Examining the Exquisite Corpse

The Exquisite Corpse

What a name — Exquisite Corpse — and just that name alone got my students thinking and writing yesterday. The Exquisite Corpse is an activity in which one person starts a piece of writing (or artwork), and passes it (the corpse) along to the next person, who adds to it and then passes it along. The end result is a fascinating hodgepodge of creative energy and often bizarre offshoots from the original idea.

Yesterday, we talked about this concept and then read aloud together the first ebook  installment of an Exquisite Corpse story that has been started by author Jon Scieszka, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and famous for his Stinky Cheeseman stories (ask any kid, they’ll tell you), and which will be added to every two weeks by famous authors — such as Katherine Paterson, Natalie Babbit, Steven Kellogg and more — over the next year (yep — a year long novel writing project published online in a flash format).

My students were fascinated by the myriad of clues (a wonderful lesson in foreshadowing, by the way) left by Scieszka in the first chapter as twin siblings Joe and Nancy (not their real names, they will soon find out) are on a train (with dynamite on the bridge ahead) trying to rescue their parents by solving clues. Oh and along the way, they will meet such things as a monkey dressed as a pirate, mad scientists, two meatballs, a roller-skating baby and Star Wars lunchbox, plus much more mayhem. How in the world the story will unfold will be interesting to watch.

We used Scieszka’s first chapter for our own short story writing in class yesterday, continuing the adventure along. There are many twists and turns (one story featured talking meatballs, another had aliens from another time dimension) and my hope that when we read the next chapter next week, we can discuss why the author (Katherine Paterson) did what she will do with her writing.

Peace (in the unfolding mysteries),


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