Picking a topic for a book completely out of a hat

weingarten-skinnyAnyone who’s ever taken a creative writing course knows how beneficial choosing a random subject to write about can be. While “writing what you know” is the tried and true advice usually handed out to budding authors, sometimes shaking things up and picking a topic you might be unfamiliar with can help you hone your skills.

For Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten, however, picking a random topic isn’t just a fun exercise — it’s going to be the subject of his next nonfiction book. His upcoming work, One Day, will focus on the events of a single day in American History that was selected by combining numbers chosen out of a hat. Let’s hope a lot of interesting things happened on December 28, 1986, because that’s the date Weingarten has to work with.

Here’s the full press release as reported by Mediabistro’s Galleycat:

Weingarten, best known for his long-form pieces for The Washington Post and books such as The Fiddler on the Subway, promises an in-depth look at one day in the life of the people of the United States as it happened, “but from high above, covering matters great and small – wide-angled, panoramic, with the added illuminating dimension of time.” The date, chosen at random by a waitress and two children at an oyster lunch (each drew a number from a hat: one for date, month and year), is the starting point for a book that will study “the universal power of humble truths,” says the author.

What do you think about this upcoming book? Do you think selecting a topic for a  book at random is simply a way to garner publicity, or is it a fascinating experiment in and of itself? And what do you think will happen if there isn’t anything worth writing about that happened on that date? Let us know in the comments!

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One thought on “Picking a topic for a book completely out of a hat

  1. This is such an intriguing idea. Nothing worth writing about? Suggest that to a mother whose baby was born that day, or a child who lost a first tooth, or someone who was notified of a pay raise…the list is endless, because world events are but a small part of what gives meaning to any particular day our lives. I can’t wait to see what he writes.

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