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Calling All Young Writers! Prompts To Get Rid of Summer Writer's Block

Hadis Malekie
Whether you're trying out a silly sonnet or crafting the next great American novel, summer is the perfect time to put pen to paper.

Summer is a wonderful time to escape into the worlds and lives created by writers. It’s also a great time to do a little creating of your own.

Talk of Iowa Summer Camp is back, and this week’s camp is all about fiction, poetry and creative writing of all kinds. Camp counselors Mallory Hellman and Emily Spencer of the Iowa Youth Writing Project and poet Caleb Rainey join the program to offer a crash course on how to generate prompts and improve your writing and they offer some special examples from youth writers already taking on summer writing challenges from home.

Interested in upping your creative writing chops? Try out these fun prompts to get the creative juices flowing and send your best creations to talkofiowa@iowapublicradio.org. We’d love to read what you come up with!

Prompt #1: Interact With Your Home Environment

Go through your home and find three objects you interact with every day (good examples: a toothbrush, a shoe, a mirror, a fork...you get it). Look at them as if you've never seen them before. Touch them. Smell them, if you dare! Now, pick the one that you think is the most interesting. If that object could write a letter to you, what would it say?

Here's an example from nine-year-old writer Amelia Hayashi in Seattle, Washington.

Dear Amelia, Yesterday, you slept on me as if I were nothing. I would appreciate it if you actually thought of me once in a while. I know you love my fluffiness, but still -- every pillow is fluffy, right? It would be nice if you would take care of me a little bit! Try not to wipe fruit on me and please tell your brother not to snore so loudly because I am exhausted. How about just once acting like I’m the star of the show instead of your stuffed animal Leaf? And would you try not to squash me like you have the last 3,285 nights? Also, could you use another pillow instead of me? Please!! I’ll do anything! Just let me sleep without torture for one night. If you don’t want to do that, at least change my coat. It used to be so, so, so shiny. Now, look at all of these disgusting stains! Yes, I know I get washed, but ten minutes after, you or your brother find some way to destroy my natural beauty. Well, at least you can’t destroy my signature flower pattern! Even though I know I’m complaining a lot, you’re still the best friend a pillow could have and you keep me cozy every night. Hugs and snuggles, Patty the Pillow
Amelia Hayashi, Seattle

Prompt #2: Create your own reality

You have discovered a new planet that humans can live on. It has totally new rules of reality! On this planet, something special happens to every kid when they turn 13. What will happen to you?

Olivia Rantanen is nine-years-old and lives in Iowa City. Check out her response for some inspiration!

My Power: If I discovered a new planet where everyone when they turned thirteen they have a power, then mine would be to attract animals, speak to animals, to fly and to shapeshift into animals. This is when I turn 13 though.
Why Those Powers and How I Would Use Them: Because when I find that planet, how had I gotten there? I had flown. And just because I like animals I can do the stuff that I said about animals. How would I use those powers? You're probably wondering. The answer is I would fly around and occasionally become a cat. And sometimes I would become a bird and chat with other birds. I would also explore a lot.
Olivia Rantanen, Iowa City

Poetry Prompt: Love It, or Hate It.

Choose 10 things you love or 10 things you hate and then build a list explaining why you feel that way using “like” to connect your explanation. This will help you build an expressive poem, whether serious or silly, based in similes.


  • Mallory Hellman, director, Iowa Youth Writing Project
  • Emily Spencer, program and outreach coordinator, Iowa Youth Writing Project
  • Caleb Rainey, poet and spoken word artist, founder and program director for IC Speaks
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Katelyn Harrop is a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa