Our next class, Friday April 7th, focuses on a "supernatural" theme. That's why the take-home assignment for Class No. 10 (March 28th) involves a bit of creative storytelling along those lines. In this case, we dropped students off on a dark and stormy night at a place called "Medical Lake."
Truth be told: Medical Lake is an actual city in Spokane, Washington, which is home to a psychiatric institution known as Eastern State Hospital. Medical Lake is also an exit off the highway where Courtney once traveled by bus on a lonely stretch and happened to text me about it as she was traveling through. It certainly ignited my imagination when she described it to me.
"Hope your bus doesn't break down," I joked. And then, we both wondered if there was a film idea here. Possibly. But, would it be a movie we've all seen before? Or, was there a new tale to be told that could arise out of "Medical Lake"? Was it a horror story? Sci-Fi? Or, supernatural? Perhaps we'll find our answer at next Friday's class!
Established in 1891, the institution set near Medical Lake has had its fair share of scandals over the years, mainly related to the quality of patient care, and this, we acknowledge, isn't anything to joke about or make light. Today, it's still in operation, and we hope under much improved conditions. I guess if we ever write a screenplay about it, we'll have to change the name!
One of the most fascinating aspects of the area, though, is the lake itself. For thousands of years, it was an important site for the Spokane Tribe and others nearby, who believed that the waters, mud, and salts of the lake had curative properties. One early historian said that Indians "congregated in great numbers around its shores, bringing the afflicted from all directions." In fact, according to online reports, tribes called the lake Skookum Limechin Chuch, which means "strong medicine water."
We hope the idea of "Medical Lake" inspires your creative storytelling like it has ours! While we won't be telling true stories about this very real place, there's just something about stringing the words "medical" and "lake" together that induces cool, albeit weird, ideas to write about, doesn't it? Our stories will derive directly from our imaginations, possibly ignited best from the very old black and white photograph pictured above (or the one-minute clip at the bottom of this post).
(Full writing prompt follows.)
Class No. 10 Take Home Writing Assignment:
You’re riding in a bus on the outskirts of Spokane, Washington. It’s November and it’s getting dark. There is a windstorm that has caused massive power outages in the entire town. Winds of 120 M.P.H. causes a blackout. The bus driver cannot see the road because the dust is so thick, and objects, including large trees, are falling onto the highway. The driver, a fifty-something man, pulls off the road at an exit that says “Medical Lake.” You all decide that it will safer to seek shelter inside what looks to be like an old complex of buildings, surrounding a quiet, placid lake. Surprisingly, the front door of one of the buildings is open, even though it looks to have been abandoned for many years. You, and all of the others from the bus, go inside. What happens next? Write a short story about the next few hours at Medical Lake.