Setbacks, lessons learned through Pulitzer Project in September

With three months left to go on the Pulitzer Project, Leona Charleigh Holman said she is roughly five books behind on her schedule, and it is entirely possible she will be unable to finish the remainder of the 89 required books by the end of December.

“I will have to take the first month of 2020 to finish,” Holman said.

All is not lost, however, as one particularly important aspect of literary fiction she said has become more clear since she started, regardless of the project’s actual results.

“I certainly know what good story-telling is,” she said. “The standard has been set very high.”

She said story-telling has been integral to her life from a young age, and its relevance is so great because of human nature.

“Whenever there was information missing, story-telling filled in the holes,” she said. “It made the exchange personal without the fear of not getting it right.”

In a list of 89 fictional works, each with their own writing styles, themes, conflicts and much more, all of them use a fictionalized story in order to do so.

“We learn and see the experiences of others,” Holman said. “We find the things we have in common.”

This exchange of ideas comes into play during the project’s monthly meetings at the Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library, where different readers are able to exchange their perceptions of the books and their life experiences to foster deeper understanding.

“I am really encouraged to know my community has these things in common,” Holman said. “It keeps us engaged without alienating people.”

This love of story-telling, she said, can be found just about anywhere.

“I have never seen a newspaper detail stories in a bulleted list,” she said. “That would be utterly boring. Story-telling works better, gives us characters to hold onto.”

She said stories help readers make sense of the world around them using relatable characters and ideas.

Holman admitted she felt “almost relieved” to see the project reaching its conclusion, though she said she has gained valuable experiences from it, experiences she hopes to share with interested readers in their monthly meetings.

“It is never too late to jump in,” Holman said.

September’s meeting will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 23, at 5:30 p.m. at the library, which is located at 201 N. Sycamore St. This month’s reading will be Grapes of Wrath.

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