I used these two assignments as openers for my students as they learned background information about the Great Depression. Each assignment was an informal assessment and review to start the class. They could easily be expanded upon to create challenging writing assessments for an introduction to Of Mice and Men. I found that giving them freedom to write without a lot of rules created some really interesting perspectives. It also allowed me to see their free-form writing in a low-pressure environment.
NOTE: I had students write stories in their notebooks, but you could turn these into worksheet-style assignments quite easily.