Writing Prompts for Young Writers

An organization that encourages students to write and arranges for their work to be published is putting together another year of a newspaper series that runs in the Valley News and 19 other papers in Vermont and New Hampshire.

The Young Writers Project is the independent nonprofit behind the Newspaper Series (and youngwritersproject.org) and the Schools Project (ywpschools.net), an online classroom and training program that works with teachers to help students develop their writing and digital literacy skills.

The Newspaper Series: Teachers and students, K-12, can participate in Young Writers Project by submitting best work done in class or outside of school, and by responding to weekly prompts. A team of students, volunteers and YWP staff selects the best work to be published in 20 newspapers in Vermont and New Hampshire and on vpr.net each week.

How to post work on youngwritersproject.org: Start an account, log in, click “Write” to create a blog, fill in the title and body of the work and give it a genre tag. For publication in the Newspaper Series, click “Yes” and choose the prompt you are writing for. Under the prompts, fill in name, school and grade. Finally, click “Save.” More information on youngwritersproject.org.

These are the prompts for the first half of the year in the Young Writers Project.

Week 1

Place. What is your favorite place? Could be a room, a place in the woods, Grandpa’s barn, but it’s a place where you most feel like you, where you feel confident and happy. Tell a story about something that happened there; use details. Alternate: General writing. Share your best writing from the summer — in any genre. Due Sept. 20.

Week 2

Mystery. All good short stories start with a mysterious idea that often is the opening, the beginning. What’s yours? Write your opening paragraphs to a mystery story, something that will draw the reader in. (Finish it if you’d like; we may not be able to publish it all, but we’ll highlight it on youngwritersproject.org.) Alternate: Photo 1. Due Sept. 27,

Week 3

Mona Lisa. Imagine you are the subject of a famous painting or a photograph. What’s your back story and how do you see the world —and the people who have come to stare at you? Include the image or tell us the painting/photo you are writing about. Alternate: Lyrics. Write song lyrics or create new lyrics to a favorite song (include a podcast!) Any genre, including rap. Due Oct. 4.

Week 4

Spooky. Write a story that makes our skin crawl. Can be real or imagined. Alternates: Moon: What’s on the dark side of the moon? Go exploring and report back; or general writing in any genre. Due Oct. 11.

Week 5

Elder. Interview an older relative or friend — write a short profile; recount one of their best stories; or tell a story about an experience with that person. Alternates: Survival. You are stuck on a deserted island and night is falling. Who is with you and what do you do? or Photo 2. Due Oct. 18.

Week 6

Secret lives. You have another life that must remain hidden. Tell a story about it; if you can, tell how your secret was almost discovered. Alternate: Excerpt. Open any book, pick a line and include it in a story or poem. Give yourself just seven minutes to write. Tell us where the line came from. Due Oct. 25.

Week 7

Somewhere. You wake up in a strange place and don’t know how you got there. Describe it. What happens? Alternates: Style. Write in the style of an author you admire. Name the author; or general writing in any genre. Due Nov. 1.

Week 8

Thanks. What are you most grateful for? Tell a story about how you gained appreciation for this thing or opportunity or person. Alternate: Unique. What’s something unique or special that you can do? Tell us how you do it. Due Nov. 8.

Week 9

Winter Tales. Tell a narrative about winter in short, fresh descriptive poetry or prose. Avoid cliches. The best will be selected for presentation by the Vermont Stage Company at its annual Winter Tales production at FlynnSpace in Burlington. Alternates: General writing in any genre; or Photo 3. Due Nov. 15

Week 10

Inspiration. Describe your muse. What form does it take; when does it appear; how do you interact with it? Alternate: Fairytale. Create an 8th dwarf for the Snow White story. Who is it and how does he or she interact with the others? Due Nov. 22.

Week 11

Magic. There is magic all around us, but people often don’t recognize it. Sometimes it comes in the form of a coincidence or two paths that cross. Describe a magical moment or feeling that you have experienced. Alternate: Home. What is it about your hometown or your state that you are most proud of? Due Nov. 29.

Week 12

Cold. What is the coldest you’ve ever felt? Describe it. Alternates: Optimist. Think of your worst — saddest, scariest or most embarrassing — memory. Tell the story; however, write about it in a way that turns it into a positive; or Photo 4. Due Dec. 6.

Week 13

Perspective. Tell a story from the perspective or viewpoint of something unconventional: a dog, a flower, a mountain, etc. Alternate: Rant. Send us your best rant, something that ticks you off. Note: No real names or situations where someone can be identified. Make it a slam poem if you’d like. And feel free to create a podcast. Due Dec. 13.

Week 14

Myth. Create the new urban myth. Make it eerie, funny or outrageous. Alternates: Funny. Write a poem or story that makes your reader smile – and then laugh out loud. It’s harder than it sounds. Try it for fun. See what happens; or general writing in any genre. Due Dec. 20.

Week 15

Achievement. Write about your greatest achievement and how you did it. Tell the story behind it. Alternate: Angst. Create a piece filled with the angstiest angst you can muster. No self-harm or harm to others, please. Due Jan. 10.

Week 16

Wonder. Write a piece that focuses on the idea of: I wonder... Alternates: Gift. Have you received something that you cherish more than anything? Describe it; or Photo 5. Due Jan. 17.

Week 17

Elements. What do you think is the strongest and/or most beautiful force in nature? Tell a story about it. Alternate: Disappointed. Looking forward to something is often the best part. Write about a time where your expectations weren’t quite met. Due Jan. 24.

Week 18

Trapped. You are trapped —in an elevator, on a long flight, or in a waiting room — with the most annoying person in the world. Tell us what happens. Do not name anyone or describe someone who can be identified. Alternates: Comic strip. Design a comic strip and submit it as a picture; or general writing in any genre. Due Jan. 31.

Support: YWP is supported by this newspaper and foundations, businesses and individuals who recognize the power and value of writing. If you would like to contribute, please go to youngwritersproject.org/support, or mail your donation to YWP, 12 North St., Suite 8, Burlington, VT 05401.