically and scientifically (as he usually solves everything), Sonny resorts finally to faith, praying to God for an answer.  Instantly, he realizes that he has made a mistake, because he will receive one, he's unlikely to enjoy it, and the pain will be awful.   As the old saying goes, "Be careful what you ask for; you may just get it."  The extent of Sonny's angst here within just a few sentences is absolutely amazing.  Diagram each group of sentences in this first section of the chapter as to the purpose they serve in advancing the drama.  Look carefully for the structure that underlies the writing here.
     (71)   At the end of the chapter, Sonny finally realizes the source of all his sadness.  Are you surprised at the "revelation"?  Does it seem too simplistic or trite for your taste, or does it seem to fit perfectly, considering the timing and plot development?  Now that he has determined the source, what do you think the solution will be?

Chapter 28
     (72)   The title of this chapter seems very literary, and I cannot help but imagine that it is an allusion to something that would provide us a little insight.  Maybe a little research on your part would uncover the meaning of it.
     (73)   Our Author once again takes a simple, seemingly innocent occurrence and turns it into a wonderful pivot point for reinforcing the storyline.  Sonny tries his first cup of coffee (now that he's feeling all grown up and everything) and finds it disgusting.  Elsie comments, "What sometimes smells sweet tastes bitter in the trying."  Obviously, she is referring to the coffee, but there is also an allusion to something else.  What is it?  Why does Our Author feel the need to reinforce, even subtly, that idea at this point in the story?  (Notice also that he does it with great economy of words, as always.)  What simple, everyday event might you be able to use for similar story pivots?
     (74)   The final scene of the chapter, Sonny realizes that he knows the solution to a major new problem that has been created - the need for a good powder man.  It is a moment of clarity, and one which allows Sonny to be useful and relevant.  Then, Our Author leaves us dangling as to the resolution.  It's a great, suspenseful way to end the chapter.  Do you think you know who Sonny has in mind?  What is the value of ending a chapter in this way?

Chapter 30
     (75)   Why does our Author choose to use the book's title for a chapter title at this point in the book?  What elements in this chapter are part of "the Coalwood way" of doing things?
     (76)   Why does our Author tell us that things would have happened differently in "a place other than Coalwood"?  Does he do Coalwood an injustice in saying this?  When he talks about such a place, is he actually referring to some literary paradise that doesn't actually exist in real life?  Is he helping us to see the relationships of the characters more clearly by setting the situation this way?
     (77)   Our Author gives us several marvelous moments in a ridiculously short chapter.  One comes when Sonny ponders his father's success at 11 East.  "Other men would sort it out, maybe even decide he shouldn't have done it, but he had gone after his dream and grabbed it with both hands.  What could be more glorious than that?"  The way our Author puts it, not much.  Reread this passage several times until you are as astounded by it as you can be.  Do these sound like the words of a quitter?  Is there any doubt left about whether Homer is a quitter?  See if you can write a passage about 1 or 2 people you know who have persevered in a way that must be considered noble.
     (78)   As the chapter closes, our Author gives us one of the best sentences of the entire (or any) book.  "Together, father and second son, we shuffled along the path of glory toward the light in the Captain's house on the corner."  How many different symbols does the author use here? (make a list of them)  The use of multiple imagery like this is almost always a key to good writing.  Why is this line used right at the chapter's end?

Chapter 31
     (79)   Make a special note on your list of chapters that shows the elements used by our Author in this little chapter as he creates the perfect tool for preparing a grand finale.
     (X)   Note again the way the usage of just a few choice words can make a tremendous difference in the way a scene is viewed.  Focus especially on the scene in which Sonny (as a self-chosen third party) gives Jim and Billy the credit (or blame) for actions that have occurred in the Hickam home.
     (80)   As Elsie prepares to do an important task (even knowing that it will be dangerous and difficult) she challenges Sonny and Billy to "Do the impossible.  It seems like a good day for it."  Sonny knows what she means, and is energized by it.  Do you know what she is speaking of?  How do you expect this to turn out?

Chapter 32
     (81)   As the book comes to a close, can you think back (referring to your notes if necessary) to any plot line that hasn't been properly ended?  This sort of thing cannot happen by accident - careful planning and organization is required to make a book end so neatly and satisfactorily.
     (82)   Cleverly, our Author gives us a little writing lesson as he carries out the endings.  He has Sonny, referring to his pageant script, say, "sometimes a writer has to trust his audience to understand that words are as much art as definition."  While I would agree with him totally, let's look at some issues relevant to it.  Personally, I believe that the connotation of a word is almost always more important than its denotation.  Make a list of words you use often in your conversation or writing that you think mean a little more to you than a dictionary would indicate.  Imagine how you would change the definition if you were writing the dictionary.  Can you recall any words the Author has used in this book (or even that I might have used in the website) that seemed to mean something different than you had previously thought?  Has our Author followed this philosophy all throughout his book?  Since the final chapter focuses greatly on Sonny's (our Author, don't forget) primary role in creating the pageant, could his comment also be referring to others who shared this experience with him but might recall it differently (especially if they feel that their role might have been diminished in the book)?
     (83)   At a critical point in the pageant, it begins to snow and some deer arrive!  Do you think these events actually happened as our Author recalls?  Could the timing have possibly been any better if it were completely invented?  When writing a memoir, is the duty of the author to recall things exactly, or is it acceptable to take some "artistic license" with the memories?  Would your opinion on this subject be different if the story was about something more factual?  (You might want to take this moment to reread the Author's Note at the beginning of the book.)
     (84)   A critical and satisfying moment comes when Sonny realizes that Coalwood itself is his Potter's Wheel, shaping him into the person he is and will become.  What would you describe as your Potter's Wheel?  How would you work it into a story idea?
     (85)   Our Author gives us a wonderful ending sentence - "Somewhere up there, I was certain there were stars as far as we could see."  This sort of sentence provides both closure and vision of the future.  Do you know of any other books that end so effectively?

Return to the Mainpage.

*** All information on this website was collected by the author, and all ideas and opinions are copyright to him.  Though any individual is welcome to use the content of this site (especially in an educational way), proper credit should be given to the author.***