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Sep 07
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Free Write -- Tips

A note from Geoffrey Gevalt, YWP Founder and award-winning journalist:

Sometimes, when you sit down to write, you can't see the trees for the forest. When, in fact, you're looking for the light. That one sparkling idea.

And it doesn't come. 

And that's why Young Writers Project has long believed that challenges, or prompts, offer you, the writer, a safety net. Can't think of something to write about? No burning issue? No startling thing you noticed and remember? No particular drama in your life? Not to worry. We have ideas. For 12 years YWP has been providing daily and weekly prompts. In fact, you've probably responded to some over the years. And your teacher provably provides you a bunch more and some are on this site. (And, perhaps, you can talk to your teacher and get the class to dream up some ideas together.) 

But even with a challenge, an idea that makes you think, you may still find it hard to write. Because ... there are lots of things in your way that you may not even realize. Like:

  • SELF DOUBT: What if it's no good? What if I'M no good at writing? Oh, gosh, I am no good at it. This is dumb.... You know the drill. Self-doubt. It's a crusher. And it pops up sometimes when you least expect it.
SOLUTIONS: Don't worry about it. Yes, I know, easier said than done. But, actually, throughout my 33 year career as a journalist and thorughout my time writing in the last 12 years, I have watched as self-doubt crept into my brain. So I tell myself not to worry. And, sometimes, I've resorted to assigning my doubt to one of my Peruvian Worry Dolls (mine are not as fancy as the ones to the left) and I tell it: There YOU worry about it.
More to the point, you are among friends here. Your classmates will support you.
  • DON'T KNOW WHERE TO BEGIN: I'm just going to jump to the solution here which is equally simple. Just begin. AND, if you are writing a story, start much LATER than you think you should and end it SOONER than you think you should. And, another tip, think of the most dramatic moment or idea; start there.
    • ​​​​SOLUTION2: A friend of mine, a wonderful writer, used to say that writing is easy: Just write one sentence at a time and relate your new sentence to the one before, so your second sentence relates to the first, your third to the second and so on. The difficulty, he said, is coming up with that first sentence. So make your first sentence punchy, catchy, eye-grabbing. Draw the reader in. Draw yourself in.
  • I DON'T HAVE ENOUGH TIME: Of course you don't. None of us do. And as one famous writer said (it's often ascribed to Mark Twain, but there's some uncertainty about that), I would have written it shorter if I had more time.
    • SOLUTION: Write as fast as you can. And write as short as you can. And don't think too much. In a "free write" you are supposed to let go, you are supposed to not plan out. In a free write you are supposed to discover and, even, surprise yourself. 
    • SOLUTION2: And if you like what you write, then come back to it later and work on it, edit it, add to it, develop it, make it better. And get your buddies to give you some suggestions.

But whatever you do, have fun. 

Resource?: 
Yes
Aug 04
admin's picture

Audience

Where, how, why do you get an audience?


WHY?

  • Writers need an audience to affirm their work. It keeps you writing, and improving and publishing and sharing your voice with the world. This is important and Young Writers Project believes firmly in publishing your best work to external audiences, such as our monthly digital magazine, The Voice; websites such as medium.com; and in Vermont newspapers, public radio (vpr.net), a news website (VtDigger.org), and even on stage. You can't change the world by keeping your stories to yourself! Publication is the key!

HOW? 

  • At Young Writers Project, a team of editors -- YWP staff, community leaders and mentors -- reviews every piece of writing and art that is submitted to youngwritersproject.org. We look for fresh voice, interesting perspectives, humor, wisdom -- and GREAT STORYTELLING! 
  • When you are working on the My Community project, your teachers and the editors here at Young Writers Project will be on the lookout for great writing that has the potential to be published. We might ask for a few revisions to get the piece into the best shape it can be for publication.
  • Generally, one of the YWP editors will post a comment letting you know that your work is being considered for publication.

WHERE?

  • Online: This site and YWP's main site, youngwritersproject.org. Your piece might end up as a featured "Daily Read" on the front page of our the main site! We also publish a digital magazine, The Crow, on medium.com.
  • The Voice: Our monthly, digital magazine showcases the best writing and art from youngwritersproject.org and has cool features such as Writer of the Month, a gallery of photography, writing tips and more. Click here to go directly to The Voice.
  • Anthologies: Young Writers Project has published eight anthologies, an annual collection of the top writing and art submitted to youngwritersproject.org in one beautiful book. Upon publication, YWP holds a big celebration to honor the published authors and artists.
  • Newspapers: Young Writers Project started as a feature in The Burlington Free Press, and we continue to publish a page of YWP writers and photographers in the Free Press, Vermont's largest newspaper, each week. We also publish weekly in the Valley News, covering central Vermont and New Hampshire, and we have monthly newspaper pages of local writers and artists around Vermont, including in the Rutland Herald (and Rutland Reader), the Times Argus (and Times Argus Extra), the St. Albans Messenger, the Brattleboro Reformer, the Charlotte News, the Bradford Journal Opinion and the Newport Daily Express.
  • Vermont Public Radio: Each week, a Young Writers Project writer is featured on Vermont Public Radio. Text and audio of the piece, a short introduction to the writer and an accompanying illustration appear on vpr.net.
    VPR also announces the YWP writer of the week, usually in the morning and evening drive times.
  • VTDigger.org: This independent news organization covering Vermont, publishes a YWP featured writer every week, with text, audio and an illustration. Readers are encouraged to leave comments on the YWP writer's piece -- and a connection is made! 

AND YWP HAS EVENTS!

  • Talk about audience! Young Writers Project has many events throughout the year, including SoundCheck, a collaboration with Burlington City Arts; our fall and winter conferences at the Vermont College of Fine Arts; and other open mic opportunities! Watch the main page of youngwritersproject.org for details and the YWP calendar.

(Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Lia Chien, 2017)

Resource?: 
Yes
Aug 03
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Questions for Editing

Editing your piece of writing is not about making sure the grammar or spelling is correct (save that for when you proofead the draft that for you is final); it's about making sure that the content is at its full potential.

In your first big edit of a piece of work, you want to make sure that you know -- and are conveying -- the main point, as in why you're writing this piece. It may take a few revisions to fully unearth the main concept. (Remember: The secret to good writing is revision!)

To help yourself with the big things, consider some of these questions as you go over your piece. It's always easier to write more than you need and cut it later than it is to scramble and add more at the last minute. (Hint: On your first big edits do NOT worry about the little stuff; read it through, then ask the questions.) 

  1. What is the main point of your piece? Do you think you get it across? Does it waver, go on tangents? Do you have an underlying point? Is that clear?
  2. What are the parts that stand out -- emotionally? Do they ring true? Is this something you have experienced? Can you add to it? Or do you need to do more research?
  3. Do you have enough specific detail? Sensory detail so that it comes alive for the reader?
  4. Are there parts where you drifted? Be honest; are parts boring? Or confusing? Cut or fix -- add detail or explain it better or take out tangential items. 
  5. Can you completely relate to it? Is it something you have never gone through, and you're just captivated by it? Depending on what you're writing, you can draw on this. You can include a part about your own experiences with or without that topic. This could really make the reader feel like you understand the concept or that you're just as surprised as they are.
  6. If at any point while you're reading your piece and you come across a point that's a bit confusing, chances are that the reader will be confused too. Have you explained that point well enough? How did you come by this information/event? 
  7. By the end, do you have an understanding of why you wrote the piece, why it's important or powerful or worthwhile?
  8. Finally, after you've looked closely at each part of your piece, ask yourself whether you like it and try to exclude judgment -- you want to gauge your energy level. If you have found that your energy has waned, why? And is there a part of this writing that you like best that could be expanded?

FINAL HINTS: Editing is the most difficult part of writing. Often our own judgment creeps in and gets in the way. We find ourselves thinking, "I just want to get this done." There is a time for that. But during early edits you are still exploring. You are trying to find the strongest and most interesting story line or focus-- the thing that interests you the most! Remember that if you're interested, your audience will be more apt to be interested; conversely, if you're bored, the readers won't even finish it.
 

Resource?: 
Yes
Aug 03

Open to Advice Part II

Take what you did in Open To Advice Part I a step further. Have an editing conversation with your parents, and continue to practice being open and accepting. 


1. Give your piece to a parent or a guardian. Again, have a conversation with them. Really listen to what they have to say, even if you have never asked them for help before.

 

2. Be conscious of the conversations you just had and revise. Be open to change and help.

 


Extension: 
 

Once you have revised your piece with your feedback in mind, go back to either your friend or parents or guardians and have another conversation with them about feedback. Is there more you can improve upon? Keep an open mind -- and talk.

[Creative Commons Lisence: Randy Heinitz, non-commercial,
https://www.flickr.com/photos/rheinitz/]

Status: 
Aug 03

Physical Issues Part II

Expanding on Physical Issues Part I, use your photos to come up with solutions to the problems you saw. 


With activism, kindness, and volunteerism in mind, create one or two solutions/actions you and your class could take to help fix each of these problems. Ask your class to brainstorm solutions with you. Add your solutions to your slideshow. 


Extension: 
Talk to your class. Should you present your slideshow to an appropriate party? You could use this opportunity to make some real change in your community. 

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, Katlyn Schmigel, 2013]
Status: 
Aug 03

Polish Methods Part II

Now that you have done your editing in Polish Methods Part I, let your friends help you. Use your friends to help you edit, and analyze your editing method.


First, give your second, clean piece you printed off in Part I to a friend. Ask them to mark it up with a pen.

 

Second, look at your three copies. Which method caught the most typos and mistakes? In the future, is there a method you would use above the other methods, or two methods you would use in conjunction?

[Creative Commons Lisence: Magnus Hagdorn, non-commercial,
https://www.flickr.com/photos/hagdorned/​]

Status: 
Aug 03

Who - Part II

Now that you have your information and your basic paragraph from Who Part I, practice writing to an audience. Push yourself to adjust your writing to a certain audience and learn how to analyze your target readers.
 


1. Rewrite your paragraph from Part I as if you were going to read it to a group of kids under the age of 7. Think about language, appropriate information, attention spans, etc.

 

2. Rewrite your paragraph as if you were going to read it to a group of knowledgeable adults over the age of 70 that know a lot about your town. What will you change? What information will you include?

 

3. Rewrite your paragraph again, but this time, try to write it so that a broad audience that doesn't live in, or know anything about, your hometown would understand it. Again, think about what needs to change to create understanding, but to also appeal to and teach all ages.

Comment on the works of your peers. Tell them how well they did adjusting their voice.

 

Extension:
Read your paragraphs to each group. Get feedback about how well you communicated your message to each particular audience.


[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Nate Ertle]

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Impressions Part II

After commenting on the works of your peers in Impressions Part I, it's time to think about what you read. By the end of this project, you will have two letters that will be sent to members of your community to thank them, and hopefully create change. 
 

  • Analyze what you saw in the letters of your peers after you commented in Part I. Was there a common love that people share for your community? Was there something everyone thought should change?
  • Come together as a class and create a list of these similar themes.
  • Now, write two more letters: a thank you letter to a person or organization doing great things in town, and a letter to the appropriate parties about the one thing you all agree should change.


[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Michele Trombley]
 

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Op-ed Part II

You've written your fun Op-ed in Part I, now, take it a step further and write an op-ed worthy of a newspaper. Become active in your community by making an educated opinion about what is happening in your town politics. 


First, do some research about what was voted on and what happened at your last town meeting. Your parents, teachers, and community leaders may be able to send you in the right direction to find this information. Find a decision that was made that you don't like.

Second, write an op-ed persuading your town to listen to your opinion about why you think this vote was the wrong choice. Use facts and your own persuasive voice. Keep your piece to 500 words or less. 


[Creative Commons Liscense: Theresa Thompson, non-commercial, https://www.flickr.com/photos/theresasthompson/] 

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Debate Part II

The question discussed in Debate Part I is a question you may not be able to answer on your own. Your class is the community that will have to ask themselves the same question when the time comes. Get them involved, and expand your debating skills by learning how to express your opinions and come to conclusions with a community. 


First, poll your classmates. Do more want to stay, or do more want to go?

Second, have a respectful discussion/debate with your class about the topic. What are the reasons to stay? What are the reasons to move on? 

Third, reflect on all the opinions you have gathered. Really think about whether or not you have an answer. 

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, Karma Lama Sherpa]

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Soapbox Part II

This is an idea, an extension, of what you could do after discussing community issues in Soapbox Part I. Be prepared to write a speech that will be presented to a member of your community in order to spark change. 

  • Once everyone has given their speech, listen to all of the soapbox speeches again. As a class, pick one of these issues and speeches and expand on what was said. Write a five minute speech about the issue.
  • As a class, pick a student to give this new speech to an appropriate party involved with the issue. Words have the power to make a difference in your community. Make a difference as a class community. 


[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Beverly Gartland] 

Status: 
Aug 02

Converge

Flex your photography skills, and analyze your communities and where their common meeting ground is. Use your photos to understand the behaviors of communities. 


1. Create a list of all of the communities you belong to. Really dig deep. 

2. Look at each of these communities and think: where do each of these communities converge? Where is the physical heart/common meeting place of each of these communities? (See also the Heart challenge.)

3. Take one photo of each heart of each of your communities. Don't stage the photos, but try to catch a moment when people are interacting with this place. 

Extension:
Create a slideshow of each place. Ask yourself this question: why do these communities meet where they do? Try to write your answer; have your written answer end your slideshow. 

Comment on the slideshows of your peers. 

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Carla Gentner]

Status: 
Aug 02
Grace's picture

Correct This -- Answer Key

(Note: This is the answer key for the challenge, "Correct This" at https://mycommunity.ywpvt.org/node/300 )

The underlined areas are the places where grammar mistakes were made. 

The Murder of David Duke

 

     “Who was the culprit? Who murdered the man?” the officer asked.

“She did, the woman in the car,” the detective said, throwing a small look over his shoulder to the cruiser.

The woman in question was sitting, calmly, causally in the back of the cruiser as if she was waiting for it to take off so she could do some light grocery shopping before the weekend.  The blood staining her hair was steadily dripping onto the carpet of the car.

Who were her intentions directed at?” the officer asked, keeping his voice low, and his eyes off the woman.

“Him. David Duke,” the detective said, nudging the black bag by their feet with the toe of his loafers. “I can uncover him, if you’d like.”

“God no.” The officer shuddered. “Show me the weapon.”

The detective reached over the body bag. He rustled around for a moment only to pull up the bag containing the man’s severed ring finger.

“Oh god, please, lie that down on the examination table. Show me the weapon!”

There’s three: a knife, a rock, and a hammer,” the detective said, his arm still shoved behind the body bag.

“Then show me already! You and me will have to stay late if you don't hurry," the officer said. He glanced at the woman. She had started to casually braid the tips of her hair; the officer blinked. He couldn’t help but wonder whether or not she was a red head, or whether all of the blood had started to dye her hair.

The detective finally hauled clear bags in front of the two men.

“Are these all hers’?” the officer asked, leaning down to get a better look at the crimson tools.

“We think they belong to him. His girlfriend said she saw things missing from the garage.”

The officer grunted. “Is that what’s effected her? She’s mad that he’s got a new girlfriend?”

The detective looked at his notes. “According to the girlfriend, a photo the couple with a cross over it was hanged outside of their bedroom window.”

The officer chanced one more look at the woman in the cruiser. She had moved on from her hair to her nails. She was painting them — completely — red.

“So we definitely have enough evidence to bring her to court?”

     The detective nudged the body bag that contained David Duke once more. “Because of this? I’d say so.”

 
Resource?: 
Yes
Aug 02

Correct This

Edit this story for grammar mistakes as a polish practice. You will find at least one mistake from each rule listed in the resource posts "Basic Grammar: Words" and "Basic Grammar: Punctuation."  (Teachers: Answer key is a resource that can be found here: https://mycommunity.ywpvt.org/node/301 )

The Murder of David Duke

 

     “Who was the culprit? Who murdered the man?” the officer asked.

“She did, the woman in the car,” the detective said, throwing a small look over his shoulder to the cruiser.

The woman in question was sitting, calmly, causally in the back of the cruiser — as if she was waiting for it to take off so she could do some light grocery shopping before the weekend.  The blood staining her hair was steadily dripping onto the carpet of the car.

“Who were her intentions directed at?” the officer asked, keeping his voice low, and his eyes off the woman.

“Him. David Duke,” the detective said, nudging the black bag by their feet with the toe of his loafers. “I can uncover him, if you’d like.”

“God no.” The officer shuddered. “Show me the weapon.”

The detective reached over the body bag. He rustled around for a moment only to pull up the bag containing the man’s severed ring finger.

“Oh god, please, lie that down on the examination table. Show me the weapon!”

“There’s three: a knife, a rock, and a hammer,” the detective said, his arm still shoved behind the body bag.

“Then show me already! You and me will have to stay late if you don't hurry,” the officer said. He glanced at the woman. She had started to casually braid the tips of her hair; the officer blinked. He couldn’t help but wonder whether or not she was a red head, or whether all of the blood had started to dye her hair.

The detective finally hauled clear bags in front of the two men.

“Are these all hers’?” the officer asked, leaning down to get a better look at the crimson tools.

“We think they belong to him. His girlfriend said she saw things missing from the garage.”

The officer grunted. “Is that what’s effected her? She’s mad that he’s got a new girlfriend?”

The detective looked at his notes. “According to the girlfriend, a photo the couple with a cross over it was hanged outside of their bedroom window.”

The officer chanced one more look at the woman in the cruiser. She had moved on from her hair to her nails. She was painting them — completely — red.

“So we definitely have enough evidence to bring her to court?”

    The detective nudged the body bag that contained David Duke once more. “Because of this? I’d say so.”


[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Olivia Ville Marie]
Status: 

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