642 Things To Write About: Hudson controversy explained

Bruno Cooke September 15, 2021
642 Things To Write About: Hudson controversy explained

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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.

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 Cooke has been a freelance journalist since 2019, primarily with GRV Media. He was an early contributor to The Focus, and has written for HITC, Groundviews and the Sheffield University newspaper – he earned his MA in Global Journalism there in 2021. He’s the Spoken Word Poetry Editor for The Friday Poem, and self-published his debut novel Reveries in 2019, which his mum called both a “fine read” and “excellent Christmas present”. Bruno has lived in China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines and likes, among other things: bicycle touring, black and white Japanese films, pub quizzes, fermentation and baklava. In 2023, Bruno will set off with his partner on a round-the-world cycle.