Washing small plates and forks, I stare at Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale. Mischief sparkles from her eyes, rebellion from her chuckle. With a Mona Lisa smile, she presents the first exercise in her online “Master Class” on prose.

“Write about an object in ‘Plain Song’ and ‘Baroque’.” “Plain Song”, she explains, is how Gulliver’s Travels starts, “Baroque” — how Charles Dickens’ writes.

I decide I’ll write about duct tape.

Plain Song:

Duct tape fastened the side-mirror on my car.

Baroque: