Posts Tagged ‘41 Places nonfiction ideas Craig’s List’

One of the texts I taught in this term’s Short Forms class is William Shaw’s book and web site, 41 Places. Shaw interviewed people in public places in Brighton, collecting their stories and writing 41 of them at a length of about 300 words each. He published a book of these true stories and also did a public art installation, displaying the texts of the stories in the places in Brighton where the stories happened or where Shaw collected the story.

Shaw’s project has me planning to try a similar sort of project with my students this spring in Budapest. And today I also had a glimpse of how I could apply this process to collecting stories in all kinds of ways.

I needed a fire safe for my home office, and I ended up driving across town to buy one from a man who is trying to lighten his load for a possible move back to Alaska. He’s having a hard time finding work here.

He once had a job on the Exxon Valdez, which he gave up to try spend more time trying to nail down his wife’s mysterious health ailments. In the end, it turned out that she was bulimic, couldn’t face her disease, and would not stop.

Sometimes no one is a much a talker as an unemployed man, and I could still be there hearing stories about his other two ex-wives, the motorcyle, the truck sold to pay the rent.

It occurs to me that there is a potential 41 Places kind of book based on items being sold on Craig’s List and the stories behind the objects and their owners.