Over my career, I’ve taught thousands of students and used dozens of books in my classes. But it was a new experience for me to walk into a classroom and see all the students with my book! Dr. Anne Mack of the University of Missouri is using it in her English classes, and the students are discussing its literary themes as well as using it as a gateway to research about the Civil War, the Nineteenth Century, and other issues.
I found myself unable to answer many of the students’ questions. Why does Mattie Cunningham only have one arm? Why did Character X have to die in that chapter? I don’t know, it just felt right. I wasn’t trying to be evasive with them. It’s just that my creative process are very intuitive and instinctual, and I rarely have a logical reason for a lot of plot details other than “it felt right.” The story developments that have an analytical reason for being are often the weakest ones.
At the end of each class, I signed books for the students, and it was a particular pleasure to sign the ones that were heavily scribbled in, dog-eared, and festooned with sticky notes. There were a couple of suspiciously pristine copies, but oh well.