2009-2010 Prompts

Here is the list of writing prompts for the 2009/10 YWP Newspaper Series. Note: Do not submit work to these prompts. The deadline has passed.

1. "If only . . ." "I could have avoided the whole thing if only I had . . .” Write a story that starts with this line. Alternate: Unplugged. Imagine living without a television. Actually, why don't you give it a try and write about what it's like. National TV Turn-off Week is Sept. 20-26; participate and write about your experience. (Deadline: Sept. 11; publication week of Sept. 28)

2. Photo Prompt: Write a story about this photo, taken by Dorothea Lange in California, March 1937. (Click on photo for link to download.) "Toward Los Angeles." Alternate: Back. “Oh gosh, they're back..." Write a story based on or using that phrase. Deadline: Sept. 18; publication week of Oct. 5.

3. Headline. Write an attention-grabbing news headline and then create a story about it. Alternate: Listening in. Take a moment to listen to conversations at school, home or in a public place such as the hallways, cafeteria, playing field, a restaurant or store. Take some of that dialogue and write a story or poem. Fill in the gaps. Deadline: Sept. 25; publication week of Oct. 12.

4. General Submit best non-prompt general writing you have created. This call for general entries is repeated each month and you can use the same "general" term when submitting each time. Deadline: Oct. 2; publication week of Oct. 19.

5. Ghosts. Do you believe in ghosts? Have you seen one? Tell us a ghost story. Make one up if you want, but make it believable. Alternate: Favorite character. Choose your favorite character from a book or movie and place them in a different story. Deadline: Oct. 9; publication week of Oct. 26.

6. Object. Write about one object that defines you – or someone you know. Tell a story about why it is important to you (or them). Describe it from as many perspectives as possible. Alternate: The bus. Write a story that takes place on a bus. Deadline: Oct. 16; publication week of Nov. 2.

7. The kitchen table. What happens at your kitchen table? Tell a story about a memorable moment at that table. If you don't have a table, or feel so inclined, create a fictionalized narrative of something happening at the kitchen table. Alternate: Door. Use these words in a story or poem: "I reached the door and knocked loudly ..." Deadline: Oct. 23; publication week of Nov. 9.

9. Sibling rivalry. Write a story about how you compete with a brother or sister. If you don’t have a sibling, write about what it’s like to be the lone child. Alternate: Anger. Rant about something that really ticks you off. Deadline: Nov. 6; publication week of Nov. 23.

10. Winter Tales. Tell a story about winter; it can focus on the season or the holidays – the weather, the outdoors, or the emotions. A dozen selections will be given dramatic presentations by Vermont Stage Company in early December. Deadline: Nov. 13; publication week of Nov. 30.

11. School. What experiences in school have really engaged you? Deadline: Nov. 20; Publish Dec. 7.

12. Super powers. You’ve been granted powers never thought possible. What are they and what will you do with them? Alternate: Excuses. OK, so here's your chance: Write an excuse as to why you didn't do something that is so outrageous that we have to accept it. Make it funny, too. Deadline: Nov. 27; publication week of Dec. 14.

13. General Deadline: Dec. 4; publication week of Jan. 4.

14. An elder's story. Interview someone in an older generation -- a family member or community member -- and get from them a story they've never told you. Re-tell that story. Focus on the details; 400 words and concentrate on the most memorable moment within that story. You can fictionalize the story if you'd like. No real names needed. Alternate: The big win. Write about a time when you won big. Deadline Dec. 11; publication week of Jan. 11.

15. Lost. Tell a story about losing something or getting lost. Write a story or poem about how you feel or how someone else felt because of a loss. Alternate: Utopia. What does your utopia look like? Provide images if you'd like. Deadline: Dec. 18; publication week of Jan. 25.

16. Stuck. Describe a time when you found yourself in a tight spot. Tell us how you got there and what you did to get out of it. Or write a story about someone who finds themselves in a difficult situation. Alternate: India. What images come to mind? Write them down and tell us where those images come from? Do you think the images are accurate? Deadline: Jan. 8; publication week of Feb. 1.

17. General. Deadline: Jan 15; publication week of Feb. 8.

18. Stress. What stresses you out? How do you deal with stress? Write about a time when you have felt stressed out, or create a story in which the characters have to deal with a stressful situation. Alternate: My story. Pick a memorable moment from your life. Something that happened, something you did, something you witnessed. Tell a story about it that will tell us about you. 400 words, no real names, please. Try to focus on something very specific, give us detail. Deadline Jan. 22; publication week of Feb. 15 or 22.

19. Faking it. Admit it, you’ve had to pull the wool over someone’s eyes when trapped at an unexpected moment. Write about it. Alternate: Four. Write about the number four. Could be the time on the clock, the number of people or your favorite athlete. Use the number in a story, poem or play. Deadline: Jan 29; publication week of Mar. 1.

20. General. Deadline Feb. 5; publication week of Mar. 8.

21. Cold. Hate it? Love it? Want to move to Florida? Write about an experience you have had with cold. Alternate: Rules. What's the silliest or most pointless rule you've ever encountered? Tell a story about it and tell how you got around the rule or got the rule changed. Deadline: Feb. 12; publication week of Mar. 15.

22. Elevator. You are in an elevator. The door opens and in walks an annoying type of person. Suddenly the elevator stops between floors...tell us what happens. (No real people, please!) Alternate: Peeves. What is your number one pet peeve? Or what are your top 10 peeves? Deadline Feb. 26; publication week of Mar. 22.

23. Blue. "It was the most brilliant color blue I'd ever seen..." Work that phrase into a poem or a story. Alternate: Photo Prompt Write a story about this photo, taken by Esther Bubley for the OWI, April 1943. This photo was originally in black and white. (Click on photo for link to download.) Deadline: Mar. 5; publication week of Mar. 29.

24. Avoidance. What do you avoid? What do you do to avoid doing it? Tell a story about a time when you avoided something. Make it funny. Alternate: Intolerance. In your life have you seen intolerance or prejudice or discrimination? Have you seen it in more than way? Is there intolerance towards students who look different or dress differently? Or who aren't in a popular group? Write about intolerance; tell a story about your own experience or observation. Deadline: Mar. 12; publication week of Apr. 5.

25. General. Deadline: Mar. 19; publication week of Apr. 12.

26. Pocket. You have found something strange in your pocket. Describe it to someone who has no sight. Tell the story of how it got there. Alternate: My Town. Write about your town or city. Tell us one story or one anecdote that reveals something about your community -- why you like it (or don't), what it stands for, what it's known for. You can tell a historical story. You can base it on an interview. Deadline: Mar. 26; publication week of Apr. 19 or 26.

27. Bullying. Have you been the recipient? What did it do to you? Have you ever bullied anyone? Why? Alternate: Cell phones. Make the case that cell phones should be allowed or should not be allowed in school. Deadline: Apr. 2; publication week of May 3.

28. General. Deadline: Apr. 9; publication week of May 10.

29. Farming. Do you farm? Have you ever worked on a farm? Visited one? Write about it. Do you know a farmer? Talk to her or him and tell their story. Try not to romanticize. Tell a story that describes the reality of farming today. Deadline: April 16 (south) or 23 (north); publication week of May 17.

30. Rain. Tell us a story about your best or worst experience in the rain. Alternate: Phobias. Heights, small spaces, thunderstorms, spiders. Do you have a phobia? How do you deal with it? Deadline: Apr. 23 or 30 (Chittenden and Franklin counties); publication week of May 25.

31. Dreams. Nightmares, happy dreams, daydreams. Write about a dream you have had. Or, write about your dreams for the future. Alternate: Poetry. Write an ode, limerick or a shaped poem. Deadline: May 7; publication week of May 31.

32. Success. At last! Write about a time you succeeded at something you worked really hard on. Alternate: Memorial Day. What does this holiday mean to you? Do you do anything special, or do you just sleep in? Deadline: May 14; publication week of June 7.

33. General. Send us your best work -- any genre. Deadline: May 21; publication week of June 15.

YWPprompts09.10.pdf591.92 KB
creativecat2's picture

These topics are great it

These topics are great it some how just seems to fit everything thats going on in my life that I need to write about thx.

"Curiousity killed the cat, the creative one got away" -ME!

YaMoGeekRoZ's picture

awesome! i am especially

awesome! i am especially excited about the india one


Sambo's picture

same here! I have so many

same here! I have so many ideas...

lovetowrite's picture

These sound really cool.

These sound really cool. Some of them sound similar, but that's okay. Just a question--when is the list of finalized prompts going to come out?

Using this Project as an elective

Mary T. Burnham
Because my school needs to give some of our students more time for math (NCLB) we have been told that we will have ten minutes less in our other classes & will teach an elective while the lower math students are getting the extra help. I came up with the idea of using the YWP as an elective as I want to make sure that students are still getting academic content in English/LA so that these skills will remain strong. I will call the elective "Writing for Publication."
Since I am new to this I am wondering when you will decide on what the prompts will be for sure. ( I have made a copy of the draft topics and they are superb. What a range. Something to appeal to just about everyone.)
We start school on August 26th and I want to be as prepared as I can be. Any ideas will be gratefully accepted.

Mary T. Burnham

Charli G.'s picture

I love prompts that can be

I love prompts that can be turned into stories...these all sound amazing, especially 'The Bus'

Peaches's picture


I think it would be cool if the "Wired" one and the "Unplugged" one were during the same week, like one as the alternative, so you could compare them at the same time.

peacebird's picture




agharvey1014's picture


these are good. there is a big range. how do we know which ones are alternatives?

"Could a dead, frozen heart break? It felt like mine would!"

Edward Cullen
Midnight Sun

"Could a dead, frozen heart break? It felt like mine would!"

Edward Cullen
Midnight Sun

sounds like you are a

sounds like you are a twilight fan.... lol me too!

to the world you may be just one person, but to one person you just might be the world- unknown

if you can take the time to ask for help, you can take the time to offer someone help- unknown

Fictilia's picture

Submissions are due on

Submissions are due on Fridays at 3 p.m.? Or, submissions are due by Fridays at 3 p.m.?


submissions are due...

How about "Submissions are due by 3 p.m. on Fridays" ?

Yes, the other was a little awkward... but hopefully this communicates the deadline policy?

"Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you."
-Jean-Paul Sartre

Fictilia's picture





...on an unrelated matter, ignore phone messages. We found the camera. Great job on the blog.

(I'm on Eva's computer. Sorry for confusion.)

"Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you."
-Jean-Paul Sartre

yellowrose's picture


**Cough**Grady and I found the camera**coughcough**


Live.Laugh.Run's picture


Finally! I've waited all summer for this to start up!!
I already entered
"I could have avoided the whole thing if only I hadn't.."
I hope you like it.
And maybe its good enough to be published!!! (:

Schila's picture

How does one go about being on the...

student panel? Are they randomly picked or is it only like writers to read, or mentors?



"I'll be there..." 2010

If only......

If only I could have gone back to the days that were rough where I could have avoided the situation. If I did I wouldn't have met this wonderful guy who has been there for me.

A poem i wrote called Life is Hard

Life is hard,
Tears fall down your cheeks,
Your stomach tightens,
You look around and it's pitch black,
Noones there to save you or even see a tear on your face,
You know someone who is sick,
You hold on to the ones you love,
You know that people are going to tare you down,
But stay strong and hold on.

Horse Poem

Horses running in the fields,
hearing laughter,
Ridding through the meadow past;ure,
We ride on with tears and sorrow,
We ride on and on,
Through seasons,
Through lifes struggle,
We ride on.


I die from depression,
Their in a session,
Their teaching me a lesson,
My bodies in the sand,
I have a hand,
They tried to blow the sand in the sky,
Thats how I die.

NonSequitur's picture


Nice poetry, but if you want some feedback, try posting it in a blog entry instead of a comment.

"The opposite of war isn't peace, it's creation."




do not use this site for chatting or posting comments that are not germane to the writing. It is a place where you can share your writing with other young writers and receive feedback on it, and read stories, poems, essays and blog posts written by other students.



what are all of the

what are all of the newspapers the poems and other things get published in?

to the world you may be just one person, but to one person you just might be the world- unknown

if you can take the time to ask for help, you can take the time to offer someone help- unknown

peace_love_happ. . .

The selected YWP work appears in the following newspapers: The Burlington Free Press, Times Argus, Rutland Herald, Brattleboro Reformer, The Valley News and the St. Albans Messenger.

thank you sooooo much. i knew

thank you sooooo much. i knew about brattleboro reformer, just not about others. thanks again!

to the world you may be just one person, but to one person you just might be the world- unknown

if you can take the time to ask for help, you can take the time to offer someone help- unknown

miss_literal's picture

Mconsiglio --

First, I would like to compliment you on your lovely poem.

Second, welcome to YWP! I hope you learn to love this place as much as the rest of us do, and that you grow as a writer here.

Lastly, I think you may not realize how to post your writing. When you would like to create a new entry on your blog, you can go to your toolbar on the left side of the screen. Under your username, click My blog, then click Post new blog entry at the top and type your piece. Commenting should be done to give other writers constructive criticism.

Good luck, and keep writing :)

~miss lit~

How to post my writing.

Well I was reading that top infomation and I saw:
31. Dreams. Nightmares, happy dreams, daydreams. Write about a dream you have had. Or, write about your dreams for the future. Alternate: Poetry. Write an ode, limerick or a shaped poem. Deadline: May 7; publication week of May 24.

Mconsiglio, and all new members --

There is a special process for submitting entries for publication. Please read the notes on submitting a newspaper entry, located at the top of this post (right under the current prompt).

To recap:

To submit work, login, click "Create an entry" in the navigation box, fill in boxes, paste story in "body," preview work for errors, click "Save." For more information, click [the link in the post above] or read below:

* Submitting by mail. YWP strongly prefers that entries be submitted online. However, if for some reason that is not possible, we will take entries by email or mail. All entries are due on Fridays by 3:00 p.m.
* Art. We are also seeking photos and other scanned artwork. Click [the link in the post above] for more.

Also: Make sure your email information is CORRECT AND UP-TO-DATE in your profile.

If you have questions on how to use the site, where to post certain things, or how to locate work, feel free to post a blog with your questions, or post a question here. We will do our best to answer quickly, and your fellow members have lots of good tips as well.

"Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you."
-Jean-Paul Sartre