In the file below, you will find the initial writing prompts I generated for my students who are reading PrairyErth. The essays that will be appearing in this site’s other pages are written in response to these prompts. You are more than welcome to make use of them as you see fit; I do hope, though, that you will drop me some note that you are doing so. Even better, if you have ideas for prompts for the book, I hope you will share them with me.
I should offer some explanations/disclaimers regarding them. For one, I found it a challenge, on the whole, to come up with prompts for my students. Heat-Moon’s central claim for the book is that any place we happen to choose, no matter how sparse in its landscape or population, is potentially worthy of our attention if we look patiently enough at it. The beauty of PrairyErth is that, if readers had approached it with doubts as to that claim’s being self-evident, it’s difficult to imagine them finishing it and still doubting that claim. But from the standpoint of requiring students to write in response to what they have read, I found it a challenge, this first time in working with the book, to find points in the text of what I’m going to call “resistance”: places in which, to my mind, we are implicitly invited to do more than bear witness to Heat-Moon’s narratives. So, then, you will see that some of the prompts invite the writer to move forward in time from a given scene to the present day; some ask the writer to consider broader questions of place as (I think) revealed in certain scenes in the book; one even invites (but does not require!) the writer to do more than take Heat-Moon at his word regarding edible plants in the Flint Hills.
The upshot is that, to put the matter politely, I am unevenly pleased with these prompts. I am hopeful, though, that the alchemy of students’ attempts in responding to them, more time spent with the book, visitors here with their own suggestions, and (most hopefully) future chances to teach it will result in new, better prompts and improvements to those that seem promising but could use a couple of nudges here and there. In the meantime, though, I hope that you reading these prompts will find something of use in them.