Without the distraction of color, black-and-white photos can be compelling images. In tones of gray, ranging from white to dark, capture a mood or tell a story through photos. [Challenge inspired by laurenm’s photos above.]


Look into this animal's eyes (drawing by YWP's Kitkat). What is he thinking as he looks back at you? Write his internal dialogue.


[Challenge by A Sports Person; photo by Floris Andrea, Unsplash]
In the next 100 years what will the world be like? Will things change or stay the same? Write about what you think life will be like in 100 plus years.


[Photo credit: Samantha Sophia, Unsplash]
America has seen an alarming rise in mass shootings, but efforts at gun control run into strong opposition. What is the way forward?


[Photo credit: Shane Rounce, Unsplash]
What or who are you most grateful for? Write a thank you note, a poem of appreciation, or a gratitude list.


It has been said that, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Think of something big you would like to accomplish, and write about the first step.
[Photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by Fiona Goodman


[Photo: laurenm, YWP]
Grab your camera and get very close to your subject – such as laurenm's raindrops on a stem, above. Experiment! Try different lighting, different angles for your photo creations and post them here!


[Illustration credit: Vivien Sorce, YWP]
Describe what feels like "home" to you. What do you appreciate about it? What makes it yours? This could be a favorite place, such as your house, a natural setting, your town, rural road, your state, or it could be the people in your life – your family, friends, community, team.


Someone wants to tell you something “because you’re the only one who will understand.” Tell us the story. Are you simply known as a great listener? Do they seek your advice in solving a delicate problem? Include the outcome of the interaction by the story’s end. [Photo credit: Emiliano Vittoriosi, Unsplash]


Choose one (or more) of the prompts below as a jumping off point for a free-write about you. 
  • I am the one who...
  • This I believe...
  • Myself, when I am real...
  • I like...
[Photo credit: YWP Media Library, illustration by Tess LaLonde]

John Lewis

[Photo credit: Sam Falk/The New York Times, 1967]
Civil rights leader and Georgia Congressman John Lewis (2/21/40-7/17/20) believed in "good trouble, necessary trouble" to fight injustice, create change – and "redeem the soul of America" through civil rights, voting rights, gun control,...


[Credit: Nam Hoang, Unsplash]
COVID-19 has taken away our regular routines. We miss alot of things. Many of them we took for granted. Sprouting from the poem, I miss...by E.B. Pointy-Pen, write about what you are missing.



The climate IS changing. Take a look at this remarkable movie for glacial evidence: Chasing Ice. And from Medium.com's magazine Matter: City of Ash by Paolo Bacigalupi, Table of Contents by Choire Sicha, and...



Write about a person who has to make a choice — they are at a fork in the road somehow. Why do they choose one thing, and leave the other behind?
[Photo credit: YWP Media Library, illustration by Tess LaLonde]


The concept of a “life remote” has been explored a number of times in movies, TV shows, and books over the years. If you could, what would you do with a device that allowed you to pause, fast-forward, rewind, or otherwise experiment with reality as it corresponds to a button? [Photo credit: Erik Mclean, Unsplash]


[Photo: Manan Chhabra, Unsplash]
Think about a habit you’ve tried to leave behind – and fictionalize it. Write about a character's struggles with this habit, expanding on their thought process as they try to quit. Consider possible roadblocks along the way as well as the benefits of relinquishing this behavior.


[Challenge by Adelle Brunstad; photo by Calle Macaron, Unsplash]
Draw a cartoon that captures a funny, sad, or everyday moment or feeling that you think others could relate to as we all live through COVID-19 and social distancing. 


One of the keys to happiness is to nurture feelings of gratitude. Write a poem or short essay about a person, place or thing that makes you especially grateful.
[Unsplash, photo by Simon Maage]


[Photo: Courtney Lamdin, Seven Days]
PCBs, not COVID, have shut down Burlington High School for the semester. If you're a student at BHS – or from another school where the school experience has been as weird as the times we're living right now, write about it!...


[Photo credits: Marius Ciocirlan and Taylor Friehl, Unsplash]
The setting of any piece of writing can have a major impact on its overall tone. Choose a seasonal location that invokes the general mood of fall or winter, such as a pumpkin patch or skating pond. In this piece, include details such as weather, hours of daylight, holidays that help describe the seasonal setting, etc. ...

Tell it!

Choose an issue that really matters to you -- and write it! Don't stop to fix spelling or grammar. Get all your thoughts out. Shout it as you write. Who's your audience? Tell them exactly what you think! Record it and post it here.
[Photo by Melany Rochester, Unsplash]


“That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.” (Emily Dickinson) In honor of the poet's birthday this week (Dec. 10, 1830), think about her words, and write your own appreciation of life, and living in the here and now. [Photo credit: Emily Dickinson, The Morgan Library & Museum]


[Credit: Kevin Huang, YWP Photo Archive]
Write about your community. It could be a straight descriptive piece, a personal reflection, or an opinionated commentary. What do you like about it? What works; what doesn't? What would make you want to stay or leave?


Take a photo of your favorite food. Arrange it professionally, as Cloudkitty does in this photo, Garden Board, or just the way you like to eat it – a messy PB and J sandwich or a sloppy bowl of spaghetti.


Take a moment to interpret the meaning of the sign in this photo by (Carter Devenney, Essex High School). Does it apply to your own life, reminding you of something you’ve always intended to try? Or does it apply to the state of the world? Climate change? What does the sign make you think of?


[Photo by cedar, YWP]
Describe a place (a river valley, a mountain path, a beach) where you feel at peace. Why does this place speak to you? Share a photo if you can.


[Photo by Frank Albrecht on Unsplash]
Is health care a human right, as many argue, or is it more of an individual responsibility that each person should figure out on their own?


What gives you so much joy that you cannot help but dance in response to it, even if only for a moment? If you prefer not to focus on yourself, write about a character who experiences something so unexpectedly wonderful that they find themselves twirling. Bonus points for describing the moves! [Photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by Crescent_Moon]


Write about a person who is shy, and how they decide one day that they are OK with that.
[Photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by Delaney Harrison]


[Photo: Toni Morrison by Damon Winter/The New York Times/Redux]
Think of a writer you love and some memorable dialogue the writer has created. Inspired by the writer's style, create your own dialogue. Don't overthink, just write. Have fun. More on this challenge here.


[Photo credit: Lia Chien, YWP]
What is one issue that really matters to you, globally, nationally or locally? What keeps you up at night? How does this issue affect your vision of the future? What message would you like to send to decision-makers? What do they need to know? How could this issue be solved? Topics could include climate change; social justice issues of race, gender, economic disparity; a divided nation; gun...


You're in a hurry so you take a shortcut down an alley you’ve passed by many times. Halfway along, you see someone or something unexpected – not something dangerous or frightening, but surprising and intriguing … What happens? [Photo credit: Jorge Gardner, Unsplash]


Tell a story in which the wind, or maybe just a breeze, plays a critical role.
[Photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by Fiona Goodman]


[Photo: Joshua Hoehne, Unsplash]
Begin or end a poem or story with this phrase: “Don’t lie; I know it was you.”



Write your own fable. Keep it short, but include the essential ingredients (non-human characters, conflict that leads to a moral, etc.)
Essential ingredients
1: Your moral. What message are you trying to tell? What wrong are you trying to right?
2: Your characters. Who are they? What are they?
3: What conflict arises?
4: What setting are you in? (You don't always need to describe it, unless it is relevant to the plot.)



Graphic Story

[Coons by cedar, YWP]
Join YWP's cedar to create an online graphic story. The general theme is the surprising friendship of polar opposites. It could be between two people, animals, objects or plants -- or between an animal and a tree, a person and a kettle, etc. You could continue the story of cedar's coons or introduce a new set of characters. Let your...


Write a short piece in the style of an author or poet you admire. Include the name of your inspiration.


Write about a friendship that begins in a unique or unusual setting and tell how the setting helps bind the two people together, i.e. near the pineapple display in the grocery store, on a leaky boat in the lake, flying in a hot air balloon...
[Photo credit: YWP Media Library, illustration by Connor Byam]


What is one thing you wish people would stop assuming about you, and why? How would you change their minds, if you were pressed to, or how have you learned to shake off their misguided judgments? [Challenge created by Treblemaker, YWP; Photo credit: Tommy van Kessel, Unsplash]


The sky is blue, the temperature is just right, and the birds are singing above. You lay out a blanket by your favorite tree and look up to watch the clouds. This is your view. Where does your mind drift off to? [Photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by Alessandra G.]

Character 1: Brainstorm

Whether you're writing a script for a play, short story or a novel, it is important to have well-developed characters and an intriguing plot. Let's start brainstorming around characters.
  • Think of your favorite books and movies. Why do you like your favorite character? Why does the storyline really grip you? The answers to these questions should help you create your own story.
  • Create a list of responses to these prompts: I am fascinated by people who…OR If you already have...


Describe yourself in exactly 15 words — no more, no less. A sentence or list.
[Unsplash, photo by K. Mitch Hodge]


[Illustration: Bijou Karman, The Atlantic]
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died at 87 on Sept. 18, spent her life fighting for equality for all Americans. How will you carry on RBG's fight? And/or what does her loss mean for the Supreme Court and the 2020 election? [See Ruth Bader...


You are the country mouse who has never ventured beyond your own rural community, but out of necessity, you must travel to the city for the first time. Describe the experience – sights, sounds, smells, mishaps and misunderstandings, delights and fears. [Illustrations by cedar, YWP]


[Photos and challenge by Erin Bundock, YWP alumna]
Tonal contrast -- the difference between the brightest highlight and the darkest low-light -- can make dramatic photos. Try taking photos of objects using high contrast lighting -- the whitest whites and the darkest blacks all contained in one space. Post at least four photos in a slideshow. Need some tips?...

CJP-Photo Essay2

[An artist's workspace, by YWP's cedar]
Create a photo essay of a specific place either in your community or your home that is meaningful to you. Along with the photos, write a short commentary that identifies the place and explains why it matters. 


Go to one of your most cherished places and show – through a photo or series of photos – why it is so special to you. [Photo credit: Crescent_Moon, YWP]

Still LIfe

Collect a few nearby household/everyday objects you frequently use or find interesting in some way, and arrange them for a photo or drawing (inspired by YWP's Kitkat). What do the objects you choose say about you and your life, or a new character’s? Post the photo or drawing. Write an accompanying poem, story or personal essay if you're inspired!


[Photo: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post]
"There are many horrors in American racial history but also some powerful inspiration," writes columnist Michael Gerson (Washington Post, June 8, 2020). "It is extraordinary that a group of people who came to our country in chains came to understand the essence of Christianity and the essence of our country far better than their oppressors. You might even call it providential....


President Trump wants to repeal the asylum law, which allows immigrants to come to the United States, seek asylum, and wait for their case to be heard. Is he right? Or should the law stand?


Write about a character who has a secret, or about a secret you once held and later revealed. [Challenge created by Crescent_Moon; photo credit: Sai De Silva, Unsplash]


Mystique is defined as "a fascinating aura of mystery, awe, and power surrounding someone or something." Write about a person, place, object, building, sports team, work of art — anything that seems to have a mystique.
[Photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by Bri Lancaster]


[Photo: Edwin Hooper, Unsplash]
Use the phrase on the marquee in this photo, "The world is temporarily closed," in a story or poem. Write about the current pandemic if you want or take your piece in a completely different direction.


[Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash]
Society's expectations can be overwhelming at times. What has been your experience? Any suggestions for lifting this weight?


Write about a character who switches bodies with someone else, much like the mother and daughter in the movie "Freaky Friday." What has made this possible? If it was a conscious decision, who did they switch with and why? How do the two characters come together, if at all? Are they switched back? [Photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by Anna]


[Photo credit: Lia Chien, YWP]
Simplicity, observation, imagination. The time is right for haiku!

  • A short form of poetry adapted from Japanese tradition
  • Often, but not always, based on observations of the natural world, explaining a small moment
  • Consisting of three lines of 5, 7, 5 syllables. A syllable generally corresponds to a single vowel sound within a...


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 from the YWP archive, so you might see some responses from past years. Sprout from any of these if they move you!
[Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Jonathan Palmer]


Stashed. In some schools it’s a tradition to leave behind hidden messages (stashed in library books, for example) for the next generation of students. What advice would you give to the students coming up behind you? (Imagine the note you would leave -- if COVID hadn't closed your school this year.)
[Unsplash, photo by Noemi Macavei-Katocz]


[Photo credit: Samur Isma, Unsplash]
It’s never too early to write your bucket list! Pick one thing from your list to elaborate on. Reveal its importance to you and a way to achieve it. If you’re stuck, think about countries to visit, future creative accomplishments, or wild experiences like bungee jumping!


[Photo credit: Matt Howard, Unsplash]
This is it – you’ve made it. Through more trials and tribulations and blisters than you can count, you’ve traversed a hundred miles and now reached the end of your journey. Why have you come, and what or who is waiting for you?


Write about a time when you rely on an animal for comfort. Does the animal just know that you need help? What does it do? (Can be real or fiction.)
[YWP photo library, photo by Abigail Kirby] 

Character 2: Develop

Answer the following questions to create profiles of each character:
1. Who are your characters?  
2. What do your characters want in their lives? What are their needs? Wishes? Dreams?
3. What are your characters' hatreds and loves?
4. How do these characters spend their time?
5. Where do you see these characters? What is the setting (time and place)?  
6. What are some physical characteristics of the characters: age, facial features, style of clothes, eating...


Imagine for a moment, if you can, that our society was without speech. Using inspiration from dance or pantomime, write a story or poem about a “conversation” between two people expressed solely through the movements of face or body.
[Unsplash, photo by Kirstina Flour]


[Photo: Doug Mills, New York Times]
Did you watch last night's first presidential debate? Thoughts on the candidates, their positions, and the tenor of the debate? How would you rate it on a scale of 0-5?


You are weaving a beautiful fabric to make into a garment for yourself. Your loom can weave with any substance you wish: the sneeze of an ant, the roar of a river, the fog of London. What would you include in your fabric, and why? What strengths or symbolism would these materials hold for you? [Challenge created by Treblemaker; photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by amaryllis]


[Photos and challenge by Erin Bundock, YWP alumna]
Set the mood with low-key lighting. Post your photos in a slideshow or post one photo and write a short story or poem inspired by the photo. Need tips? Check out this article.

Understanding Character-Monologue

Choose one of the prompts below and write as though your character is talking to him/herself or writing in a journal or diary. Take a moment to get into the mindset of the character. Set a timer and write for seven minutes.
Prompts: No one really knows me...
I'm the one who...
I'm only really myself when...

Return to Workshop-Understanding Character for the next challenge!


[Credit: Kevin Huang, YWP Photo Archive]
Is anyone listening? Send an urgent message about climate change so people will sit up and pay attention.


Weather as a topic of small talk or awkward conversation is a well-known cliché. Incorporate weather into the dialogue of two or more characters in a way that signifies it as the supremely serious subject driving the interaction. Alternatively, write a poem about weather in a grave or reverent tone. [Photo credit: Vicarious, YWP]


Write a short story or poem inspired by one or both of these paintings — Portrait of a Young Woman (attributed to Jean-Étienne Liotard, c. late 1700s) and/or Girl with a Pearl Earring (Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665). What are they about to say? Who are they?


[Photo: Minneapolis, 6/5/20, Victor J. Blue/The New York Times]
Support for the Black Lives Matter movement has leaped forward since the death of George Floyd in police custody on May 25 ("Public Opinion Rarely Moves Fast, but It Has on Black Lives Matter," New York...


Is justice blind? What influences come into play in the justice system? How could the system be made more fair?
[Photo by Claire Anderson on Unsplash]


Imagine you are talking to the coronavirus (hypothetically, you know, if a disease could talk). What would you say to it? [Challenge created by NiñaEstrella; photo credit: United Nations COVID-19 Response, Unsplash]


Sit still in a quiet place with your eyes closed for five minutes, and try to empty your mind of any thoughts. Does one thought keep pushing its way through? Vent about it or use it as inspiration to write. 
[Photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by Marina Sprague]


[Photo: Crescent_Moon, YWP]
Along their course, many waterfalls dip over a ledge that leaves a small chamber of air behind them. Some seek out these places intentionally, finding symbolism in the experience of passing through the sheet of water into another world or state of being. If you were to walk behind a waterfall (like this one captured by Crescent_Moon), what do you...

MLK's Message

Civil Rights Leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sought to guide us to a more just America. Respond to Dr. King's message of love and equality as it relates to America now: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." (Strength to Love, 1963)


Imagine a scenario in which you or a character must make a tough decision between right and wrong. While the angel on one side of your shoulder is pushing you toward the obvious moral, humane action, the devil on the other side is countering every word and tempting you to put yourself first. Describe the story. [Photo credit: Vladislav Babienko, Unsplash]


[Photo credit: Ryan Johns, Unsplash]
List five things you have discovered about yourself recently.

YWP is...

The Challenge: "YWP is ..." what?  Finish the sentence. Tell us how YWP affects your life, what you like about it, what it means to you. Thanks!


A sunshower is a meteorological event in which rain falls while the sun is shining. Cultures around the world refer to this event by remarkably similar names, many of them related to folklore of trickster animals getting married. Write your own folk tale that place during a sunshower.
[Unsplash, photo by Loren Gu]


[Photo credit: Marco Mons, Unsplash]
Write a persuasive argument about the existence of extraterrestrials and/or their past visitations to Earth. Be as descriptive and specific as possible. What do they look like? Where have they visited? How do you know this?


Watch the sunset at dusk and write a poem, take pictures, or create a piece of art inspired by it, rendering as much vivid description or detail as possible. [Challenge created by Cloudkitty; photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by Vicarious]


What is the happiest you’ve ever been? How did it feel to be in that moment? Reflect and try to describe the sensation and the experience.
[YWP photo library, illustration by mythicalquill] 

Character 3: Dialogue

Based on the first two sections of this workshop, let's get the characters talking. Imagine that two (or more) of your characters find themselves together in a setting of your choice. Remaining true to each character's personality/interests/needs, what would they say to each other in this situation? Would one would dominate the conversation? Would one be funny? Boastful? Anxious? Deceptive? Show who they are through their dialogue. Don't overthink and write quickly to capture the mood.


These days, especially, the everyday potential for miscommunication is high. Write a humorous piece about a major misunderstanding that occurs over text or email, and include the moment both parties realize their error.
[Unsplash, photo by Pongsawat Pasom]


We're in the final stretch before the Nov. 3 election. Speak out on the issues, the...


Write a love story, real or imagined, told through poetry or short fiction. [Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia, Unsplash]


Look at the photo examples in this challenge. Each one evokes a setting. Take your own photo of an inspiring setting -- so inspiring that writers will want to write about it! Post your photo(s).

Understanding Character-Bedroom

A character's (or a person's) bedroom often reveals quite a bit about who that person is, on a deep level. Let's explore the bedroom of your character, to get a feel for what is important to them.
Step 1: Imagine you are standing in your character's bedroom. What do you see? Make a list. Include posters that might be on the walls, photos around the room, furniture. Is there a bulletin board and if so, what's on it? Open drawers in the desk or dresser and look at what's inside. Find a...


Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said in an interview that Emma Lazarus’s words on the Statue of Liberty should read, “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.” If you could respond directly to Cuccinelli, what would you say?


The classic "Frog and Toad" series by Arnold Lobel is an enduring tale of friendship and acceptance. Imagine a story of friendship between seeming opposites – a hippo and a snake? desert sand and a polar ice cap? fire and rain, etc. [Photo credit: laurenm]


Do you live near mountains (like Lincoln Peak by YWP's Love to write)? Or maybe you've had a chance to travel to mountains. Write a story that involves mountains, your experience in them, or as a setting for a tale. If possible, take photos of the mountains and post them with your writing.


[Washington, DC, June 6, 2020. Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images]
Liberty and justice for all. These words in the Pledge of Allegiance hold the promise of hope and change. How can the promise become reality?


[Photo credit: Daniel Foster on Unsplash]
Looking at potential candidates for the November 2020 presidential election, which one are you most impressed with? Why?


What sounds like music to you? Waves crashing on a beach? Rap? A mourning dove in the evening? A symphony? Is there a kind of music that fills you up and just makes you want to dance or makes you feel content? Write about the music that is special to you. [Challenge created by EverlastingWaves; Photo credit: Kevin Huang, YWP Media Library]


A small carnival rolls into town unexpectedly, causing an excited stir – but something doesn’t feel right to you. What’s going on behind the scenes?
[Photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by Sam Aikman]


[Photo: Debby Hudson, Unsplash]
Do you remember the first author or poet who made you stop and think, “Huh, maybe I’d like to be a writer someday too.” Why did they inspire you? Was it the beauty and fluidity of their language, or the honesty of their message, or the perfect rise and fall of their storytelling style, or…? Write about the experience.


[Photo credit: Mya Dusablon, YWP Photo Archive]
In the context of America today in 2020, and your place in the world, begin a poem or story with the words, If I could ...


End a poem or story with this inspiring quote from late author Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.: “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” [Photo credit: Kurt Vonnegut, Common Dreams]


[Illustration by mythicalquill, YWP]
Document one day of your "social distancing" life in photos. Make a slideshow on your blog: Add Media > Advanced upload. Add words if you like.

Dear America

[Illustration credit: sophie.d]
To mark the Fourth of July, write a letter, a poem, a song, a rant, a plea to this land. Begin with Dear America ... (This challenge was first published on this site last year. See the responses from 2018, and sprout from them or start your own 2019 version.)



Within a poem or short story, personify a character as a natural disaster (think mudslides, tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc.). How does this geographical/climatic event reflect their worst traits, or even their whole personality?
[Unsplash, photo by NASA]


What we said and did that day was unbelievable. Incorporate this phrase in a poem or story, at the beginning, middle, or end. [Challenge created by Pepperoni, YWP; photo credit: Georgina Vigliecca, Unsplash]


Take a fleeting thought, or one you have dwelt on before from time to time, and wax philosophic about it. The question you ask yourself can be frivolous, solemn, or anything in between! Check out this list of popular philosophical topics to ponder if none readily come to you: https://philosophy.hku.hk/think/phil/101q.php [Photo credit: Giammarco Boscaro, Unsplash]


Write a poem about the ferocity of a thunderstorm. Use onomatopoeia sounds to convey the thunder, lightning, and rain.
[Unsplash, photo by Lucien Kolly] 

Character 4: Setting

Where do you see your characters in this story? What is the setting (time & place)?
  • If you have trouble visualizing the setting, look for a photo that best captures where you imagine your characters to be.
  • What are the main characteristics of this place?
  • What is its name? Real or imagined?
  • Do your characters live there, or are they just passing through?
  • What do your characters do there?
  • Remain true to the characters you've developed.


You've been planning a surprise party for someone special for months, and so far, you've been able to keep the secret. But on the morning of the party, something unexpected happens to threaten the surprise. Try to tell the story through dialogue. [Challenge by Kittykatruff]
[Unsplash, photo by Eliott Reyna]


How do you think the news that President Trump has the coronavirus will affect the Nov. 3 election and/or the way America views the pandemic?


Have you ever had the same dream twice? Write about a dream that keeps recurring time and again, either in your own life or in a character’s. Is there any special meaning to be derived from its repeated appearance? Interpret the dream through poetry or prose. [Photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by laurenm]


[Challenge by Erin Bundock, YWP alumna]
Depth of field describes how much of a picture is in focus. With shallow depth of field, only a small portion of space is in focus. Wide depth of field involves a larger in-focus space. Experiment with both and post your favorites.

Understanding Character-Dialogue

We can learn a lot about a character through their interactions with other characters: what they say, how they say it, and what is said to them. Let's explore our characters by delving into a dialogue with another character. Characters reveal themselves by their actions and by their interactions with others. We find out more about them by what (and how) they say to others AND by what others say to them. In this exercise you will start out writing a dialogue in play form (i.e. Character 1: blah...


[Photo credit: Damon Winter/The New York Times]
Toni Morrison, the first African-American woman to win the Nobel in Literature, once said, “In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.” Expand on Morrison's thought.


“I love the light this time of day,” she said. Use this sentence in a poem or story; and/or – if you are able to capture it – take a photo of the slanting rays of the sun in the late afternoon. [Photo credit: Marina2020, YWP]


Study the seven mice of this illustration by YWP's cedar, then choose one as the narrator of a fantastical poem or story about the mischief they get up to.

Antonio Gwynn

Antonio Gwynn Jr., 18, a high school senior, had marched for hours in downtown Buffalo to protest the killing of George Floyd. Early the next morning, he was shocked to learn the peaceful streets had turned violent after he left, with windows smashed and protesters reporting they'd been hit by police rubber bullets. “I was sad to watch all of that. There was a huge mess downtown,” said Gwynn. “I thought, ‘I should go out there and clean it all up.’" And so he did, with a broom and dustpan. Read...


Imagine that you are in charge of campaigning for a fair minimum wage. What hourly wage would you seek and how would you persuade people to support it?


There is music in words and rhyming poetry helps us appreciate that. Try an end rhyme, rhyming the final syllables of each line in a pattern such as ABBA BCCB, or make up your own rhyme scheme. Read Treblemaker’s poem, “Four AM,” and hear her talk with eyesofIris on Line Break Episode 19 about rhyming poetry. [Photo credit: Kevin Haung, YWP Media Library]


School has ended for the summer -- and (wishful thinking!) the coronavirus lockdowns have been lifted. A good friend invites you on a spontaneous road trip. Where do you go, and why? What problems or surprises do you encounter along the way?
[Photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by ​Kaidin Aviles]

Photo Perspective

[Photo: Darwin Bell, flickr]
A photographer's perspective can create dramatic results.Try experimenting on your next photo shoot. Get in close. Shoot from below or on high. Think of shapes, patterns, and lines. Zero in on one aspect of your subject, such as the blue window on the red wall in the photo above. Be aware of the lighting and composition. Share your art here!


[Photo credit: Linus Nylund, Unsplash]
Skip forward 10 years. What is happening in 2030? In the world, America, or your community? Where do you fit into the picture?


Revisit something you entertained yourself with as a kid, such as a movie, book, cartoon, or board game. How does it make you feel, now that you’re older? Whether it stirs up pleasant memories or leaves you feeling cold, write about the experience. [Photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by Cloudkitty]

Teacher Appreciation

Take a moment today to reflect on the unprecedented challenges your teachers are facing during the pandemic as they must pivot to provide learning online -- while they're learning how to do it themselves. Write a poem of appreciation, share a funny anecdote, or show an example of why you're grateful for your teacher(s).
[Challenge suggested by Adelle M. Brunstad, YWP alumna. Photo: Jony Ariadi, Unsplash]



Imagine that you have built a small raft, and decide to float down a river one day. Describe the people you come across, what you see around you, what insights you gain by the end of the day.
[Unsplash, photo by Bill Anderson-Blough]


When Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993, she was honored for the “visionary force and poetic import” of her novels through which she “gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.” In honor of Morrison's birthday this week (02/18/31), take some time to get to know – or read again – this iconic novelist of the Black experience with such award-winners as “Song of Solomon” and “Beloved.” If you're inspired, share your thoughts about Toni Morrison's...


Imagine yourself as an animal living in the wild, apart from humans, and write about your experience of everyday survival from their perspective. What are the biggest threats to your existence? What are the advantages and joys of seeing the world in this new way? If you’re stuck, try writing through a pet’s eyes. [Challenge created by Catbatgirl; photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by JhermayneU]


Write about a time when you loved and hated someone or something at the same time. Describe the conflicting emotions you felt in this confusing situation.
[YWP photo library, photo by Elizabeth Goodrich] 

Character 5: Conflict

Now is the time to begin formulating your complete story. To get the story going with energy, start writing at the climax of the story.
  • What is the conflict between the characters? A conflict can also be between a character and themselves, or between a person and nature. Let's make this one person to person.
  • How does this conflict grow?
  • How does it finally “explode” between the characters?
Try to write about something unexpected happening.


Describe a character who feels like they are carrying a heavy burden of some kind, but then they figure out a way forward that will ease their journey.
[Unsplash, photo by Mantas Heasthaven]


[Photo: Washington Post]
Some things are just funny. And you can't make them up. Like the fly that landed on Vice President Mike Pence's head (and stayed there for over two minutes) during the VP debate with Kamala Harris, Oct. 7. Write an ode to the fly.



[Photo credit: YWP Media Library]

Feeling adventurous, you and your family veer off your usual hiking trail one day to explore the surrounding woods. It’s not long before one of you spots something strange: a small wooden trunk peeking out of the mud. Finish the story.



[Challenge created by Erin Bundock, YWP alumna; photos from Photograhpy Mad]
With photos, it's important not only to think about what your subject is, but how it interacts with the space around it visually. Is there something in the background, or is it a solid color? What's the shape of the space surrounding your subject? In the simplest terms, positive space is your subject, and the...

Understanding Character-Thoughts

Dialogue is a great entry point into your character's attitudes and thoughts. Let's take it a step further, and think about what was going on in their head throughout this encounter.

Go back to the dialogue you created in the previous challenge, Understanding Character-Dialogue. Copy the text into your response here, and add some thoughts the two characters are having. Focus on what your character was thinking; the reactions, reasoning, emotions--anything....


[Photo credit: Abriatis, YWP Photo Archive]
Many of America's rural areas are struggling with such issues as economic decline and loss of population. Is this happening in your community? What can be done?


In photos and/or words, celebrate the color green. [Photo credit: YWP Media Library, lia.chien]


One of the most universal human experiences, across all cultures and times, is the sense of being lost. Write about your own experience of being lost (how it happened, what it felt like, and how you found your way out) or from the perspective of the person in this photo by YWP's lia.chien


[Harmony Edosomwan, Montpelier, June 7. Photo: Mike Dougherty/VTDigger]
Would your community or school be safer or less safe if there were fewer police officers and that funding was diverted to more social services? Since George Floyd's death under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25, this is the debate around the nation including at Burlington city council (...


[Photo by Ruth Enyedi on Unsplash]
Student debt has become an issue in the presidential campaign. Some people say it is burdening an entire generation and needs to be written off by the government. Others say it favors those who already have the advantage of a college education. What do you think?


Photograph – or depict in your own art form – anything that makes you laugh. Beneath the image, write a caption to depict what is going on. [Photo credit: Jude Beck, Unsplash]


Write a poem or story that features a starry night and a surprising discovery. 
[Photo credit: YWP Media Library, illustration by Katelyn Brown]

Poetry or Prose-2020

[Photo: Austin Schmid, Unsplash]
In poetry or prose, fiction or nonfiction, share your thoughts and observations. Describe an adventure. Tell a story. Let the words flow in any form you choose from free verse to narrative prose. Due Aug. 7. Prizes – 1st: $75; 2nd: $50; 3rd: $25. Back to main page for more details.

CJP-Trump's Words

[Photo credit: Daniel Minarik, Unsplash]
The president’s rhetoric has changed the way hundreds of children are harassed in American classrooms, The Washington Post reports in an investigative piece published Feb. 13, 2020. Read the story, Trump’s words, bullied...


While out with friends at the local comedy club, one of them insists it’s your night to shine and pushes you up onto the stage. What’s your set? Choose a topic to focus on and write a series of original jokes to unleash your inner funny! Remember to stay respectful of others and use appropriate language. [Photo credit: Frederick Tubiermont, Unsplash]

Spirit Lifters

Marina2020's town, Chelsea, VT, is spreading sunshine. JoToy is sending neighbors little handmade cards. If you or your community are doing a project to lift people's spirits during the pandemic, share the story here -- in photos or words or both!


Tell the story of a character who is forced to be their own support system. Write from their perspective before, during, or after the pivotal event. 
[Photo by Kevin Huang, YWP Photo Library]


Write a poem, story, or essay related to the word “letter.” [Challenge created by Doctor Who; Photo credi: Andrew Buchanan, Unsplash]


“In turbulent times, books are tools that help people navigate the world around them. Intellectual freedom and access to information uplift people in crisis and during more peaceful times,” says the Banned Books Week Coalition. Speak out about your right to read during Banned Books Week, September 27 – October 3, 2020! For more information, visit bannedbooksweek.org....


Do you love an item that is typically considered “junk” like an old tire or a rusty wagon? Why do you find meaning in this item?
[YWP photo library, photo by Brooke Fontaine] 

Character 6: Final

You've worked hard to get to this point. Congratulations! Take some time to review your notes on brainstorming and developing the characters and setting.
You may want to start an entirely new draft from scratch, or go back and add, tweak, delete, or otherwise change what you posted in Character 5: Conflict. It's up to you!
Remember to keep your readers in mind: Hook them early. Jump into the tension as quickly as possible. And think of your story as a slice of life, not an entire...


Reverence is defined as "deep respect for someone or something." Write about something that you regard with reverence.
[Unsplash, photo by Tiago Felipe Ferreria]


[Photo: Alex Brandon, AP]
U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett's nomination hearings are happening this week. If successful, she will replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Catch up with the hearings and write your observations on the nominee, the process, the comparison to Ginsburg, the timing so close to the Nov. 3 election, anything you're thinking about.


Pick a song special to you and create a character inspired by it to write a poem or story. Do the lyrics create scenes in your mind? Who do you imagine is the narrator, or subject, of the tune? How could the music’s style be represented in your writing? [Challenge created by QueenofDawn; photo credit: YWP Media Library]


[Challenge created by Erin Bundock, YWP alumna]
Proportion is the size relationship between different elements and how they work together. Proportion in photography is based on camera placement as well as the placement of the elements within the shot. In the examples above, see how placing a hand in different places in the shot changes its proportion to the subject's face? Sometimes it is helpful to play with the...

Understanding Character-Setting

Settings may seem very different from characters, but in most stories, they play off of each other, deepening your understanding of each. Let's look into the setting around your character, and see what we can find.

Think back to the bus stop where your dialogue is taking place. Where is this bus stop? What time of year is it? What year is it? You can choose a place you're very familiar with or one you wish you knew. Also think about how the bus stop relates to your character--is it a...


[YWP Photo Archive]
At what age should Americans be allowed to vote? In Canada, the New Democratic Party supports lowering the voting age in federal elections to 16. In the U.S., this idea is also gaining some traction, including from U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, a Democrat from Massachusetts. What do you think? 


Write about climate change from the perspective of an animal. [Challenge inspired by “The Curmudgeonly Frog,” by Yellow Sweater]


Whether you’ve visited it yourself or only seen it in pictures (like this one by YWP's Graceful), the ocean is likely to conjure up a specific image, memory, or emotion unique to you. Nurture that natural response to write a poem or story inspired by the sea.


[Photo: Mauro Mora, Unsplash]
What are you surprised that you miss during the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic?


Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash
There were more than 550,000 homeless people in the United States on any given night in 2018. Imagine yourself in that place, and write.


Some people can’t seem to stay out of trouble no matter how hard they try. And some days, trouble just seems to follow you everywhere you go. Write about trouble, however it appears, real or fictional. Remember Judith Viorst’s “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”?


You have three wishes and they will all come true in sequence — tomorrow, and on your 25th and 50th birthdays. What do you wish for?
[Photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by Carmella Clark]

Nature Photography

[Photos: Patrick Bald, Mourad Saadi, Unsplash]
Summer is the perfect time to go outside and appreciate nature. Take photographs that capture the beauty and mystery of nature from your own unique perspective. Submit your photos individually or as a slideshow. Due Aug. 7. Prizes – 1st: $75; 2nd: $50; 3rd: $25. Back to main page for more details.


[Photo credit: Annie Bolin, Unsplash]
Gun control measures will always hit a wall of opposition, as happened in Viriginia recently. But if you think gun control matters, speak out. What message would you send?


What's in a name? Most people's names come from somewhere, whether it be an old family photo album, a favorite character, or a phonebook. Write about the origin of your name in a short story or poem. If you don't want to disclose your real name, write about the origin of your YWP username instead. [Challenge created by Crescent_Moon; photo credit: Jon Tyson, Unsplash]



Frank McCourt, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Angela's Ashes and an English teacher in Brooklyn, NY, noticed that when his students missed an assignment, they would come up with marvelously creative and (mostly) credible excuses to explain why. It was a type of writing that came naturally -- and it's where you're going to practice the Art of the Argument!

THE SCENE: You're a student. The stress is getting to you. You have lots of time...


Using the Shakespearian form, write a sonnet (abab cdcd efef gg). If you feel so called, write in Old English or start with a line from one of Shakespeare's sonnets. Examples: A woman’s face with Nature’s own hand painted; Farewell! Thou art too dear for my possessing; Some glory in their birth, some in their skill; OR, the most famous: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? [Challenge by LadyMidnight]​


In poetry or prose, create a manual on “how to be a human being,” however you wish to interpret the concept. Do you focus on the general mechanics of life – how to survive – or, perhaps, the human potential for admirable qualities such as compassion and courage? Or something completely different ... [Photo credit: Karl Magnuson, Unsplash]


“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” so the saying goes. What is something “junky” others might throw away without a second thought, but that you hold onto. Why? How did you receive or come across this object(s)? [Photo credit: Rumman Amin, Unsplash]


What are you hungry for? It could be a favorite food or a dream job or a change in your life. What is the thing that bites at the inside of your stomach and you can’t stop thinking about?
[YWP photo library, photo by Riley Allen] 


[Challenge by Scarry Night; Photo by Crescent_Moon]
What is the best thing that has happened to you in this time in our homes during social distancing? Why is it the best?


It feels good to help others. Write about a time you helped someone — who they were, why you did it, and how it all turned out. Fiction or real.
[Photo by Jeniffer Araújo on Unsplash]
/node/36897 /node/35965


[Photo credit: Amy Baugess, Unsplash]
Imagine you are lost in a maze … You’re on your own from here, it’s up to you! What kind of maze (Halloween corn, estate hedge, twisting brain)? Why are you there, what is your end location or goal, and how do you escape?


[Photos by LadyMidnight]
Post your favorite photos that shout "SUMMER!!"

Understanding Character-Final

Now that you know who your character really is, let's bring it all together by creating a full story. You now have a character who believes something (monologue) and you know a little about the way he/she lives (bedroom) and thinks. Now, try writing the scene at the bus stop as a story. Include some of the character's thoughts and details about the place. Make your story show some conflict and, if you can, some of what your character wants/believes/is passionate about.

You may want...


[YWP Photo Archive]
What do adults get wrong about teenagers?


Combining photos and paint can have a dramatic effect. Explore the fusion of photos and the paint of your choice: acrylic, oil, watercolor. The photo should be printed onto high quality photographic or art paper, semi-gloss or matte. [Challenge and art created by Erin Bundock, YWP alumna]


New classes, new classmates – it can be hard to introduce yourself to someone for the first time. Describe some ways to "break the ice" with people that can begin a beautiful friendship.
[Photo credit: YWP Media Library]


[Pride at U.S. Supreme Court, Washington, DC, June 15. Tom Brenner/Reuters]
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled that you can't be fired for being gay or transgender. In the most impactful ruling for LGBTQ rights since same-sex marriage became a constitutional right in 2015, the court ruled 6-3 that workplace protections against sex discrimination also protect against bias toward sexual orientation and gender identity....


A challenge for Fiona Ella's Hazel's House series.


Closely observe an object in your surroundings or an aspect of the natural world. Using just three lines of 5, 7, 5 syllables, convey this small moment or detail in a Haiku poem. Example: Empty Glass by YWP’s Inkpaw: "See-through and empty / you wait on the windowsill / to be filled once more." [Challenge and photo by Inkpaw, YWP]


Describe a place that feels like home, but isn’t what you would consider your actual home. In what ways does this safe/special setting bring you comfort?
[Photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by Charlotte Hughes]


[Photo: Tim Mossholder, Unsplash]
With their history dating back over a century, drive-in theaters have long played a significant role in American entertainment history. It can also be said that they offer an experience traditional movies theaters do not. Write about your experience at drive-ins, if you’ve ever been, or use one as the setting of a story.


[Photo credit: Belinda Fewings, Unsplash]
The World Happiness Report, an annual survey that ranks 156 countries by their citizens' happiness, puts Finland first (2019 and 2018), followed by Denmark, Norway, and Iceland. The U.S. ranked 19th. Explore the report. What could we learn from the Nordic way of life?


[Photo credit: Graceful, YWP Media Library]
When a writer skimps on a character’s physical description, it can be difficult for the reader to picture them in the mind’s eye. That in turn causes distraction, confusion, and an inability to fully connect to the story. With their permission, take – and post on your YWP blog – a photo of a family member, friend, neighbor, or pet that aims to...


[Art by cedar]
Add your photos, sketches, and paintings of life during the pandemic for YWP's Social Distancing Journal project! Address the coronavirus's impact from the everyday reality of social distancing to the things that bring you joy or help you take your mind off this strange time.


Write in the style of a writer you admire — just the opening paragraph of a short story or the first stanza of a poem. Be sure to state the name of the author at the bottom of your piece.
[Photo: Hanah Grace, Unsplash]


[Photo credit: Washington Post]
In Joe Biden's acceptance speech for the Democratic presidential nomination last night (Washington Post story), he promised that light would overcome our current darkness. He spoke directly to young people, noting the protests for racial justice, civil rights, gun control, and...


Spoken word poetry incorporates the verbal performance of a writer’s work with the words themselves. The inflection, intonation, and pace of recitation, among other things, are conscious decisions a poet makes to evoke a range of emotions that help bring the piece alive. Write a poem meant to be shared out loud, or transform an old one, and upload a recording. [Challenge created by Treblemaker; photo credit: Zachary Nelson, Unsplash]...


Is there something special or unusual about your family? Do you have a kooky aunt or a famous cousin? Do you have a favorite spot where you gather in the summer? Funny family traditions and rituals?
[Unsplash, photo by Mike Scheid] 


[Challenge and art created by cedar]
Here's a challenge from YWP's cedar: Artists! Post black and white art for other YWPers to download and color. (Cedar got you started with her marker drawings above.)


You are granted the gift of one do-over from your past. What would it be? Why?
[Unsplash, photo by Khadeeja Yasser]


The New York Times sends out an urgent plea in its Oct. 16 editorial for Americans to vote for democracy, to vote Donald Trump out of office. Read the full editorial here. In part, it says, "Donald Trump’s re-election campaign poses the greatest threat to American democracy since World War II. Mr. Trump’s ruinous tenure...


The classic detective story, a type of fiction in which a crime is introduced, investigated, and solved, is part of a distinct genre of its own within the broader category of “Mystery.” Write the introductory paragraphs to a detective story that is so good it prompts others to SPROUT and finish the tale. [Photo credit: Michelle Ding, Unsplash]

Writing Tips

What is the best tip about writing that you have ever heard? Add your response to some gems we found from past YWPers. And here's one from "The Elements of Style:" Be clear, brief and bold.
Back story: In 1919, E.B. White was a student at Cornell University where he took an English class that had a huge influence on him. The class was with William Strunk, Jr., and required reading for the course was the professor's self-published book, "The Elements of Style." ...


[Photo: Nicholas Punter, Unsplash]
Imagine that you are walking along on your usual route to school and something strange catches your eye. It's a big, golden door. You're sure that it's never been there before. You look around. You're the only one on the street. School is starting in 10 minutes, but ... What do you do?


[Credit: Amy Hirschi, Unsplash]
Check out the Journalism 101 interviewing tips, choose a classmate, preferably someone you don't know well, and interview this person with the goal of writing a solid profile. Then ask the person to interview you. Use whatever tools you have to document and/or record the interview.

CJP-Photo Essay1

[Photo credit: Rutland by Icarus Blackmore]
Create a photo essay of your community. This could be a general collection of photos, or have a theme (front porches, town forest, main street, farmers' market, civic buildings, etc.). Along with the photos, write a short commentary that reflects the sense of place, what makes it unique or special to you. Remember to identify the photos.

Art of ...

[Photo credit: Love to write, YWP]
The poem, “The Art of Fog Catching” by YWP's Love to write, describes a simple moment of observation – and a powerful connection between humans and nature. Write about a time when you – or your character – took the time to observe, explore, and learn "the art of ..." anything!


Have you ever taken a risk and found it paid off? Often, just by trying and not being afraid to try, we find success. Write a story that explores this theme, real or fictional.
[Photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by Katelyn Turner]

Angelou's America

[Illustration by Sophie Herxheimer, Poetry Foundation]
Today's Daily Read by Roses and Summer Dreams is inspired by poet Maya Angelou's poem, America. Read the Daily Read which includes Angelou's iconic poem. If you're inspired, write your own poem about America. Learn more about Angelou's life and poetry, here from the Poetry...


In the book "Night," Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel writes about his experiences as a Jewish prisoner in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps during the Second World War. Respond to Wiesel's story in words or images. 

Winter Tales 2020

Write a short, descriptive poem or story about winter for Vermont Stage Company’s virtual presentation of Winter Tales in December. Be original! Go beyond hot chocolate, rosy cheeks, and Frosty. Convey the beauty and complexity of the season. Make Vermont Stage want to tell your story!


We all talk, but how well do we listen? Create a situation that turns on the ability of a character to really hear what someone else is saying. 
[YWP Media Library, photo by Elizabeth Goodrich]


[Illustration by cedar, YWP]
 Shadows can have a dramatic effect on a landscape or even a simple object. Experiment with shadows, using photography, watercolor, acrylic, pastels or a simple pencil. Share your work here.


[Illustration: Unsplash Visuals]
The coronavirus (COVID-19) has seized our world, attacking our health, our economy, our everyday life. Write about this invader and how it's changing our lives.


[Photo credit: Crescent_Moon, YWP]
What is your perfect summer day? Pandemic aside, walk us through the sights and sounds of perfection – for you. Where do you go? What do you do? Who, if anyone, is there with you? Tell the story in words or images or both!


[Photo by Inkpaw; Challenge by Adelle Brunstad]
Describe a small, impactful family moment that has occurred during social distancing. Would it have happened when life was "normal?" How did it make you feel?


Have you ever met someone and felt you’ve known them your entire life, or perhaps in another life? Describe the experience.
[Photo by Abbs Johnson, Unsplash]


A word without a definition is a word without meaning. But is there a word you think should be defined differently? Create a new (or simply more poetic) definition for a common word, like YWP's gaia_lenox does in her piece “Screw Merriam Webster." [Challenge created by Crescent_Moon; illustration by cedar]


In a period of extreme chaos, around you physically or perhaps just inside your head, your guardian angel appears for the first time. What was the cause of your distress, and how does the spirit guide you toward a peaceable solution? [Photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by Alessandra G.]


Sometimes you get a feeling in the pit of your stomach about a person or situation. Was there ever a time when your intuition was right? What happened? What about a time when you were wrong?
[YWP photo library, photo by Shawn Baker] 


[Challenge created by Adelle Brunstad; Photo by Love to write]
Pandemic days are also a time for reflection - what is something you would like to see change in the world? How would you go about changing it?


One of the most effective elements in storytelling is to write about change — the fact that something has shifted, for the better or for the worse, or perhaps that it is just different now and things cannot go back to the way they were. Write about a situation, an emotion, a perception, a sequence of events, anything that results in a permanent change.
[Unsplash, photo by Ross Findon]

I hope ...

[Illustration by cedar, YWP]
I hope .... finish the sentence. Add a few words, a few sentences, an essay! What do you hope for on Nov. 3 – one of the most consequential elections in the nation's history? Or what do you hope for beyond the election, in a new year – a new era? You might not be of voting age, but you have a voice that matters – and hope!


[Photo credit: Madalyn Cox, Unsplash]
You have a chance to redesign your bedroom from scratch – with no limit on your budget or imagination. Using words or a sketch, map out your amazing, new room.


Join Igniting Writing in the UK, and other young writers from Ireland and Ohio for this fun, international writing contest. The theme is Explore. Take it wherever you want. But it must be fiction, it must be original, and it must be submitted by Sept. 1.
Read all the details here.



[Photo by Crescent_Moon]
Got a cute pet? Share your photos!


Write a story or a poem about a personal moment in your life, a time you felt truly proud of yourself and not because someone told you so. A time when you felt like you were on top of the world. When nothing could stop you and you were a force to be reckoned with


Create a photo that gives a sense of space, either wide, open space, such as in the oceanscape by YWP's Love to write, or close and tight, like the inside of a Thermos in the photo by lia.chien. [Photo credits: Love to write and lia.chien]


Write about yourself in a way that is positive. Express an appreciation for your own best qualities, talents, ideas, activities, and hopes and dreams.
[Photo credot: YWP Media Library, photo by Ella Staats]


[Photo: Mick Haupt, Unsplash]
"It was just at dusk when ..." Begin with or include this phrase in a story or poem.


[Photo credit: ​Andy Feliciotti, Unsplash]
For only the fourth time in U.S. history, a president is facing impeachment. The charges are that President Trump abused his office in an attempt to get Ukraine to launch investigations into Trump's political opponent, Joe Biden, and his son Hunter Biden, and that he obstructed Congress's investigation into the matter. Should the president be impeached? What do you hope for...


The writer's voice is the tone, mood, or personality of a story, poem, essay. Choose a tone – happiness, guilt, surprise, panic, shame, curiosity, empathy, regret, envy, relief, loneliness, gratitude, etc. – and write a mini-story (5-10 lines is enough) that showcases that tone or mood. [Photo credit: Luke Stackpoole, Unsplash]


Sometimes our mood can turn wistful, defined as "full of yearning or desire tinged with melancholy." Write a poem or story that conveys this feeling through tone and careful word choice.
[Photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by Rachel Ahokas]

First Line

Write the first line of a story you haven't written yet. Fingers crossed, it will catch on and others will click SPROUT at the bottom of your post and add a second line, a third and on and on! Watch for other writers' first lines and SPROUT from them too. If you need inspiration, go here for some famous first lines!


It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
–  George Orwell, 1984



[Photo credit: Kevin Huang, YWP Photo Library]
Imagine a community where everyone is welcome and all people can afford their houses or apartments, no matter their circumstances. What would this community look and feel like? Do you know of any communities like this? If not, why don't they exist and what could be done to make them a reality?


Lines and angles can make dynamic images. Intersecting lines can also add depth to your photos. Look around you and explore interesting angles – like these photos by YWP's laurenm. Post your favorites here! [Photo credit: YWP Media Library, laurenm]

State Colleges

[Northern University-Lyndon campus, photo by Glenn Russell, VTDigger]
Blaming the pandemic as the last straw in its chronic budget problems, Vermont State Colleges announced April 17 that the Lyndon and Johnson campuses of Northern Vermont University and the Randolph campus of Vermont Technical College would close, cutting 500 jobs in the three communities. A public backlash has delayed a vote on the decision....


 Have you ever thought to yourself, “Wait a minute… why isn’t that a thing already?” Explain your product or idea to the world.
[Unsplash, photo by Raul Varzar]


[Photo credit: laurenm, YWP, "A Moment to Reflect"]
Share a story or poem about summer as it comes to a close. Write about the summer of 2020 or the season in general.


Write a single line of poetry to use as a springboard, then construct an entirely new poem around it using slight variations: words added, words removed, words rearranged. [Photo credit: Rishab Lamichhane]


Author Seth Godin says, “Art is a personal act of courage.” With art -- either in words or images -- show your own personal act of courage.
[YWP photo library, photo by Jaylin Seaman] 


[Photo by beautiful]
Write it! Sketch it! Photograph it! However you want to express it, tell mothers how incredible they are!


Write a story that takes place over the course of just one day, where something very important happens.
[Unsplash, photo by Gabriel Santiago]


Have you ever experienced something you’ve never been able to explain? If not, have you ever been told a strange tale by someone close to you, about a small happening that defied all logic? Use that moment as inspiration for a story or poem with a decidedly mysterious bent. [Photo credit: Paul Gilmore, Unsplash]


Join Igniting Writing in the UK, and other young writers from Ireland and Ohio for this fun, international writing contest. The theme is Explore. Take it wherever you want. But it must be fiction, it must be original, and it must be submitted by Sept. 1.
Read all the details here.


Story Starter

[Photo: Joanna Kosinska, Unsplash]
Think about moments in your life and write! You have two options:
  • Focus on specific, memorable moments in your life – recent or past, good or bad. Write everything that comes to mind for just two minutes.
  • Or try a free write on one word: Delicious, Sweltering, Exhilarating, Mountain, Trapped, Fireworks, Painting, Book, Friend, Woods, Storms, Family, Summer. Pick a word that...


What makes you happy? Take a photo of it, write a poem, paint or sketch it. This challenge was inspired by the photo above and the poem, “Happy,” by Inkpaw. [Photo credit: Inkpaw, YWP]


Is there a house you pass by on the way to school that always gives you the creeps, or a stretch of woods nearby that you would never set foot in? Write the PG-rated tale of a haunted location, either from your imagination or by researching local/regional urban legends. 
[Photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by Cassidy Mancuso]


[Photo: John Salvino, Unsplash]
They say that elves and fairies live there. You decide to go exploring. Write a fantastical fairy tale about what you find on your journey.


[Photo credit: Clark Tibbs, Unsplash]
It can feel obvious to us what our government should do differently in handling certain nationwide events and social issues. As an individual, what’s an action you could take to benefit others in your community?


You have a chance to move to this planet, but you have to convince the rest of your family that it’s a good idea. Maybe real estate’s cheap. Maybe it’s a chance for adventure and a brand new start. Write a persuasive argument.
[Photo credit: YWP Media Library, collage by Anna Forsythe]


Do you have a current issue on your mind lately? Black Lives Matter? Coronavirus? Climate change? Election 2020? What are you thinking? Write about it! Due Aug. 7. Prizes – 1st: $75; 2nd: $50; 3rd: $25. Return to main contest page here.



[YWP Photo Library]
Where is home for you? What physical or emotional space makes you feel sheltered, safe, “at home?” OR begin or end with this phrase: “Under the shelter of my roof …”


You sit beside the window, watching, waiting, wishing. If only you could leave to share in the experience of … what? Convey a sense of longing from the perspective of someone or something stuck indoors. If a certain pandemic comes to mind, write about that. Or choose something completely unrelated.  [Photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by laurenm]

Earth Day 2020

[Photos by Inkpaw]
In honor of Earth Day this week, take a moment to write or draw or photograph your gratitude for Mother Earth.


The writer Clive James said, "Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing." How would you describe humor?
[Unsplash, photo by Marcus Lewis]


[Photo credit: Love to write, YWP, "If the Sky Meets the Sea"]
Look over your summer photos and post your favorites here! They can be photos you've already shared on YWP or new ones – the ones that say Summer of 2020 to you.


One might define serendipity as the phenomenon of something just-perfect “falling into your lap” while not being deliberately sought after. Unlike luck or a more general good fortune that could apply to anyone, serendipity is specific enough to you that it might even feel fated. Write about such an instance in your life (and/or the people involved). [Photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by Cloudkitty...


In great detail, describe the best sandwich you’ve ever had. What was on this incredible sandwich? Who made it? Where were you?
[Unsplash, photo by Eiliv Sonas Aceron]


[Challenge by Adele Brunstad; "Sad Bear" Photo by Crescent_Moon]
In a photo or drawing, capture yourself and/or your family doing something that is unique to these times, something that you probably wouldn't do under "normal" circumstances. Or share a photo or sketch of something uniquely COVID that you've seen.


Read through recently posted content on youngwritersproject.org until you find a piece that inspires you. Sprout from that piece to write a related poem or story that is distinctly your own, and remember to credit the writer who sparked your interest.
[Unsplash, photo by Maryna Bohucharska]


[Illustration: JR Korpa, Unsplash]
Write about anything in any genre. Add photos if you like. Be free and fearless!


If you had to relive one day of your life over and over –  a la "Groundhog Day," the Bill Murray classic – which one would it be? What made the hours so special to you, or what situation from your past would you try to improve or rectify? [Photo credit: Danny Wage, Unsplash]


[Illustration and challenge idea from Kittykatruff]
You've been planning a surprise party for someone special for months, and so far, you've been able to keep the secret. But on the morning of the party, something unexpected happens to threaten the surprise. Tell the story through dialogue.

I never ...

[Photo: YWP Archive, Kevin Huang]
Fill in the blanks and fill in the story. Try one or both of these prompts:
  • “I never ________, but it’s all over now.”
  • “Move aside, ________. Make way for ________.”


Paint, photograph, or describe in words, the color blue. [Art credit: cedar, YWP]


Write about someone who has the ability to change shape. Can they take the shape of a wolf, another human, a virus, a plant, a chair, a speck of dust? What are the limits of their power, if any? What do they use them for?
[Photo credit: YWP Media Library, illustrstion by Abrie Howe]


[Photo and challenge by Crescent_Moon]
Take a walk. Take photos. Share them on YWP!


[Photo: Grace Safford, YWP Photo Library]
Write about a kindness you have witnessed or heard about. What impact does it have? OR write about an act of kindness you would like to see or be part of.


Write about an injustice you’ve witnessed or experienced firsthand. How did you act, or how do you wish you had acted? What did you learn from this incident? [Photo credit: Mike Erskine, Unsplash]


Enter the mind of a character in an interesting, difficult, funny, or odd situation and describe what they are thinking over the course of one minute. Match your story to "real time," so that it only takes about one minute to read.
[Photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by Ella Staats]


[Photo: James Day, Unsplash]
Some people thrive in the summer sun, while others positively melt! Write a poem or story that takes place on a bright, cloudless day of scorching temperatures, and be sure to touch on how you or your narrator respond to the heat.


[Photo credit: Jon Tyson, Unsplash]
Despite the federal and state fair housing laws, many Vermonters experience discrimination and don’t have access to quality, affordable homes. What is the impact of this inequity on the state?


The Three Stooges were a slapstick comedy trio who arrived at the tail end of the silent film era with a unique brand of humor that relied on exaggerated physical missteps and conflict rather than dialogue. Try writing your own Stooges-type sketch involving preposterous gestures and movements for comic effect.

Write a Prompt!

Credit: "Reaching" by mythicalquill
We've come to the end of our Weekly Challenges for 2018-19 -- and now we're creating next year's list! WE NEED YOUR HELP!! Post your best, original writing prompts for the 2019-20 Weekly Challenges here. We'll collect them and make the BIG LIST. Inspiring, fun, serious, silly, creative, thought-provoking, original prompts wanted!


[Challenge created by Adelle Brunstad; Photo by Kevin Huang, YWP Photo Library]
What is an issue or problem in the world that the coronavirus pandemic has amplified or brought to the surface?


If you could break any world record, what would it be and how would you do it?
[Unsplash, photo by Nghia Le]


Hey YWP! Any current issues you want to address – racial injustice, climate, covid, the 2020 election, anything you want to talk about? Send us your ideas for Community Journalism Project challenges for the 2020-21 school year!

All Hallows'

It’s said that the veil between the living and the dead is thin at Halloween. Tell a story that revolves around the thin veil. Try to make it descriptive and suspenseful, ghostly but not gory. [Photo credit: YWP Media Library, art by jwu1]


What do you want your legacy to be? What is the one thing or personal characteristic you would like to be remembered for?
[Unsplash, photo by Laura Fuhrman]


[Photo: Allie, Unsplash]
Share a favorite quote that inspires you. (Include the source, whether it's a famous person or a friend.)


Warren G. Harding, the 29th president of the United States, once said: "There's good in everybody. Boost. Don't knock." Write about how this has meaning for your own daily life at school.
[Unsplash, photo by Nicolas Gras]


We all have scars, both physical and figurative. Tell the story behind a scar, either your own or your character’s. Include the aftermath if you like. Were there lessons learned, an epiphany, a transformation? [Photo credit: YWP Media Library, art by Eloise Silver Van Meter]

Up Close

[Photos by laurenm, YWP]
There is art in nature. Take a look at the world around you, get in close, and photograph the designs, patterns, and wonders of nature. Catch some inspiration from these photos by laurenm.

George Floyd

[Photo: Eric Baradat, AFP, New York Times]
The death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, MN on May 25, has sparked protests, vigils, and demonstrations over this and other racial incidents that have happened across the nation. Get your thoughts out. Write about it.

School 2020

Well, it’s here – school’s back. Write about your experience as the pandemic continues. Compare this year to other “normal” years. What has changed or remains the same as last spring? [Photo credit: Cody Pavlovic, YWP Media Library]

Winter '19

Winter is coming soon. Write a short, descriptive poem or story about this distinctive season. Avoid cliches, and complaints. Express what is satisfying, beautiful and amazing about it. The best works will be selected for presentation by the Vermont Stage Company at its annual production of Winter Tales in Burlington in December. 
[Photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by Vivien Sorce]


[Challenge inspired by activist_fieldhockey. Photo: Chase Baker, Unsplash]
Keeping up the momentum for Black Lives Matter toward real change is the next challenge. Use the power of your words to push forward.


[Photo by Justin Veenema on Unsplash]
Write a letter to a bully and show how destructive/immature/negative this person's behavior is. Use words to rise above.


It’s not unusual to daydream about what life would be like if we “made it big.” But fame and fortune can have their downsides too. Write from the perspective of a fictional celebrity who struggles with their fame and whose only wish is to be an average, unknown person again. [Photo credit: YWP Media Library, Nathaniel Steele]


Begin a poem or story with the words, “Tomorrow, I hope...”
[Photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by Swantje Stein]

I am ...



[Photo credit: New York Public Library, Unsplash]
Dear Mother Earth ... Write a letter that expresses your hopes and dreams for her.


Your character receives a gift that – over time – will have a huge impact on their life. Describe the gift, the giving, and the consequences. [Photo credit: Tim Mossholder, Unsplash]


Credit: De controleon, www.flickr.com/photos/tekstbazaar
1. Create a story about what's happening in the sequence of these photos. And/or 2. Create your own 5-photo story. Try to find a place with a lot of movement, a busy street corner or even your own kitchen. Use your friends or family if you want to stage it. Let the photos tell the story, or add...


[Challenge by Adelle Brunstad; Photo by Catbatgirl]
What is something that someone has done for you, or you have done for them, during these times that has made all the difference?


The end of the rainbow is a myth, right? Through poetry or prose, write about someone who happens upon that great meeting of earth and color (literally or figuratively). What do they see, what do they feel? 
[Unsplash, photo by Jason Leung]


“If you are in denial about climate change, come to California,” says that state's governor, Gavin Newsom. It's the worst year of fires on record. California, Oregon, Washington are on fire. Read and write about it. To find out more, read the New York Times story on climate reckoning. [Photo: Lake Oroville, Calif., Sept. 10, 2020, Max Whittaker for The New York Times]...


The Earth has run out of resources, and you have one last day on the planet before the world’s population is to be relocated to a space colony. How do you spend your last day on Earth? [Challenge created by fire girl; photo credit: Dominic Brügger, Unsplash]


[Photo credit: Ilya Ilford, Unsplash]
Pick a stationary object, and place it near a source of natural light. Take pictures of it periodically through the day. When you're done, try to identify areas of lighting: front (flatter, lacks shadows and highlights); side (more depth with well-defined shadows and highlights); and back-lighting (emphasis on silhouette). Post your photos in a slideshow. [Challenge...


The Senate majority leader has agreed to read one letter from one student in the U.S., and take action based on what the letter says. Your letter has been chosen. The letter has to be 250 words or less. Write the letter.
[Unsplash, photo by Alvaro Serrano]


The English language relies heavily on phonetics and sounds. In the distant past, when people were without dictionaries, they made up word spellings according to the sounds they heard; somehow our brains were able to understand them. Write a poem, prose poem, verse, or riddle using word spellings that read a little wacky or silly but do not alter their meening. [Challenge created by Treblemaker; photo credit: Nick Fewings, Unsplash]...


Muse magazine once asked kids to name the colors in an imaginary box of crayons, and instead of the usual colors, they came up with inventive names like Scary Movie Popcorn Yellow and Cat's Eye Nebula Red. What would you rename an array of colors (like those in the photo by YWP's Dancer)?


Imagine you are the eyes behind this photograph by YWP's Selena Bulan. Have you just stumbled across a way out of the forest, with intense relief – or have you just ventured in? Tell the story.


[Photo: Brooklyn Bridge, New York, June 4. Holly Pickett/For The Wasington Post]
A Washington Post editorial – This movement is not anarchy. It could push America to be a better nation – shows the power of people standing together, "...


[Calligraphy by Sophie.D]
Think about your daily life. What is one thing you could start doing today to help ease climate change?

Election 2020

[Photo credit: YWP Media Library]
The U.S. presidential election is approaching on Nov. 3. You might not be able to vote, but you have a voice. What message would you send America?


There is no anticipation quite like the days counting down to Christmas morning or another holiday that is meaningful to you and your family. Write about how that felt for you as a young child — or how it still feels today.
[Photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by Katelyn MacEsker]

Independence Day

[Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post]
Consider this: "Black Lives Matter is America’s ray of light this Independence Day," an editorial in the Washington Post to mark July 4, 2020. Read it here, and below. What do you think?


Qasem Soleimani, a top general in Iran, was killed by a US airstrike in Baghdad on Friday, Jan. 3. His successor has vowed retribution for his death. Crowds have flooded the streets to honor Soleimani and to protest against the US, which is sending additional troops to the Middle East. Read about this conflict. Write.


Choose a visual subject; the choice is yours. Before you pick up your camera, consider the person, place, or thing from every angle. Use these observations to brainstorm 3-5 differing focuses, moods, or messages you’d like to convey, then photograph your subject accordingly through a variety of perspectives. Check out JhermayneU's Quokka photo series here as an example! [Photo credit: YWP Media...


Sometimes when positive/negative emotions peak at unexpected moments, our bodies have instant, visible reactions. Goosebumps, blushing, chills, twitching, and hives are all examples of this. Write about a memorable time you experienced one of these exterior changes in great excitement or duress. What was going on?
[Photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by Shawn Baker]


[Photo and challenge by JhermayneU]
Celebrate the color yellow! Photograph or paint or color anything yellow and share your work with YWP! This challenge was inspired by the photos of new YWP community member JhermayneU.


[Challenge by LadyMidnight; Photo: Guilherme Stecanella, Unsplash]
Write a poem or story about someone who discovers a genie who grants them three wishes. Take the story wherever you like, but here are some questions to get you started: How and where do they find the genie? What are the three wishes? Are there any surprising consequences from the wishes?

Create Challenges

[Photo credit: Amador Loureiro, Unsplash]
Help write original, inspiring challenges for the 2020-21 school year. (Like this year's Weekly Writing Challenges – but different.) We're looking for your own creations – from your imagination, not from the internet or other sources. We'll credit you if your challenge is included.


In 1961, American scientist Richard Feynman, joint-receiver of the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics, posed the following paraphrased question: If the human race and its collective knowledge were destroyed, apart from one sentence rich in information yet brief in its wording, what sentence would you leave? [Challenge created by gaia_lenox, YWP; Photo credit: Feynman Diagram, Wikimedia Commons]


Respond to one or all of these prompts for potential inclusion in VT filmmaker Bess O'Brien's Listen Up Project.
1. People always tell me ...
2. What parents need to know ....
3. If I was in charge...
4. Write whatever's on your mind ...

Celebrating Poetry

[Edna St. Vincent Millay portrait by Rhys Rountree: Robert Frost by Laura Schaner, Crossroads Academy]
Any month is Poetry Month at YWP, but April is officially National Poetry Month, organized by the Academy of American Poets to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry. Show your appreciation by creating visual interpretations of your favorite poems and poets -- in any month. This challenge comes to YWP from English...


Begin or end a story or poem with, “If only I could reach a little farther ...”
[Unsplash, photo by Marc-Oliver Jodoin]


[Illustration, New York Times, 9/11/20]
Create six-word stories about the pandemic. (Challenge inspired by Larry Smith's collection in "The Pandemic in Six-Word Memoirs," New York Times.)


Are you afraid of the dark? Let the fear of whatever may lurk in the absence of light, real or imagined, spark your creativity. [Photo credit: YWP Media Library, art by cedar]


[Photo by beautiful]
Haiku is a short form of poetry adapted from Japanese tradition. Each poem consists of three lines; the first line has five syllables, the second line has seven syllables, and the third line has five. (5-7-5)
Find an interesting place where you can sit and observe, uninterrupted. Focus on a tiny, detail -- a color, a texture, a movement. Create a haiku by describing (...


[Photo credit: Hunter Haley, Unsplash]
For the Community Journalism Project, you are a journalist. What characteristics and tools will help you be successful in this role? Here's a partial list to get you started. 
A journalist needs:
  • An open, independent mind
  • Curiosity 
  • Patience
  • The ability to listen, learn, and synthesize information
  • Bravery and a...


People create podcasts about just about anything, based on their own niche interests – think bug-collecting, paranormal mysteries, and local eats. What subject fascinates you enough to narrate your own podcast? Need inspiration? Listen to Line Break, YWP’s podcast on writing by eyesofIris! Upload your podcast on your YWP blog! [Photo credit: YWP Media Library]


“Put yourself in my shoes,” the saying goes, often spoken by someone asking another to see things from their perspective. Whose shoes (like these sneakers of YWP's NiñaEstrella) would you like to try on, in order to get a better understanding of their life experiences? 

Three Objects

[Photo: YWP Archive, Colby Miller]
Can you think of three objects that would help explain who you are? Share your list and write about why these particular objects describe you. Include photos if you like.

CJP-Electoral College

The candidate with the most votes does not necessarily win the presidential election, because the Electoral College system is designed to provide a voice for low-population states. Is this fair? Still realistic today?


If you could speed up the process of evolution, what physical characteristic(s) would you gift mankind? In what ways would it benefit you in your own environment, or further the entire human race? Describe the new trait in detail when you identify it. [Photo credit: YWP Media Library, illustration by cedar]


Complete the thought, “I feel alive when…” in just two paragraphs.
[Photo credit: YWP Media Library, photo by Charlotte Hughes]


[Photo: Marina Vitale, Unsplash]
Begin or end a poem or story with this phrase, "Open your eyes ..."


[Photo credit: Kevin Huang, YWP Archive]
You're a teen (or pre-teen) in 2020, but who are you? What makes you uniquely you? What would you like people to know and understand about you? Where or how do you feel most like you?


What is the most “useless” talent you can imagine someone having? For example, double-jointed thumbs, speedy knot disentanglement, or exotic cat breed identification. Write a short story about a character who finds the chance to use their special ability to solve a problem or even save the day. [Photo credit: Aaron Thomas, Unsplash]


Everybody has their idea of a perfect day, when everything falls into place just right. Write about "my kind of day," starting when you wake up, moving through the day, and ending in the evening. Make your day come alive for the reader so they can share your experience.
[Photo credit: YWP Media Library, illustration by cedar]

Campfire Sessions

Hey, Campfire Writers! If you created something at the Campfire Sessions this week that you'd like to share on YWP, just respond to this challenge! Thanks everyone who joined the campfire and special thanks to workshop leader Alex Muck! She'll be back with more in the fall! Any feedback, suggestions or ideas for more workshops? Contact Susan Reid at [email protected].

Creating Voice

This workshop explores "voice" in writing. Voice expresses the narrator's or author’s emotions, attitude, tone, and point of view -- and it directly contributes to the tone and mood of the piece. Listen to other writers' voices -- and develop your own.



By chance, you stumble across the doorway to another world. You’re incredibly curious, but you don’t know if what’s on the other side is good or bad. It’s up to you to decide – right now! – whether to open the door or run the other way. What happens? [Photo credit: Alexandra Gamanus, Unsplash]


[Photo:Dan Pelle/AP]
When schools reopen, we can expect changes in response to COVID-19. Masks? One-wall hallways? Alternate days in school and at home? What would you suggest for your school? Here's a Washington Post story to get you started.



Your character is angry, or beset by some other negative emotion, but then manages to defuse the situation by looking at it from a new angle. This technique, called reframing, allows a person to pull out of downward spirals and create positive alternatives and outcomes. Write the story.
[Unsplash, photo by Joel Fulgencio]

CJP-Climate Crisis

[Photo: Azusa, Calif., Meridith Kohut, New York Times, 9/15/20]
Climate change isn't real? Using your skills of persuasion, write a letter, a plea, a poem, a manifesto so powerful it will change minds. Read the story, How Climate Migration Will Reshape America, in The New York Times.


Begin or end a new piece with this line: “For the first time, I was beginning to understand what life is all about.” [Photo credit: Kristopher Roller, Unsplash]


Check out Kurt Vonnegut's "The Shapes of Stories" and draw or write your own shape. More here.



[Photo credit: Danielle MacInnes, Unsplash]
Respond here to add your own writing challenges or prompts for the Community Journalism Project.


A flashbulb memory is one that persists vividly in your mind, often because it was emotional or consequential. Pick a flash memory from your past, and write the story as if you are reliving it right now. Provide lots of details! (Here's what Wikipedia says about flashbulb memories: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flashbulb_memory) [Photo credit: YWP Media Library, digital art by ...


Write as a person trapped in the form of an animal. How did this happen and how do they react? Do they manage to undo the transformation, and if so, how?
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Tyler Poulin]


Write the story of someone with extraordinarily good luck or excruciatingly bad luck. What is everyday life like for them? Were they born with this luck, enchanted, or does it come from an object? What experiences and emotions result from it? Show the character in action.
[Photo credit: Alain Pham, Unsplash]


The pet store is closing in five minutes and you have to make a choice -- which pet to take home and which to leave behind. What do you do?
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Madi Cohen]


You’ve been commissioned to illustrate the cover of a new edition of your favorite book from your childhood. Submit the illustration to your YWP blog (and tell us the title of the book).
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Madi Cohen]

Post Your Art & Photos!

YWP is looking for your visual art -- photographs and scanned art -- to be featured in our monthly magazine, The Voice, on the front page of the site, the newspaper series, and the Anthology! Respond to this challenge and post your best photos and art!



You wake up slowly, your eyes gradually adjusting. Suddenly, you're on your feet, looking frantically in every direction. You don't recognize a thing. Where are you? How did you get here and what happens next?
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang]


Good titles introduce, describe and catch interest. Deciding on one can be a complex process. Pick one of your pieces that you think has a perfect title -- or rename the piece after giving it some more thought. In a short essay, explain how the title relates to the piece it introduces. Is there a separate story about the title itself?
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Abigail Harkness, challenge submitted by Hazel Civalier, YWP]


Begin or end a poem or story with the phrase, “She was beautiful, but in a different sort of way.”
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Shannon Ripp]


An official phone alert wakes you up from a deep sleep. It says, "We are under attack. Lock your doors and bar your windows." Hundreds of random numbers are sending, "Let me in." Write a short, fast-paced story to match the urgency of the situation.
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Samantha Aikman]



A two-part challenge. 1. Write a story of 500 characters. 2. Copy your best and post them here as a blog response. Details:
  • WRITE a story that is real or made-up or half and half. 
    • Write your 500-character story on TINY WRITES
    • Write a lot of them on a regular basis.
  • THEN, post your best, on an ongoing basis, as a response to this challenge. 
    • AND use the...


Some say that grades are a true reflection of learning.  What do you think?


Write about a character who realizes their perception of reality is completely different from that of most people, including those closest to the character. How does your character react upon discovering this? Why do they see things differently?
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang]

15 Words

Describe yourself in 15 words. No more, no less... A sentence, phrases, whatever you'd like.

For the avids:
Describe anyone or anything around you. Just remember: only 15.


Facebook is slumping, hit by accusations that it has been sloppy with users' data and manipulated by foreign adversaries. Do you like Facebook? 

Photo-8 Cat

You adopt a cat that you think is pretty ordinary … but when you bring it home and start talking to it absentmindedly, it responds to you -- and only you -- with the most expressive facial expressions. Describe your interactions.
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Abigail Harkness]


What happens at your house when no one is home? What’s the first thing the inanimate objects do? Have a party? Hop into the hot tub? Play tricks on the absent humans? Write a whimsical tale.
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Madi Cohen]


[Photo credit: Kevin Huang]
Ask someone to give you a word. Take the word and build a poem around it.
(This challenge idea comes from irishjayne, who used the word "fog.")


Imagine a talking forest where the trees’ dialogue reflects their characteristics: sweet-talking maples, cool but prickly spruce? What do the trees say? Write their dialogue.
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Shannon Ripp]


Write about a family experiencing a hurricane. What do they say to each other while they’re huddled in the basement, listening to their house being battered and torn apart?
[Photo by noaa.gov]


Write a story that leads your readers to believe it’s about one thing, but it turns out to be about something else entirely. Make it wacky and surprising!
[YWP Photo Library]


Write about the relationship between a child and an imaginary friend from the perspective of the child or the friend. What’s the personality of this invisible character, and why does the child take such comfort in their company?
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Holly Margulius]


This challenge has $$$ prizes! DUE: March 15. More details here.

1. Write a persuasive essay urging people to take action against the invasive insect, emerald ash borer (EAB). Present a fact-based argument. You might include why this matters, how communities and homeowners can respond to EAB, and why a response is needed.
2. In poetry or prose, tell the story of an ash tree that is threatened by EAB. You might stretch back to the ash...


Photo by Erik Nyhagen 
Tell a story about a magical experience related to this time of year -- winter, solstice, special holidays, snow sports. Real or imagined.


You’ve always wanted to dye your hair a gorgeous new color, and when you finally get up the nerve to do it, something goes terribly wrong. You didn’t read the fine print on the bottle. Now what?
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Madi Cohen]


When you go to wake your child one morning, you immediately sense that the baby in the crib is not yours. While they look the same, you know in your heart your own child has been replaced. Does anyone believe you? How do you rescue your child?
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang; challenge submitted by Rowan Potzler]


Classic stories and myths are full of prophecies. Write about a character who is warned about a future event. Do they listen? What’s the source of the messages? Is the oracle thing legit or is it made up?
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Alexandra Contreras-Montesano]


Read the Robert Frost poem, “Design.” In describing the industrious spider and the flower, he says so much more. Choose a simple plant or animal and create a poem in the style of Frost.
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Tess LaLonde]


Check out this video and more from the anti-bullying campaign, Because of You. "Because of you, people can feel empowered and loved, but also insecure and hurt... Before you say or do something, think about how you might make others feel." Write about your own experience.


Some colleges are turning away from SAT and ACT scores when reviewing high...


Where is your home? Far away in another land? Or here, where you live today? Read this poem "Home" by Balkisa Omar,  a member of the Vermont slam poetry group Muslim Girls Making Change. Write about your own experience of home.
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Alexandra Contreras-Montesano]


“They were almost ready to leave, but now there was a problem.” Using this phrase as inspiration, what happens next?
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Tess LaLonde]

Photo-9 Swings

What are the dynamics in this group of friends? Do they all get along? Is there tension between some but not others? Imagine their dialogue as they swing. What are they saying to each other?
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Alexandra Contreras-Montesano]


Spring is a time of rebirth and nature kicking in for its big show. Write a poem or story about a plant, animal or creature, real or imagined, coming to life.
[YWP Photo Library, illustration by Ada Shookenhuff]


Listen to a favorite song and either write your interpretation of the lyrics or use them as inspiration for a poem, story or another song. What mental images do the lyrics evoke? Remember to list the song title and credit the artist.
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Abigail Harkness, challenge submitted by Hazel Civalier, YWP]


Write a story as a series of letters or diary entries. Popular books that use this method include The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Dear Mr. Henshaw, Letters from Rifka, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang]


Listen to the sound file and write the opening scene for a play, inspired by what the sounds make you feel: suspense, discomfort, anticipation? 
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Sophia Cannizzaro, sound by freesound.org]

Photo-10 Vacation

You’ve just won a dream vacation, and you can pick the location and one traveling companion. Where do you go and with whom do you travel? Describe the sensation of being lifted from your everyday life into a paradise of your choosing.
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Rebecca Orten]


Take a walk in your neighborhood, on a farm, in a city, down a school hallway. Stop for a moment and use as many senses as you can to describe what you see, hear, touch, smell -- and maybe even taste. Write a poem about your discoveries.
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang]

Got your back

Credit: Elijah M. Henderson, Unsplash
Write a poem or story to someone who needs encouragement in their life and remind them that you are there for them. Send it to that person. (Challenge created by LadyMidnight)


Photo by Jens Lelie on Unsplash
Think about a time in your life when you couldn't make a decision about something. Describe it. (Challenge created by LeahW.)


You've walked past this sign for years. One day, it seems to be calling you inside -- and the adventure begins. Tell the story.


Describe a time, real or fictional, when you have to summon up your courage. Focus on the actual "moment of truth," when time slows down and you have to commit to breaking through. What happens and how do you feel afterward?


You have just been put in charge of the world, but you can only make one rule. What is it and what events or experiences led you to it?


Some people believe that forests are enchanted places, with elves living there. Write a story or poem about the forest elves. Or tell the tale of a person who doesn't believe this, but then something happens to make them less certain.


Thomas Jefferson said, "I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it." Write about a situation in which you, or a character you create, put a lot of work into something, and then luck seems to follow.


Two strangers happen upon a bag of money while they're waiting for a train. Who are they? What do they do?


Choose one of the photos in the slideshow and write a story or poem about it.


Write a poem or short story about someone who is allergic to something really strange. What happens to them when they are exposed to this thing? Is is a food or some kind of object?
Use sensory details to make the story pop.


Some school years have a distinct aroma -- kindergarten might smell like glue sticks, second grade like lunchtime in the cafeteria, maybe eighth grade smells like a new book. These aromas can take you back to that place and time. Write about your own experience with certain years having their own special scent.
[Unsplash, photo by Pawan Kawan]


Write a reflection on someone you know. Describe them in terms of a scent, an object, a place, an emotion, anything that comes to mind. No names -- or insults, please! (This challenge was created in response to Vanilla by Spirit Bird.)


Write to one or all of these Climate Change challenges created by YWP's Hazel Civalier and Sophie Dauerman for their special SoundCheck on Climate Change on Thursday, Nov. 15 at Burlington City Arts, 135 Church St., Burlington, VT, from 6-8 pm!


 - Artistically portray a place in nature that you believe we should protect: Is it favorite park or hike where you relax? Does it contain a national monument? A...


Can't we do better? Kiah Morris, who represented...


Your character is immersed in an unsettling and unfamiliar setting — a claustrophobic character in a cave, a first-time skier on top of a steep mountain, a city where no one speaks the character's language. Describe the environment and the character's reaction to it in a short scene.
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang]


You’re babysitting two rambunctious children who have finally gone to bed. You’re exhausted and start drifting off to sleep on the couch, when you hear this sound. What is it? What do you do? https://freesound.org/people/tim.kahn/sounds/435490/
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Tess LaLonde]

Photo-6 Satire

Try your hand at satiric comics such as this one from Burlington YWPer Connor Byam. Tap into your artistic side. Throw in some humor -- and voila!
[YWP Photo Library, illustration by Connor Byam]

Photo-5 Child

Addie Card was 12 and working as a spinner in a mill in North Pownal, VT, when photographer Lewis Hine took this photo in 1910. Find out more about America’s child laborers by researching Hine’s photos. Write a poem or story based on this photo or others you find.
[Photo credit: Lewis Hine, Library of Congress]


Write about someone who tastes words, sees music and voices and/or hears colors. How do they use their mixed-up senses to their advantage, and what struggles do they face because of them?
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang]


Write about a world in which trees can talk and/or move on their own. How would trees be treated if they could speak for themselves? What would they say to each other -- and to us?
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang]


The fourth wall is the conceptual barrier between any fictional work and readers. Write a piece that breaks the fourth wall with a character who is aware of being fictional, and directly communicates to the reader.
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Jessica Belliveau]


There is a new sport that’s growing in popularity: people fly kites that joust with each other in the air. Are the kites alive, enchanted, or built with advanced technology? What are the prizes for winning, and the consequences of losing?
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Creative Commons]


A higher power decides to grant a superpower to all 7.6 billion people on planet Earth. But there’s a catch — if any two people name the same power, it becomes ineffective. What unique power do you choose, and what do you do with it? 
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Lia Chien]


Vermont winters can be brutal and beautiful at the same time. Using descriptive language, write a story or poem that takes place in the dead of winter. Illustrate it with photos or drawings if you like.
[YWP Photo Library, illustration by Ada Shookenhuff]


Tell a story about your experience of winter in short, descriptive poetry or prose. Be original. Avoid clichés. The best will be selected for presentation by the Vermont Stage Company at its annual Winter Tales production in Burlington in December.
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Lia Chien]


You’re a terrifying creature — everyone is afraid of you — but you feel completely misunderstood. How did the world come to perceive you this way? Can you change their perception? Tell the story.
[YWP Photo Library]


Pick a word and give it your own personal definition. Perhaps to you, “friendship” means the secrets that are whispered at 3 AM in the dark, “pineapple” brings to mind an infamous childhood prank and "flower" is a sunny afternoon in your grandmother's garden.
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Hazel Civalier]


Write a story leading up to a major event or holiday and end it before it actually happens. Try to leave your readers wondering by playing around with ambiguity and cliffhangers.
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Abigail Harkness]


Fall is a time of transition in nature. What if it were for humans as well? Using elements of the season as your inspiration, write a poem about someone who undergoes a biological transition every autumn, .
[YWP Photo Library, illustration by Callie Cox]

Photo-4 Friends

What's the story behind these two friends? 
[YWP Photo Library, illustration by Ada Shookenhuff]


Write a story or poem starting with the line, “It had been a long time, but now he was here.”
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Ada Shookenhuff]


Delicious meals are universally regarded as a labor of love. Tell the story of a recipe from start to finish: harvesting blackberries to make jam, foraging for mushrooms, roasting marshmallows—and how the experience affects the people who prepare and eat the meal.
[YWP Photo Library, painting by Ada Shookenhuff]


Psychologists tell us our earliest memories typically form between the ages of 3 and 4. What is your earliest memory, and how old were you? Are the details hazy, or do you see and feel it clearly?
[YWP Photo Library, Photo by Kevin Huang]


The first day at school, camp, a new job can be nerve-wracking. Write about a memorable first day experience of your own or make one up, whether funny, mortifying or sad.
[YWP Photo Library, Educational Technology Clearinghouse - University of South Florida]


Your character is having an argument with someone. They begin hurling insults at each other, but without the use of profanity, slurs or comments about appearance. Maybe they end up laughing at the absurdity. Maybe they part in anger. Tell the story through their dialogue, showing the most creative fighting words they exchange. 
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Antonia Armstrong-Laird]


Imagine if 70° Fahrenheit weather — that pleasant, almost perfect temperature— were a person. How would the characteristics of 70°F weather be represented in a person? What would an interaction with them be like?
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang]

Photo-1 Sunset

Your character wanders off to this dock to watch the sunset. Something important has just happened and they need time alone. Tell the story.
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Nora Wootten]


You have been invited to join a club that you’ve only heard wild rumors about. If you decide to join, what do you find out? What is the club really about? Are there bizarre initiation rituals and secret handshakes? Or if you take a pass, how do you come to your decision -- and live with that decision?
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Abigail Harkness]

Photo-4 Circus

Use this photo, taken at Shelburne Museum, as inspiration to write a story about a circus or carnival with dazzling acts touring the country.
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Hazel Civalier]


Don’t ignore me! Write from the perspective of a character that you wish you would see more often or more accurately in the media, TV and movies.
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang]


Write about someone who is ruler of something very strange or very silly. How did they become the leader? What “laws” do they pass? Who are their subjects and enemies, and how do they cope with this empire?
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang]


Use your best persuasive skills to convince your teacher or another adult to do something or believe something. What is the conversation in which you urge, coax or demand, and how does it turn out?
[Photo credit: Lewis Hine, Library of Congress] 


Write a poem or story that ends with a greeting. What is the backstory? Lead the reader along with you up to the point of the greeting, which might be a surprise (“Oh, hello!”), or a test of will (“Hi, my friends made me do this…”) or a coincidence (“Joe?! What are you doing here?”).
[YWP Photo Library, photo by ​Amanda Seavers]


What improvements would you like to see at your school this year? Longer lunches? Later start time? More play, less work? Write a persuasive letter to your school officials, making a case for positive changes.
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Tess LaLonde]


Write about people in an unconventional afterlife. Maybe people are grouped for eternity by how often they laugh and they party, maybe they are immediately assigned a job position to help influence life back on Earth, maybe they have to drift around outer space together ... Let your creativity flow! What is life like for the dead?
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Tess LaLonde]


The midterm elections are approaching -- Nov. 6, 2018 -- and whether or not you are old enough to vote, your voice matters. Prompted by today's Daily Read, "Midterms," persuade people to vote. The midterms mark the middle of Republican President Trump's term, and all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate are being contested.


Write a description of yourself or someone you love. Include as many details of appearance, personality, habits and behavior as you can. If you like, use figurative or metaphorical language along with more concrete details.
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Alexis Donna]


“The scene in front of her was almost perfect. Almost.” Finish the story.
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Rebecca Orten]

Photo-2 Guitar

The man strumming his guitar says to you, “You’re a different soul, aren’t you?” What sets you apart from the crowd? 
[YWP Photo Library, photo by Holly Margulius; challenge submitted by Rowan Potzler, YWP.]

Photo-3 Thinking

What is this girl thinking? Write her internal dialogue. Is she looking at you as she thinks? Or is she focused on something or someone else?
[YWP Photo Library, illustration by Zoe Maxwell]


[Credit: Gerardo Mora/Getty Images, anti-Trump rally, New York Times]
"How do you love America? Stand up against narrow-mindedness and racism. Don’t turn away. Stay with it until you have done all that you can do." - David Maraniss, from "...

Tic Tac


Overnight, your character shrinks to the size of a Tic Tac. What dangers await this...


[Photo: Officers hang a flag with an image of the twin towers. Credit: Brittainy Newman/The New York Times]
From reading and learning about 9/11, write about its impact. Read this New York Times story about a young man whose mother was lost that day. The four 9/11 attacks against the...

CJP-Arts Critic

Young Writers Project writers attend Kinetic Light's DESCENT at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts on Oct. 30 and write a 500-word (max) review of the show.

CJP-Where I Live

[Photo credit: Kevin Huang, YWP Photo Archive]
Take a moment to think about where you live. What makes it unique, special, feel like home? Maybe it could be better, but for this challenge, focus on what's good about it -- and write, draw, paint, or take photos!


Greta Thunberg, 16, the Swedish environmental activist who has inspired people around the world to fight climate change, is Time magazine's Person of the Year for 2019, the youngest ever to receive the honor. If you're inspired, write a letter to Greta congratulating her and share your thoughts on climate change. Read the story in The Washington Post.


[Photo Kevin...


[Illustration by Grace Safford, YWP Archive]
Look at yourself in a mirror, and draw your face without looking down at your paper. Never lift your pencil from the page! Color it in later if you want. Take a photo and post it! Does it look anything like you?


[Illustration by Destiny-Rose Chery, YWP Archive]
"I just want to go ..." finish the sentence and explain where, why, when, and how you will make it happen!


[Photo: YWP Photo Library, Kevin Huang]
"The day that I stopped being afraid of failure was the day my adventure began ..." Begin a story or poem with this phrase, or use the concept as inspiration.