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Recent Blog Posts

Jul 26

Language and Length

Knowing the audience you are writing to also means understanding their attention span, and interest level. Practice these skills by editing a piece of local news.

Sometimes, you find a piece of writing that you think could be improved upon -- by you. Try it and see what the reaction is.


1. Find a newspaper article in your local paper that you think would appeal to a broad audience, OR to an older audience.


2. Using the same information in the article, adjust the LANGUAGE and the LENGTH of the article so it will appeal to an audience of your age. Write an article people your age would be interested to read. Make sure you keep the content of the article.

3. Give it to a friend who is your age and ask their opinion of the article. Was it engaging? Interesting? Clear?

4. Show the friend the original article and ask which one they preferred.

5. Use their feedback to evaluate your skills in writing to a target audience.

AND, as always, comment on the works of your peers.

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Derek Pham]


Jul 26

Unique perspectives

Create a slideshow of your community -- but from unusual angles. This workshop opens your eyes to new perspectives and is simply FUN!

Take your camera (or smartphone) and go exploring in your community. Avoid the usual places (the welcome sign, the town green) and focus on areas that might go unnoticed. Get up close to your subjects and experiment. You might find beauty in a barbed wire fence or mystery in the door to an abandoned milkhouse. Think of your compositions as individual stories. See if your classmates can identify the places you choose. And have fun with it!

(Photo credits: YWP Photo Library, photos by Essex High School students Josina Munson, Chelsea Somerset, Maggie O'Brien, Alexis Donna, Mya Burghardt, 2015)

Jul 26

Who - Part I

Write about the history of your town in just one paragraph. Use that paragraph to practice adjusting your writing to a target audience. In Part I, do your research; in Part II adjust your writing.

Writers are often thinking about WHO is reading their content — who their intended audience is. How old are their readers? How informed are their readers? How engaged are their readers? Writers often change their style to reach a certain, or a broad, audience.  

1. Do some research on your town. How was it settled? When was it settled? Who were the founders? What was the main job/industry/export of your town at its founding? Gather what you think you need to know to understand the history of your town.


2. In a paragraph, explain the who, what, where, why, and how of the founding of your town. Write the paragraph as if you were the only reader of the paragraph.

3. Move on to Part II.

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang]




Explore the heart of your community through "man-on-the-street" interviews.

In your community, what's the one place where you always run into people you know? The general store? School? A cafe? The park?

  • Go to this special place and using the broadcast news technique of "man-on-the-street" interviews, stop 5-7 people as they come and go and ask if you can interview them briefly (remember to bring notepad and pen and/or audio recorder).
  • Tell them that you're doing a story on the "heart of the community," that you think this is it -- do they agree? If so, why? If not, where do they think the heart is?
  • If you don't know the people you're interviewing, ask for their names.
  • Ask them to describe what they mean when they think of "the heart" of the community.
  • Record their answers and create a short audio story about your town's heart, using the clips from your interviews. 
  • Upload the finished version to your YWP blog. The best will be published in The Voice.

(Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Susan Reid, 2014)



Natural disasters can sweep in and change everything in an instant. In this workshop, the goal is to reflect and write.

Tropical Storm Irene tore through Vermont on Aug. 28, 2011, destroying lives, homes, businesses, roads and bridges. Seven people died in Rutland, Windsor and Windham counties. 
Was your community and/or your family affected by this storm -- or another devastating natural disaster? Write a personal essay about the experience OR if you were not personally affected, find and interview someone whose life changed because of Irene or another event.

(Photo credit: Hurricane Irene, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Getty Images)


Jul 26


Practice journalism skills by expanding on a current newspaper article about your town. Figure out what is missing from the story; interview people; and write your own -- better! -- article. On the surface, this challenge might appear longer than others, but it will be fun!

Journalists, working under tight deadlines and other constraints, might not always have the chance to interview everyone they'd like to include in the story. Read your local newspaper and you're bound to find at least one story that's missing some elements.


For this exercise:
1. In your local newspaper, find a news story about your town that interests you.

2. Read the story carefully. Has the reporter missed anything? Certain facts or points of view that you think should be included? Make a list of any holes you see.
3. C
onduct your own interviews based on the same story. Ask two friends, and your parents/guardians OR two of your teachers their opinions about the subject. What do they have to add to the story?
4. W
rite your own article using the new information you got from your interviews.

Comment on the articles of your peers. Tell them what you think of the new information they uncovered.

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang, 2016]


Jul 26

Digital Summary

Use photography to learn how to isolate identifying features of your community, and how to create a photo story/summary.

There are often three communities you may find yourself in at this time in your life: your family community, your school community, and your town. You can probably identify in your mind certain traits that exemplify each of these communities. You can think it, but can you capture it in a digital summary?

1. Pick one, or all, of these communities. Take one to three pictures of each community that really summarize their essence.
What are the physical objects or places that represent the nature of the community and how close you are to it?


2. Reflect on these pictures. Are the identifying traits always positive? Look at the works of your peers, comment on their work. Did you and your peers pick the same traits for communities that you share?

Dig deeper. What trait does your town and school and family have that cannot be captured in pictures?

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Deanna Davis, 2014]

Jul 26


Do research and conduct interviews based on a cool, historical object you find in your community. The article will be a blend of history and personal experience. 

1. Find a vintage, rusting, weird, mysterious, interesting, curious, valuable -- or not so valuable -- object in one of your communities. You could look in your attic, your grandparents’ basement, your local museum or historical society, your library, or an antique or second-hand shop. You might find a rare newspaper in your library, a radio from the 1950s in your house, a sword from the Civil War in a museum.


2. Once you have found your object, do some research on it. Try to discover what company made it, who invented it, where it was made, and if there are any cool facts related to its invention and manufacturing. Does it have a connection to your community?

3. After you have learned the basic history of your object, interview the owner of it. Where did they get it from, why did they get it, does it have special meaning to them — a story? Aim your questions at uncovering the story that makes this object more than a thing on a shelf.

4. Combine your research and your interview to write an article about why this object is so special. Try to push yourself to discover why it might be important to people in your community.

Comment on the works of your peers. Did you learn something new about a historical object?

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Nathan Ballif]


Impressions Part I

We will always pass judgment on a place we are in, whether we are just passing through, or even if we live there. Humans are judgmental and opinionated creatures; we can’t help it. You probably have some strong opinions, memories, and observations about the town you live in.  Channel those judgments into a productive piece of opinionated writing that will help others understand your community.


Challenge 1: Write a letter to a newborn child in your town. What will their first impressions of your town be?

Challenge 2: Write  a letter to someone who is leaving your town forever. Now that they know it well, and have lived here, what are the things they will miss most about your town?


The key is to reflect on the surface “facts” about your town with your first piece, and then to dive in deep into the real secrets and traits of your home with the second.


Read the work of your peers. Comment on their letters. What was similar? What was different?

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Caleb Dudley, 2015]




A sense of community can be shattered by disputes between neighbors. Is there an issue in your community that has driven a wedge between people? Your work on this project COULD help solve the problem.

  • Check out this VTDigger.org news story: Police say a Newport, VT man got so frustrated over a property line dispute that he took matters into his own hands. With a chain saw. Click here for the full VTDigger story. (Note: The man pictured above was not involved in the dispute.)
  • Is there a festering issue in your town? Talk to people on both sides.
  • Write an essay that fairly represents both sides of the argument. Can you suggest a solution? This is the work of professional mediators, but you might discover -- if both parties are willing -- that you could help start a productive conversation just by showing them your essay.

 (Photo credit: Mike Polhamus/VTDigger.org, July 9, 2017)



Tell a ghost story that originated in your town. The best will receive a rapt audience.

The old buildings in your town have years and years of stories. So many people have lived and worked there ... and some of them have stayed behind to haunt the hallways, the creaky staircases, the cellar ...
Tell a ghost story that originated in your town. 
If you don't know one, ask around. Write the story on your blog -- tell it straight, just the facts, creepy and chilling.
Share your story with classmates and ask for comments. Offer to comment on their writing as well. 
The best stories will be published in YWP's digital magazine, The Voice.
(Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Danilo Salgado)




This workshop honors those who came before you in your town. As a class project, you could publish the stories in one collection. 

Go exploring in a graveyard in your town. Find a gravestone that interests you -- maybe it's the name, or the deceased person's short or long lifespan, or a saying that is engraved on the stone.

With a goal of writing a short biographical sketch of the deceased:

  • 1. Write down all the details from the gravestone in your notebook. Take a photo of the gravestone and the graveyard.
  • 2. Do some research. Start by asking questions of family, friends, neighbors. Who was this person?
  • 3. Move on to other sources of information to fill out the story: a digital search; local historical society; library; town offices.
  • 4. Gather as much information as you can, including photos.
  • 5. Write a biographical sketch of 350-500 words and include photos of the gravestone, graveyard (and historic photos of the deceased if possible).
  • 6. If a class project, gather the stories in one collection. 

Check out this story about a graveyard from Fiona Ella: https://youngwritersproject.org/node/16687​

(Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Emily Evenson, 2014)

Frank Glazer -- An Elder Story -- audio/photo

We're hoping this audio photo story will inspire you to create your own. 

(A challenge for this resource: Elders)

This is an example of a simple audio photo story. The text is purposely not included so that you can listen to the story while looking closely at the photograph. YWP Founder Geoffrey Gevalt did this story in a relatively short span of time. First, he wrote a short essay about his uncle, Frank Glazer. He read it aloud and then did some editing. Then he decided upon the most important part, read it aloud several times and then recorded it withOUT looking at the text. That way he was able to get a more natural sounding voice.

He then added the music track -- a snippet from a 1968 recording by Frank of a piece by Eric Satie --  using the free (and wonderful) audio editing software, Audacity.  Notice that the playing gives an added depth to the piece. He adjusted the volume so the music did not overwhelm the words.

FYI, since this story was created, it has been used as a model by hundreds and hundreds of students all over. When Frank learned about that, he was tickled. This piece was created in 2010 when the subject, Frank Glazer, was still alive. A world class classical pianist, Frank died Jan. 13, 2015, just a month shy of his 100th birthday when he intended to perform six concerts in four states. Click to read a tribute: A Sonata for Frank. And, if you'd like to hear a 2012 recorded and edited conversation with Frank and Dick Gordon, the host of the then-American Public Radio show, The Story, go here: Frank Have a listen, you'll pick up some hints on how to conduct good interviews.  

Photograph, used with permission, by Phyllis Graber Jensen of Bates College

If you are thinking of doing your own story and are looking for some good sources for copyright free music to set the mood behind your audio piece, here are a few:
Workshop > Audience


Brainstorm ways to share your best work.

Part of any writing/digital media project is to find an audience. Audience gives affirmation. And audience is fun. 

Depending on the project(s) your audience can be a gallery (or the school hallway), a newsletter, a website, a live performance, a digital video channel, a newspaper, a magazine ...

Who or what should your audience be? How do you get there? Who should you contact? What is it going to take to get it organized? Brainstorm and plan. 

(Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang, 2015)


Workshop > An Issue

An Issue

Communities have plenty of issues. This challenge urges you to pick just one and focus on it.

  • Think about ONE community of which you are part. Now think about the issues that community faces. CLICK RESPOND and list them. As quick as you can. SAVE.
  • Now look at your list. Which one has the most potential for a story? (Or, possibly, an essay or an in-depth journalistic informational piece or a plan for action.) Pick that one. CLICK EDIT and, below your list, you could do one of two things with your issue: write a narrative piece about a memory you have involving this issue; or, interview friends, family, and community members to write a short article about that issue in your community.
  • Find or write a story that is engaging, and unique — maybe even funny. Save your revised post. 
  • Comment on other responses to this challenge.

(Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Holly Dahlgren)