Lifestyles Left and Right

A Stimulus Bill for Writers

Stimulating those creative juices, one earmark at a time.

By 2.24.09

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With fears rising that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 may be too pork-filled to actually help the economy, it should be pointed out that the extraneous spending items may not be as bad as they seem. A big, loaded bill could do much to stimulate an unrecognized segment of the economy -- those suffering from writer's block. Would-be novelists, here's how it works: lay hands on a few versions of a recent bill, list all the earmarks and strange inclusions, and then weave together a tale using those components. You may find a mother lode of inspiration in legislation, as a few recent examples prove.

Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, 2008

Create a tale involving the following elements: mine rescues, black lung, wooden arrows, rum, bicycle storage, and a character needing mental health care. Your setting: a Midwestern disaster zone or a "qualified restaurant property."

Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008

Include in a story line the failure of an asparagus crop, methamphetamine production in anhydrous ammonia fertilizer nurse tanks, mushroom promotion, childcare expenses, a weather radio, tropical pests, a "socially disadvantaged" farmer, and the reburial of human remains. Involve an operator on the "Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network" hotline and a chairperson sitting on the Honey Board for added drama. Possible settings: Alaska, a recently preserved historic barn, Micronesia, or the Norman A. Berg National Plant Materials Center in Beltsville, Maryland.

Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008

The following should appear in this story: dental disease or a vaccine injury, a dam fish screen, Amtrak train security, and a memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower. You have a range of interesting locales from which to choose, including a university for the deaf, the Elkhorn Ranch in Medora, North Dakota, or a Cucamonga Valley water recycling facility.

Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008

In a tale geared for children, incorporate a piece of metal jewelry, a toy with a "spherical end", a pool or spa, and an all-terrain vehicle. One character should regularly wear an equestrian helmet and at some point carry a portable gasoline container. Include a hotel, motel, or daycare center and a garage door opener. Industry-sponsored travel is banned from this story.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

The story should circle around a dance troupe "threatened by declines in philanthropic and other support," and feature a digital television converter box, a lead hazard, a loan, a leaking underground storage tank, the Mississippi River (or one of its tributaries), the Inspector General of the National Science Foundation, and a few "compliant" fiber products (used by Homeland Security) including cotton, woven silk or silk blends, synthetic or coated synthetic fabrics, canvas, or wool. For more excitement, add some space exploration.

Consider these bills a gift and start writing, authors -- in this economic environment, you can't afford to be inactive.

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