A Prada bag full of sidewalk chalk, a swim in the English Channel, an all-expense-paid trip to Omaha: these were just a few of the prizes I could have won this morning in my Creative Nonfiction class.
The goal of the exercise was to work on arranging words euphoniously, with an ear for rhythm and repeated sounds, and an ideal way to accomplish that is to work with lists. But first we had to generate lists, so the students broke into groups to brainstorm lists of items that could be prizes in a contest. One group listed things, one listed activities, and one listed locations. After each group had generated 20 items, they selected at least five of the items and drafted a letter informing the winner of his or her good fortune.
The letters were creatively banal ("Dear Mr. or Mrs. Individual"), but the lists--well, they were simply incomparable. Let's go to Omaha for some bird-feeding, bear-hunting, cow-tipping, and rhino-wrestling! How about a two-hour visit to lovely Los Angeles followed by a junket across India via third-class train? And I'll wear my Prada bag atop my polo pony for an afternoon chukker in Gary, Indiana.
If these students ever get a chance to put their prize-giving talents to serious use, I fear for the sweepstakes industry. Just listening to the results of the exercise made me feel like a winner!