The Mall of America’s writer-in-residence contest is capitalism’s answer to the WPA.

Shoppers walk through Mall of America during a media tour of its security systems on February 23, 2015 in Bloomington, Minnesota.

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A moody short story of tchotchkes and psychosexual obsession set at a Spencer’s gift store. A poem that captures the desultory mood of a Cinnabon at midafternoon. A novella concerned with the lives and loves of the staff and regulars at one Rainforest Café over the course of a year. A true-crime narrative about a visit to a Piercing Pagoda gone very wrong. These are just a few literary possibilities that sprang to mind in conjunction with the announcement of the Mall of America’s writer-in-residence program.

Following in the footsteps of unlikely writer-in-residence stunts at places like the Ace Hotel, London’s Heathrow Airport, and aboard Amtrak, the Mall of America will give one…

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