(For the high school or college classroom)
1. Read the title story in When Mystical Creatures Attack! (1). Answer the following questions:
a. What is your favorite mystical creature?
b. What is the greatest sociopolical problem of our time?
c. What is your greatest personal problem?
Write a story in which your favorite mystical creature resolves the greatest sociopolitical problem of our time and/or your greatest personal problem. (You can complete this exercise from your own point of view, or from the point of view of a character of your invention.)
2. Read “Warm Greetings” (8). Imagine, then compose a “form letter.” The form letter can be from a bank, a mortgage lender, a police organization, a hospital, a nursing home, a school, a dance academy, a charity, a gym, or any other organization. Consider: who is the form letter addressed to? Who wrote the form letter? What impression is the writer of the form letter trying to make? What does the form letter reveal about the organization? (Going further: You could then have the recipient write a letter in reply. Or, you could use the form letter at the beginning, middle, or end of a story that then takes on a more traditional narrative form.)
3. Read “The Un-game” (page 11). Write a story in the form of a personal letter or e-mail from an employee of an institution. If you’d like, you may use the institution you imagined in exercise 2. Is your protagonist writing the letter or e-mail during his/her lunch break or secretly scribbling during work hours? Is your protagonist is writing to a friend, a relative, a teacher, a movie star, or a celebrity? What workplace dramas does the letter describe? What personal circumstances does your protagonist reveal?
4. Read “Before” (20). Think of a place you know well. It can be a place you love or loathe or a just a homey place where you feel comfortable. Brainstorm a list of visual images, sounds, smells, tastes, textures, and temperatures. (Try to brainstorm five of each.) Then compose a “sketch” that renders a sense of place.
5. Read “The Turnip” (27). Write about your relationship with your father (or a father figure).
6. Read “Frankye” (44). Write a story about someone you’ve lost.
7. Read “Recipes for Disaster” (50). Write about any of the following:
a. A recipe handed down in your family.
b. A recipe that you would contribute to a fundraising cookbook. How does the recipe reflect where you’re at in your life? (For example, I would offer a recipe for a frozen burrito, because I have no time or energy to cook.)
c. A recipe for something other than food (ie: a recipe for a failed relationship, or a recipe for acquiring credit card debt).
8. Read “Black Socketed, Blind” (57). Write a story broken into sections that reveal 12 ways of looking at your mother (or a mother figure).
9. “First the Sea Gave Up Her Dead” (75). Write a character’s dream.
10. Read “Mexico Foxtrot Rides Again” (77). Write a story from two different perspectives.
11. Read “Virtue of the Month” (94).
a. What is your worst secret? (Or, if that’s a little intense, what is your character’s worst secret?)
b. Write a story where that secret gets revealed.
12. For this group writing exercise, first read “Uncommon Happiness” (111).
a. As a group, brainstorm all the different sorts of advice people might seek. (For example: business advice, sex advice, cooking advice, ect.)
b. Using the voice of a character you make up, write a letter to one of these advice columnists.
c. Everyone pass their letter to the left.
d. Using the voice of the advice columnist the letter is addressed to, write back to the character seeking advice.
13. Read “Faux Rose” (133). Write a story from the perspective of a character whose world view diverges from consensus reality.
14. Read “The Apple” (163). Describe the afterlife as your character might imagine it.
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