642 Things To Write About: Hudson controversy explained

Bruno Cooke September 15, 2021


Why has a writing prompt book by the name of 642 Things To Write About – designed to “get the creative juices flowing” – led the mayor of Hudson, Ohio to demand that a school’s board members “resign or be charged”?

What is 642 Things To Write About, and why is it in the news today?

Compiled by the San Francisco Writers Grotto, a creative community of writers and artists based in the Bay Area, 642 Things To Write About is a collection of, you guessed it, 642 “outrageous and witty writing prompts”.

It promises to “get the creative juices flowing in no time”. The collection includes prompts to write one’s own obituary, pen an ode to an onion and, apparently, to “write a sex scene you wouldn’t show your mom”.

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Until Monday this week, a high school in Hudson, Ohio was using the book in its senior College Credit Plus writing class.

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However, at a school board meeting held on Monday, several parents expressed their grievances about the use of the book to educate their children.  

642 Things To Write About controversy explained

Among the 600+ prompts in the book are some which Hudson City Schools Superintendent Phil Herman described as “inappropriate and offensive”.

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One parent mentioned three of them during the meeting. “Write a sex scene you wouldn’t show your mom,” Ms Haven recounted to the school board. 

“Rewrite the sex scene from above into one that you let your mom read. Describe your favourite part of a man’s body using only verbs.”

What did Hudson mayor Craig Shubert say at the school board meeting?

Hudson mayor Craig Shubert claimed that the writing prompts amounted to “child pornography”. However, he didn’t produce any evidence to support the claim.

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“So I’m going to give you a simple choice,” he threatened the members of the school board. “Either choose to resign from this board of education or you will be charged.”

None of the prompts were ever assigned as part of the class. None of the school’s board members has announced plans to resign.

Twitter reacts to the 642 Things controversy

Mayor Shubert’s statement was met with thunderous applause from the parents in attendance. Twitter’s reaction, however, has been characteristically irreverent. One user described it as “authoritarian cuckoo bananas”.

Another branded it “political theatre“. Several others have taken the opportunity to share their own experiences of writing creatively, while in high school, about the subjects deemed inappropriate by those in uproar following the 642 Things controversy.

One reports receiving an extra credit and having their work read aloud to the class, after writing about underage drinking. Another wrote the following:

Those hunting for a pdf of 642 Things To Write About may have to satisfy themselves with this list of 100 prompts from in the book.

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Bruno is a postgraduate student studying global journalism, with research interests in the intersection of the media, storytelling, culture and politics. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Packs Light and Forge Press, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com. He is a Student Ambassador for Tortoise Media, a big fan of Freddie Mercury and a novelist – his debut novel, Reveries, is available on Amazon.