First Sentences

One of the best writers I worked with as a journalist was Bill O'Connor, then a columnist at the Akron Beacon Journal. Bill wrote about everyday people with unique, funny perspectives and stories. Bills skills were these:
  • He connected with his subjects and so drew from them great detail and open expression.
  • He chose his details well and sparingly
  • He used dialogue well
  • And he had great first sentences.
"Writing is easy," he'd say. "You just write one...

Ingredients for Laughter

We all know or have heard with a hilarious and very distinctive laugh ... Imagine laiughter as having a recipe. What is a laugh made of? How do you mix the ingedients? What different mixtures make a giggle, a chortle, a guffaw? Who first taught you the ingredients of laugter? What extra spices do you add to make your uproarious laughter?


Share your best writing -- a story, a poem, a sudden spark of observation or insight or creativity. Anything. Sound. Image. Words. 


What's Next?-- Guns


The Vermont Legislature has passed sweeping changes in gun control. Click here to read about VT Gov. Phil Scott's plan to sign bill.  How do you feel about it?

And how do you feel about the recent demonstration against the restrictions in which hundreds turned out to get free rifle magazines and to protest the passage of the gun control bill? See video above.


Why Write?

Why write? Why do you write?
Some questions to get you started: Do you write to change something? To clear your mind? To release your anger, your emotions? What happens to your mind when you are writing? What do you write? What happens when you share what you've written? What happens when your writing is published? How does it make you feel?

And take a look at the video to your right to see why some others write.



What gets you really angry? What makes your blood boil? Write a slam poem about it. Record yourself performing it, and post the audio and the writing. 

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Shannon Ripp]


Finish this phrase, “In that moment, I realized …,”  and start or end a story or poem with it.

[YWP Photo Library; Photo by Grace Safford]

YWP is...

Wednesday, Dec. 13 at 5:30 p.m., YWP will be having a video conference to talk about the impact of YWP on your life. Informal. Survey to get you thinking is here: https://youngwritersproject.org/ywpimpact. And/or respond to this challenge. If you would like to join us at 5:30 on Wednesday, email [email protected] 

The Challenge: "YWP is ..." what?...


We are defined by moments in our lives. This challenge will have three parts:
  1. Click respond and make a list (using phrases only) of memorable moments in your life -- an injury, a new sibling, moving ... -- whatever comes to mind. Get as many down as possible.
  2. Share the list with a partner. Look at their list and ask them to tell you the story about the item that intrigues you the most. Switch -- have your partner ask you to tell a story from your list.
  3. Write about the...


Write from the point of view of a key in a sweaty palm.

[YWP Photo Library; Photo by Shannon Ripp]


Begin a story or poem with the phrase, “One thing I know for sure …

[YWP Photo Library; Photo by Shannon Ripp]



For the next class, March 19, please bring a photograph or an object that helps you tell a story about an elder in your family or your community. If you don’t have an item or photo, think of a phrase they use(d) or a phrase you would use to describe them as the basis for your story. And try to talk to the elder before you come to class. 

This will be something we work on over several sessions. Our aim is to help you create a story of an elder that combines sound and an...


Sound 4 - Surprise

You walk downstairs to make breakfast only to discover the animal in this recording standing in the middle of your kitchen. Write about the chaos that ensues...

[YWP Photo Library; Photo by Grace Safford; Sound Credit]


End a story with the line “they had nothing to say to each other…”

[YWP Photo Library; Photo by Shannon Ripp] 

Did you March?

Tell us your story of March for our Lives. Did you march? Were you in Washington or some other city? Did you purposely stay away?

Share your story. Or emotions. Or photos. Or share a perspective that may differ from the majority.

Why did you participate. Why didn't you participate? What do you think should be done to make our schools, our public places, safer? Do you think gun access should be restricted? Why or why not? What should be done? Speak out!



In this challenge, look at (print out if possible) and fill in the embedded worksheet below by checking the appropriate Social Identities under each question.

Also consider which two Social Identity items are most important in your education.

Then look at the poem below and write a poem in a similar style, using your own most important social identities. 

By Patricia Smith 


Land of Free


America is known as the land of the free, home of the brave. Yet is still a very young nation. Imagine America as a child. What would you tell her or him? How would you describe their behavior? Would you invite America into your home and what for? What games would you play with America? What would you like to see this child learn to and to stop doing? How will you teach America a lesson? 
Write a letter to America as if America was a child. What would you say? 

Truth Traveler

If truth were a traveler 

Write a poem as Truth. You are truth embodied and personified. You are traveling the world. How are you greeted in different countries? In the forest? By the president? By your friends? By teachers in school? By strangers on the street? By the homeless? By police officers? By your parents? What do you see each day when you rise and look in the mirror? Describe your experience as you travel the world as living truth.


I am


I am the one who...

Finish the sentence, repeat it or extend it, turn it into a poem.

Feel free to paste in the poem you started when MGMC led your workshop at Edmunds.


Got me bent

You got me bent. What's got you annoyed, ticked off, angry? Tell a story. Or go on a rant.

Use specific detail (but don't use names) about something that happened, or an issue that has you riled up, or an injustice in your life. Could be small, could be large.

Feel free to share what you wrote at the MGMC workshop if you wish and start from there.


Super difference


What makes you different than others? What's the most important single difference? Now think about that difference as a power, a super power. How do you use it? Write about a time you could use it. Write a poem.

Share what you wrote in the workshop with MGMC if this the challenge you responded to. 



This challenge is for anyone who has a poem or who wants to write a poem about something other than the challenges here.

So click RESPOND, give it a title and genre, paste it in or create it in 'Body' and save.

As with all these challenges, give some feedback to your classmates.



You’re walking along the side of a brick building when you see a loose brick. You tug at it, and a note flutters to the ground. What does it say?

[YWP Photo Library; Photo by Shannon Ripp]

Photo 8 - Treetop

Write from the perspective of a character sitting on top of this tree. What can the character see? Include something — maybe a friend, a pet, or even a responsibility — waiting at the bottom.

[Photo credit: YWP Photo Library; Photo by Kevin Huang] 


Write a poem or a story based on this image, making the image the first scene.
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Desiree Holmes]

The Girls

This challenge, The Girls, is inspired from hannahpanda23's amazing poem called "To the girls!"  I would highly encourage you to follow the link and read it if you need some inspiration.

Girls, write about what kind of girl you think you are. Boys (or gender nonconforming persons), write about the women and girls in your life, and how they have helped you.

Tag it with the hashtag...

MLK -- A reflection


This challenge will take some time. But it will be worth it. View either or both of the videos here and write what comes to you -- an essay, a reflection, a poem, a story, a rant. Whatever. Create visual art and share it. Create an audio piece. Again, whatever. Just react. Because 50 years ago, April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King was gunned down and his words remain relevant and important today. For all people.

The top video is the full sermon Martin Luther King made on Feb. 4,...

Then things got weird

Write a story that starts fairly normally but then goes off, becomes surreal or supernatural or just really odd. Have fun with it. AND don't think about it too much. Just go.



Write a rhyming poem about being stuck in the rain, and a surprising discovery you make.

[YWP Photo Library; Photo by Kevin Huang] 


Write an appreciation of your favorite food. An ode to eggplant?

[YWP Photo Library; Photo by Kevin Huang]


Take a photo of someone on a playground. Use the architecture to your advantage.
(Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, Livia Ball)


What's Next -- Climate


Watch this video. 

Write about what it makes you think. What are you going to do? What's next?


Zuckerberg speaks -- Reaction?


Facebook co-inventor and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday. The House members were a good deal more pointed and direct than the Senators.

Above is the near full version of his 6-hour testimony in the House. Below is a NYTIMES distillation of the Tuesday Senate hearing and below that the full version. Watch some of it. Speed through or sit for a while.  RESPOND and write your reaction -- a rant, a poem, a story, whatever.



What is the nicest thing a stranger has ever done for you?


[YWP Photo Library; Photo by Grace Safford]

Photo 9-City

Write a poem from the perspective of a tiny speck of light in the big city. (YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang).

Parkland: What can you do?

A compelling call for action by one of the survivors of the Parkland high school shooting. What can we do to stop these shootings from happening again?

(UPDATE: note that we have created more challenges related to the shooting. Go to https://youngwritersproject.org/challenges )


What's Next? -- April 20 School Walkout


Another National School Walkout Day is being organized, in memory of the students shot at Columbine High School.

Are you participating? Are you including discussion of and action around the broader issue of youth gun deaths in urban areas? 

Write about what you are planning, thinking, wishing -- or, when the day comes, what you did.  Include pictures and sound.


Parkland: A letter for the victims


Over time, the identities of the victims of mass shootings fade away and become a number, become a word. Think of the victims as individuals. Write a letter for one of them. Here is a link for summary bios of the 17 victims of the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.


Speak out: A letter to leaders


High school and middle school students around the U.S. are having their voices heard. Will it be enough? Will you be heard? Can you bring change?

Write a letter to your Senator, Congressman, state legislator, governor. Tell them what you think they should do. Post a copy here. 

ALSO, put the hashtag #writersforchange if you'd like to be part of a YWP community project to send a lot of writing to political leaders being...

Schools: Do you feel safe?


Do you feel safe in your school? Why? Or why not? Tell a story. Write a poem. Write an essay. Tell people what it's like when there is a Code Red drill.

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Parkland: Do you feel you are being heard?


The difference in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida, shooting is that people are paying attention to articulate, passionate high school students. Does this give you hope? Do you feel you are heard? Are there other issues you feel you need to voice?



The Earth needs your help. Climate change is real. Write an urgent message to your fellow humans that will get their attention. Be specific about how to take immediate action. Write, and you’ll be entered into a drawing for YWP’s environmentally friendly chocolate!

[YWP Photo Library; Photo by Shannon Ripp]



Write the internal dialogue of a character who is constantly flipping between being filled with hope, and being filled with despair.

[YWP Photo Library; Photo by Grace Safford]

What's Next?

What's next?

You have written, spoken out, testified.

You have walked out of schools.

You have marched for life.

Suburban victims of school shootings have been meeting with kids from urban schools who witness gun violence every day.

The memorials in Parkland, Florida, are being taken done, many of the mementos given to parents or to a local archive. Vermont and Florida have passed bills restricting gun sales and use.



Listen to this sound. Now write about a transformative change this sound spurs in a character.

[YWP Photo Library; Photo by Shannon Ripp; Sound Credit Sounds of the Train]



You have just been hired by a big-shot Hollywood producer to write the opening scene of a screenplay of your favorite book. Share it with us. (Remember to include the title of the book.)

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, Erik Short] 


I wonder why … Finish the sentence. Use it at the beginning or end of a story. 

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Grace Safford]


Take pictures of things that are the color yellow. Make a slideshow. Write an accompanying poem or commentary on the photos.

[YWP Photo Library; Photo by Grace Safford]


Write a serious conversation between two characters. Just write the dialogue, nothing else. Now, delete everything one person said so that only one side of the conversation remains.

[YWP Photo Library; Photo by Grace Saford]


Write a poem or a story that begins with the line, “This is your last chance.”

[YWP Library; Photo by Shannon Ripp] 

Green Up

Vermonters! Participate in Green Up Day. Write about the most interesting object you find, the best conversation you have, or the observations you make as you clean up the state.

[YWP Photo Librry; Photo by Grace Safford]


Record the sound of yourself writing. Post the piece you were writing, and your audio clip, to YWP.

[YWP Photo Library; Photo by Shannon Ripp]


What is one thing you wish had never been invented? How would your life and/or the world be different without this invention?

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Shannon Ripp]


Write the inner dialogue of a squirrel trying to find the nuts she buried for the winter.

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Grace Safford]


Take a photo or photos of a setting that you find inspiring. Post the photo(s) and write a short explanation of why this place touches you.
[Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, phone by abouttosnap, YWP Community Leader & Photographer)


Listen to this audio clip of someone walking on broken glass — let it inspire you. Write about what you are hearing. Maybe you use glass as a metaphor in a poem. Write.

[YWP Photo Library; Photo by Shannon Ripp; Sound Credit Walking on Broken Glass]


Ask someone for a writing prompt. You could ask a parent, a teacher, a friend, a waiter — anyone. Write based on the prompt they gave you, even if you don’t like it at first.

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Grace Safford]


Describe a memorable moment playing your favorite sport. Use detail to help your readers feel like they’re right there with you.
[Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Brandon Beauchemin]


Make a sculpture out of natural things on the ground in the woods or in your backyard— sticks, rocks, leaves, etc. Don’t harm or disturb the habitat. Take a picture and post it. The most creative sculptor will receive YWP’s delicious, environmentally friendly, locally produced chocolate!

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Shannon Ripp]

Photo 4 - Married

These two have been married for many years. They’re having a small disagreement today. What’s the conversation they’re having?

[Photo Credit: Kuhnmi, Creative Commons License]


Write about something seemingly ordinary — a chair, a wall, a tack — and make it extraordinary.

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Grace Safford]




Create a poem using only the titles of books near you. Write it in seven minutes!

Real Americans

You are putting out a call to the "real" Americans (whatever that means to you).
Some things to consider....
Who are they?
What makes them real as opposed to others who may not be?
What is your call a call to do?
What do you want them to know?
What do you want them to do about the condition of the country?
How should they treat their fellow Americans?
Who will answer the call?

InterWeb Surfs

A few minutes doing one of our favorite pasttimes -- spinning through some social media channel -- often gleans images or pharases or gifs that can be used to get you started on a story. So these little gems came from scrolling for five minutes on Twitter. And they yield some questions:
Why is that man wearing a red nose? And how did the burning Swastika get there? And what would Alice do with Dennis?
  • And, below, why is he jumping? what's the conversation between two women waiting...

Future Letter

CHALLENGE: Write a letter to someone in the year 2067. Tell them what's happening here -- in your life, in your community, in the world. Describe to them the technology you use. Or tell them what you hope the world will be 50 years from now. Or just tell a story that you think they would appreciate.





Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were told last week that the Trump administration is prohibiting them from using seven words or phrases in official documents. The forbidden words are: “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.” (Washington Post, Dec. 15, 2017) What do you think of that? This challenge was sparked by today's Daily Read -- 7 Words by Icarus Blackmore. Read it...


Your character is walking, hands in pockets, when they hear this sound, or they are on a bike speeding past a field. Let this sound and setting inspire your story.

[Photo Credit: Perriscope, Creative Commons License] [Sound Credit: RCA, Freesound]



Vermont Writes Day is coming in February 2018! Write the challenges for YWP's Day of Writing (when everyone -- everyone! -- stops to write for just seven minutes.) Write one or a list of hundreds. A team of YWPers will select the best. (Exact date of VtWritesDay TBD soon!)


Write awful

Use cliches, mixed metaphors, tense changes, whatever you're not supposed to do when you write an essay.


(Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Molly Noel)


Write a fractured fairytale, a reimagining of an established fairytale — aka, Peter Pan is a girl, Alice in Wonderland is set in 2017, Little Red Riding Hood is set in New York City, etc.

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Grace Safford]

what's below

Write a short poem or story about what you think is below the water. Be as descriptive as you can! Have fun!


Write about a time when you felt completely invisible, literally or figuratively.


(Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Jessica Beliveau)


Write a story based on this photo.

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Grace Safford]


Write a letter to the president. Tell him one thing you want him to do – and why.


(Artist credit:​ Denys Almaral)


Turn around ...

You answer your phone and a voice whispers, "Turn around..." What happens?


(Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Will Barr)

Photo 2 — Friends

Write about the friendship between these two leaves, both fallen, but one wrinkled and crumpled, the other still vibrant and colorful.

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Tapan Napal]

Social media

Imagine if all social media -- Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etc.  -- shut down. Would that be a good thing or a bad thing? How would it affect your life?


(Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Mikayla LeBlanc)


New Year's Wish

What are some of your hopes and wishes for the coming year? Write of an intention for good or change in yourself or for others. 

Humor would be nice, too.



You see a set of mysterious footprints leading from the woods behind your house and down your street. You follow them. What happens?

[YWP Photo Library; Photo by Grace Safford]


Find a piece of writing you like on YWP. Create a piece of art — a drawing, a photo, a painting, — based on that piece. Include a link to the piece that inspired you. (And send a comment to the author to let them know.)

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Shannon Ripp]


What is the one thing you think everyone should do at least once in their life? Write from your own experience or research.

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Grace Safford]



Don’t run with scissors. Don’t chew with your mouth open. Don’t talk to strangers. What is another “don’t” tip that you learned -- and maybe you learned it the hard way? Describe.

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Grace Safford]


Look out your window. Describe what you see. Now include a person or an animal wandering through the scene. How does the landscape shift? What do you see and sense?

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Grace Safford]


Write a rant about the weirdest fad of 2017. 

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Grace Safford]


Go without your phone for 24 hours. Reflect on your experience.

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Grace Safford]

I Like

Starting with the phrase, “I like…” write a list or a run-on sentence of things, people, places you like. Load on the description. Instead of “I like movies,” expand on it -- “I like watching scary movies late at night with a bowl of salty popcorn and my buddy Chump at my side.”

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Shannon Ripp]


If you could be a kid forever, would you be? Why or why not? What would it be like to be in “kid-ville” forever? Describe.

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Shannon Ripp]


You find a lost dog. Write about the journey you take to get it back to its home. What are your thoughts as you get to know the dog?  Does your relationship with the dog change as you travel together? What happens?

[YWP Photo Library; Photo by Grace Safford]
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Write a dramatic poem, dialogue or humor piece about the conversation between these cows.

[YWP Library; Photo by Grace Safford]

Photo 7 - Crowd

How do you stand out from the crowd? Write from the perspective of the red-headed pin in this photo. 

[YWP Photo Library; Photo by Grace Safford]


Write a Valentine's Day poem to a pet. Let the little critter know how much they mean to you. Post a picture of the pet with your poem.

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Grace Safford]


Write a love poem without mentioning the word “love.”

[Photo Credit: Sheila on Moonducks, Creative Commons License]

I Am

Start or end a piece of writing with the phrase, "I am the one who ... ", to describe who you are, what you love, what you dream of, etc. 


[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Shannon Ripp]


Make a list of words that could be turned into puns (words with several meanings or words that sound similar but have different meanings.) For instance, ‘olive’ becomes ‘all of,’ or ‘I love.’ Have fun with it. Put your best puns together in a poem. 

[YWP Photo Library; Photo by Shannon Ripp] 



Write a poem using a forest as a metaphor for either confusion or indecision. 

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Shannon Ripp]

Photo 6 - Recurring

A character keeps seeing this image in their dreams. Why? Does this place exist somewhere? Does it have special meaning to this character? Does your character have to go and find it? What happens? 
[YWP Photo Library; Photo by Harlie Johnson]



Research historical events that happened on your birthday, or in your birth year. Write from the perspective of someone who experienced the event.

[YWP Photo Library; Photo by Grace Safford]


America today. Look at the people, events and issues we are facing now. Draw on inspiration from the life, works and values of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to write, compare, suggest a path forward. Or just rant.
#mlk #voices4change


Write one sentence that describes the sky today. Add a photo!


Write about the first time you tried something new – a food, a sport, a language, an idea, a ride at the fair. What did you discover?
[Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, Madeline Reed]


Take five lines from books in your house, or five of your favorite quotes, and use them to make a poem. List the books or the origins of your quotes at the bottom of your piece. [Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library]

An ode to words ...

Take a view of this and then write something in which you appreciate the words you choose, play with the words, have fun with the words, make them sing.


Photo 5 — Collage

Create a collage like this one of you or a friend doing an activity involving your hands, such as knitting, drawing, cooking, playing catch, etc.

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Mya Dusablon]


Who is one of your most interesting relatives? Famous or infamous? Well-known or unknown? Go digging for a good family story.

[Photo Credit: YWP photo Library, photo by Shannon Ripp]


Editor's Note: We've extended this a week for all of you who haven't gotten your submissions in!

Tell a story about your experience of winter in short descriptive poetry or prose. Be original. Avoid cliches, (please, no hot chocolate, no sleigh bells). The best will be selected for presentation by the Vermont Stage Company at its annual Winter Tales production at FlynnSpace in Burlington in December.

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo...


Start your story with the line, “It was a beautiful morning and nothing was wrong.”

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Grace Safford]


Write about what it’s like to lose a longtime friend. How does it happen? Where do you go from here? Real or imagined. No names, please!

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Grace Safford]


Find out what this word means and how it was used in ancient Egypt. Create your own poem or story using the word ogdoad.
[Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, Grace Safford]


You feeling lucky? Go to http://www.myfortunecookie.co.uk/ and "open your cookie."

Tell us what your fortune says and us it to write a story, a poem, a rant, a lament. Whatever. Just go with what you're given.

Good luck!



If you can, visit an apple orchard. Take photos and breathe in the apple air! Post your photos as a slideshow. Write a poem about the experience.
[Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, Grace Safford]


Where do you see the greatest opportunity to create peace in your community or the world? Write an essay or poem about what you can do to promote peace. This challenge is part of Peace Day, Sept. 21. More info:http://www.peaceoneday.org. Also click here to see what Vergennes Union High School does on Peace Day!
[Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Jonathan Palmer]...


What is a fear you have that is sure to make people say, “That’s weird.” Write an example of how the fear has played out – or could play out – for you.
[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, Christi Tassie]



Your friend dares you to enter the creepy house at the end of the street. You enter, and inside, you find something that you least expected. Tell the story.
[Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Will Barr]


Rant about the worst haircut you’ve ever gotten. What did you do about it?

(Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang, YWP Photoshop)

My Vermont


Write a personal, true story about an experience, person or place that defines your Vermont. The best stories will be submitted to Vermont Life magazine and, if accepted, you will receive an offer of payment and be scheduled for publication. Word count: 300-750 words. 


Today, your usual way to school is unavailable, and you really need to get there! It’s up to you to find an alternative. Write about your experience traveling by foot, bicycle, school bus, city bus, pony, skateboard (anything other than a car). What and who do you see along the way? How is it different from your usual trip? Do you learn something cool or surprising? Real or imagined.
Vermont writers! Bonus: Your stories will be considered for publication to...


If you had to give up seeing one color, which color would it be and why?

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Grace Safford]


Share the best advice you've ever received — or figured out yourself — about performing. [Photo Credit: Beverly Gartland]


You have developed an odd but somewhat useful superpower. Maybe you have the superpower to never get bug bites, or you have the power to predict traffic jams, or the power to clean your room by blinking three times. What would your odd superpower be?

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Evan Friedman]


State of the Union

President Donald Trump delivered his State of the Union address. What did you think? What did you like? dislike? What did you think was missing? Write something. We want to know what you think. We want to know how the speech made you feel.