A few years ago, I started having a mid-semester creative writing contest for my university students to provide a bit of a break from more intense academic research and writing as well as a chance for the winners to earn some extra credit.
I came up with my go-to writing prompt for the contest as I was driving to campus one day and noticed a single, brand new running shoe lying on the side of the road. I wondered how it got there.
Over the years my students have come up with all sorts of ideas that they've written about in stories, poems, comic strips and so on. The shoe is a magical portal! It fell off Santa's sleigh! It belongs to the ghost of someone who died in a horrible car wreck along that stretch of highway!
My all-time favorite entry was patterned after the hushed narration of a nature show. "It is very rare to come across a shoe without its mate. They usually travel in pairs."
As I was driving to campus today to announce the writing contest, I notice something lying on the side of the road.
A bright pink bra.
I thought about tweaking my writing prompt for a second or two. But, well, you know.