Aug 05

Weekly Writing Challenges 2018-19

These weekly challenges are created by YWP's young writers, summer interns and staff to inspire you to write! We hope you have fun with them! Two new challenges are scheduled each week with a Friday deadline and are sent to schools as part of our regular publication process in a dozen VT newspapers, on However, ANYONE from ANYWHERE can respond to these challenges and will be considered for publication, particularly in our digital magazines, The Voice, and our anthology of best work where there are no geographic restrictions. YWP also has a bank of daily writing challenges here and on the home page of this website. (See the PDF version of these challenges at bottom, click on photos above to download.)

General. Your best writing in any genre and/or photos. Due anytime, all year!

The due dates for the Weekly Challenges have passed for the 2018-19 school year. But don't let that stop you from writing to them. We're always checking for great, new writing here! AND ... you can help us create next year's Weekly Challenges. Try this: "Write a prompt!"

. First days 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.
Education. 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.
Due Sept. 14

  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. [Photo credit: YWP Library, photo by Nora Wootten] 
Afterlife. Write about people in an unconventional afterlife. Maybe people are grouped for eternity by how often they laugh and party, maybe they are assigned a job 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? 
Due Sept. 21

Hey! 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.
Portrait. 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.
Due Sept. 28
Greeting. 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?”). 
Almost. “The scene in front of her was almost perfect. Almost.” Finish the story. 
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.] 
Transition. 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.
Due Oct. 12

Winter/18. 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. 
Creature. 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?
Due Oct. 19
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]
Election18. You might not be able to vote in the midterms, but your voice matters. Write a letter, poem, essay or a good, old rant about the state of the nation and what you think must change. 
Due Oct. 26

Here. Write a story or poem starting with the line, “It had been a long time, but now he was here.” 
Definition. 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] 
Due Nov. 2
Photo-4 Friends. Who are these two? What are their names and how do they know each other? Where are they off to? [YWP Photo Library, illustration by Ada Shookenhuff] 
Anticipation. 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. 
Due Nov. 9
WEEK 10  

Cooking. 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. 
Fighting-Words. 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. 
Due Nov. 16

Club. 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? 
Royalty. Write about someone who is ruler of something very strange or very stupid. 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?
Due Nov. 23

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] 
Synesthesia. 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? 
Due Nov. 30

Trees. 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?
Fourth. The fourth wall can be defined as the conceptual barrier between any fictional work and its viewers or readers. Write a piece with a character who’s aware they are fictional and directly communicates to their readers.  
Due Dec. 7
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] 
Power. 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?
Due Dec. 14
Snow. 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. 
Location. 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. 
Due Dec. 21
Kites. 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?
Babysitting. 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 a strange sound (click on the title of this challenge). What is it? What do you do?
Due Jan. 11
70°. Imagine if 70° Fahrenheit weather — that pleasant, almost perfect temperature— were a person. How would the characteristics of that climate be represented in a person? What would an interaction with 70°F be like? 
Memory. 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?
Due Jan. 18
Photo-7 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] 
Persuasion. 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? 
Due Jan. 25

Stuck. 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?
Luck. 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. 
Due Feb. 1
Decide. 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? 
Cover. 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). 
Due Feb. 8
Lost. 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? 
Title. 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? (Challenge submitted by Hazel Civalier, YWP)
Due Feb. 15
WEEK 22 
Beautiful. Begin or end a poem or story with the phrase, “She was beautiful, but in a different sort of way.” 
Alert. 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.
Due Feb. 22
WEEK 23 
Photo-8 Cat. You adopt a cat, that you think is pretty ordinary, from the shelter … 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 with this new friend. [YWP Photo Library, photo by Abigail Harkness]  
Alone. What happens at your house when no one is home? What’s the first thing the inanimate objects do? Hold a party time? Hop into the hot tub? Play tricks on the absent humans? Write a whimsical tale.
Due March 1
Hurricane. 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? 
Woods. 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. 
Due March 8
Pal. 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? 
Twist. 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!
Due March 15
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? 
Replaced. 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? [Challenge submitted by Rowan Potzler, YWP]
Due March 22
WEEK 27 
Frost. 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. 
Prophecies. 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? 
Due March 29
Home. Where is your home? Far away in another land? Or here, where you live today? Read the poem "Home" by Balkisa Omar, a member of the Vermont slam poetry group Muslim Girls Making Change. Write about your own experience of home. 
Problem. “They were almost ready to leave, but now there was a problem.” Using this phrase as inspiration, what happens next?
Due April 5
Photo-9 Swings. What are the dynamics in this group of friends? Do they all get along equally well? 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]
Awakening. 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. 
Due April 12

Song. 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. (Challenge submitted by Hazel Civalier, YWP) 
Journal. Write about a character who discovers someone else’s journal and realizes something very strange or alarming about the writer. What is the secret and what does the character do about it?
Due April 19
Epistolary. 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
Sounds. Listen to the sound file (click on the challenge title) and write the opening scene for a play, inspired by what the sounds make you feel: suspense, discomfort, anticipation?
Due April 26
WEEK 32 
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. 
Senses. 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.
Due May 3
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