YWP's challenges are created by staff and members of the YWP community to inspire you to write – and get published! Two new challenges are scheduled each week with a Friday deadline for publication with our Vermont media partners, including 10 newspapers & VtDigger.org, as well as in our monthly digital magazine, The Voice, and our annual anthology. Listen, also, to VPR for YWP announcements. ANYONE from ANYWHERE can respond to these challenges. Have fun! (See the PDF version of the weekly challenges at end of list; click on photos above to download.)
NEW TO YWP? To respond to challenges, click on the title of the challenge. The challenge will pop up. Click "Respond." This will open a new blog form in your account that links directly to the challenge. Fill in Title; select a Category; Write in the Body section. And SAVE. Besides the challenges, you can write about anything anytime on your blog. Submit photos and art under the Visual category.
PAST DUE DATES
Icebreakers. 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.
Risk. 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.
Colors. 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)?
Self-portrait. Write about yourself in a way that is positive. Express an appreciation for your own best qualities, talents, ideas, activities, and hopes and dreams.
Clearing. 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.
Step. 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.
Shoes. “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?
Shape-shifter. 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?
Haunted. 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.
Chills. 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?
Thinking. 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.
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.
Perfect. 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.
Alive. Complete the thought, “I feel alive when …” in just two paragraphs.
When? 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?
Letter. 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.
Boost. 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.
Sprout. 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.
StillLife. 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!
Meditation. 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.
Important. Write a story that takes place over the course of just one day, where something very important happens.
Minute. 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.
Changes. 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.
Do-over. You are granted the gift of one do-over from your past. What would it be? Why?
Waiting. 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.
Generosity. 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.
Music. Writing about music is an art in itself, often challenging writers to translate sounds into colorful turns of phrase and rich metaphors. Music critic Tim Rutherford-Johnson, for instance, once compared a rugged piece of music to "granite in November rain." Find a piece of music that appeals to you, and try to describe it to someone who has never heard it.
Reverence. Reverence is defined as "deep respect for someone or something." Write about something that you regard with reverence.
Tomorrow. Begin a poem or story with the words, “Tomorrow, I hope...”
Burden. 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.
Unusual. 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...
Surprise. 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]
Paintings. 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?
Mystique. 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.
Oops. 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.
Nonverbal. 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.
Wishes. 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? [Challenge created by Forever young]
Wind. Tell a story in which the wind, or maybe just a breeze, plays a critical role.
Fifteen. Describe yourself in exactly 15 words — no more, no less. A sentence or list.
Gratitude. 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.
Choice. 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?
Reframe. 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.
Mountains. Do you live near mountains (like Lincoln Peak from 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.
Reach. Begin or end a story or poem with, “If only I could reach a little farther ...”
Me. 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 ...
Shy. Write about a person who is shy, and how they decide one day that they are OK with that.
Mouse. 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.
Rainbow. 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?
Carnival. 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?
Record. If you could break any world record, what would it be and how would you do it?
Humor. 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?
Invention. Have you ever thought to yourself, “Wait a minute… why isn’t that a thing already?” Explain your product or idea to the world.
Starry. Write a poem or story that features a starry night and a surprising discovery.
Mars. 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.
Lost. 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.
Wistful. 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.
Connect. Have you ever met someone and felt you’ve known them your entire life, or perhaps in another life? Describe the experience.
Listen. 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.
Admire. 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.
Shakespeare. 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 and photo by LadyMidnight]
Home-ish. 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?
Support. 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.
Ocean. 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.
Raft. 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.
Disaster. 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?
Sunshower. 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.
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.)
RoadTrip. School has ended for the summer -- and 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?