This week’s prompt is from Shilpi Suneja, alum of the UMass Boston MFA program in Creative Writing for Fiction. Shilpi has titled her prompt:
The one you didn’t know you lost
By the end of May 2020, the US lost 100,000 people to coronavirus. The New York Times visualized this massive loss with “An Incalculable Loss” (May 27, 2020). Today, more than 500,000 in the U.S. have died from coronavirus and the NYT project “Those We’ve Lost” (updated March 4, 2021) catalogs their names, photos, and obituaries.
In an attempt to mourn and give your life breath to the people we lost, pick a kindred spirit from one of these lists.
Perhaps you are drawn to writers or artists, teachers or plumbers. Read the NYT descriptors. Scan their obituary. Without googling their name, write about their life and passions. If you google their hometown, locate the local businesses they might have frequented—their local diner where they might have stopped for their morning coffee, their evening walks. From the sketch you’ve been given, let yourself imagine their life as you write.
In the light of a stranger’s life, can we perhaps see the shape of our own more clearly?