Aug 06

Weekly Challenges 2020-21

YWP's WEEKLY CHALLENGES are created by staff and the young writers and artists of YWP to inspire you to write and create! Two to three new challenges, or prompts, are scheduled each week with a Friday deadline for publication with our Vermont media partners, including 12 newspapers and, as well as in our monthly digital magazine, The Voice, and our annual anthology. ANYONE from ANYWHERE can respond to these challenges. Have fun! (Word and PDF versions of the challenges are attached below; right 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. You can also write about anything anytime on your YWP blog. And post photos and art there, too, using the “visual/photos/art” category. Teachers may submit on behalf of students (include student's name and age in "Author Name" at bottom of blog). And watch for new, newsy Community Journalism Project challenges every week!

The due dates have passed, but the challenges remain. If you're inspired, write to any of these challenges anytime!

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?

Sunset. 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]
Due Sept. 11

Photo-Space. 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.

Bucket. 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!

General. Write about anything in any genre!
Due Sept. 18

Art of … 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!  [Photo credit: Love to write, YWP] 

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

Hundred. 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?
 Due Sept. 25

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?

Banned. “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, Sept. 27-Oct. 3

Virus. 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]
Due Oct. 2

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

Trunk. 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.
Due Oct. 9

Election 2020.
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 on Election Day?

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!

General. Write about anything in any genre!
Due Oct. 16

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.

John Lewis. Civil rights leader and longtime Georgia Congressman John Lewis, who died 07/17/20, believed in "good trouble, necessary trouble" to fight injustice, create change – and "redeem the soul of America" through civil rights, voting rights, gun control, health care reform. He believed that you are never too young to make positive change. Read John Lewis's final essay here. How can we keep Lewis's legacy alive?

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.
Due Oct. 23

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]

Dark. Are you afraid of the dark? Let the fear of whatever may lurk in the absence of light, real or imagined, spark your creativity.
Due Oct. 30

Photo-BW. 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.]

Relocation. 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 would you spend your last day on Earth? [Challenge created by fire girl]
Due Nov. 6
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 strength or symbolism would these materials hold for you? [Challenge created by Treblemaker]

Grateful. What or who are you most grateful for? Write a thank you note, a poem of appreciation, or a gratitude list.
Due Nov. 13

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]

Community. 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?

General. Write about anything in any genre!
Due Nov. 20

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.

Extraterrestrials. 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?
Due Nov. 27

Photo-Geometry. 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!

Babble. 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]
Due Dec. 4

“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.

Scars. 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?
Due Dec. 11
Blue. Paint, photograph, or describe in words, the color blue. [Art credit: cedar, YWP]

Twirl. 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!
Due Dec. 18

Your character receives a gift that – over time – will have a huge impact on their life. Describe the gift, the giving, and the consequences. 

Repeated. 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.
Due Dec. 25
Philosopher. 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:

Detective. 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.
Due Jan. 1

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.

Treasure. “One person’s trash is another person’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)?

General. Write about anything in any genre!
Due Jan. 8

Photo-Angles. 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 as an example.

Trouble. 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”?
  Due Jan. 15
Revelation. Begin or end a new piece with this line: “For the first time, I was beginning to understand what life is all about.”

Secret. Write about a character who has a secret, or about a secret you once held and later revealed. [Challenge created by Crescent_Moon]
Due Jan. 22

Spoken. 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. Need inspiration? Amanda Gorman, National Youth Poet Laureate, shared her spoken word poem, "The Hill We Climb," at the 2021 Inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. [Challenge created by Treblemaker, YWP]

Guardian. 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?
Due Jan. 29
Photo-Fusion. 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]

Groundhog. 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?
Due Feb. 5

Love. Write a love story, real or imagined, told through poetry or short fiction.

Podcast. 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!

General. Write about anything in any genre!
 Due Feb. 12

Tone. 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.

Beloved. 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 voice, message, and poetic language.

Portal. 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?

Fame. 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.

Haiku-Moment. 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.”
Due Feb. 26

Unjust. Write about an injustice that you or your character witness or experience firsthand. What do you do? What do you learn from this incident?

Rhyme. 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. Need inspiration? Read Treblemaker’s poem, “Four AM,” and hear her discuss rhyming poetry with eyesofIris on Line Break Episode 19.
Due March 5
City. 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.  

Dreaming. 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.
Due March 12

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

Unbelievable. 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]

Glass. 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 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]
Due March 19
Critter. 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]

Morals. 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.

General. Write about anything in any genre!
Due March 26
Serendipity. 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).

Weather. 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.
Due April 2

Photo-Slanting. “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]

Flash. 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! (Read what Wikipedia says about flashbulb memories.)
Due April 9
Climate-Perspective. Write about climate change from the perspective of an animal. [Challenge inspired by “The Curmudgeonly Frog,” by Yellow Sweater]

Nostalgia. 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.
Due April 16

Lighting. 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 created by YWP alumna Erin Bundock]

Name. 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, YWP]

General. Write about anything in any genre!
Due April 23
Clicker. 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? 

Stand-up. 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.
Due April 30
Assumptions. 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]

Meme. 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.
Due May 7

Photo-Food. 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. 

Opposites. 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.
 Due May 14
Adaptation. 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.

Music. 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]
Due May 21

Confidante. 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.

Switch. Write about a character who switches bodies with someone else, much like the mother and daughter in "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?

General. Write about anything in any genre!
Due May 28
Photo-Place. 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]
Nice. 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.”
Due June 4
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