Young Writers Project receives hundreds of submissions from students in Vermont and New Hampshire in response to weekly writing prompts and we select the best for publication here and in 20 other newspapers and on VPR.net. Today, we publish responses to the prompt for General writing on any topic, in any genre. Read more at youngwritersproject.org, a safe, civil online community of young writers.

About The Project

Young Writers Project is an independent nonprofit that engages students to write, helps them improve and connects them with authentic audiences through the Newspaper Series (and youngwritersproject.org) and the Schools Project (ywpschools.net). 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.

Kindness: You have performed an act of kindness. What is it? How does it make you feel? What happens? Did the person know? Tell the story. Alternates: Unsafe. Describe a place or circumstance where you felt unsafe; or General writing. Due Dec. 21.

Puns: Have fun with a play on words (i.e. cereal number, sell phone, etc.). Try to fit in as many puns as you can. Be creative! Alternates: Essential. What's one thing you absolutely could not live without? Why?; or I believe ... Start a piece with the words, I believe. Due Jan. 11.

Invisible: Imagine that you are invisible for a day and could be anywhere at any time in history, witnessing without participating. What do you see? Alternates: General writing in any genre; or Photo #7. Wrote a poem based on this picture. Due Jan. 18.

Prompt: General Writing

Maybe it was the Frank

Sinatra ballad playing

in the background, or

the rain dripping tears down

my window, but today was a disheartening day.

Like when I was driving home,

I don't know why, but the maple

trees that didn't have leaves,

(so austere and yet, so honest)

reminded me of my childhood.

And as a kid, I used to build forts.

They were strange creations,

stones stacked on top of one another,

dead leaves stuffed between the cracks.

And when I look back on it,

each moss-stricken stick --

precariously placed --

represented each bone in my

awkward body.

You see, I wanted to create myself.

Build each wall custom-made

and top

it off with a roof.

And damn it, why couldn't

I, why couldn't I become

an individual?

So this, ladies and gentlemen,

is why today is a disheartening day.

Is why today is just a day

to watch the rain drip down windows.

Is just a day to climb dead trees

before winter comes.

A day to stack

sticks and stones

under a spruce tree,

over the dead leaves.

The sand-colored sedan, the Santa Fe equivalent of a taxi cab, rolled to a stop at the curb outside 21 Sol y Luz street, its wheels sending up a cloud of dust into the scorching air. Inside the cab, Emmet Thompson looked up from his lap, where he had nervously been latching and unlatching the buckles on his single suitcase, to gaze out the window at what was to be his new home.

His eyes meandered up the swept stone path lined on either side with squat rosebushes, which led straight to the front door of a small, one-story house the same color as the dusty car he was riding in. Its sloping roof, made of corrugated red metal textured to look as if it were thatched, hung over the porch like the floppy brim of a sunhat. The small porch was bare, save for a broom propped against the side of the house, and in the middle of it a small red door peeped out into the world. Emmet swore he saw a pair of dark eyes peering through its window before the leather-skinned cab driver coughed pointedly from the front seat, looking first at Emmet, then at the glowing meter stuck to the dashboard.

Emmet quickly reached his hand into his pants pocket, drew out his wallet, and placed an assortment of bills into the driver's palm. The man counted them, thumbing through the dollars with callused fingers, then grunted in a satisfied manner. Emmet, taking this as his cue to leave, took his suitcase in one hand, and his unnecessarily thick black coat in the other, and stepped out into the scorching New Mexico heat.

The driver pulled away from the curb almost before Emmet could shut the car door behind him, and sped away down the road, back toward Santa Fe.

The man left behind readjusted his grip on the suitcase handle and trundled laboriously up the path. He could feel sweat dewing on his forehead beneath his shock of sandy-colored hair before he even reached the porch. As he was about to gain sanctuary under the shade of the sloping sombrero roof, the tiny front door creaked open and the owner of the brown eyes who had watched his arrival stepped out.

The real estate agent who sold him this tiny house just out of Santa Fe had informed him of this woman. Her name was Esperanza, and she was as much a part of the property as the swept stone path and the sloping roof. She would act as Emmet's housekeeper and cook. When Emmet told the agent that he did not need a housekeeper, and was perfectly able to cook and clean for himself, the Santa Fe-based agent laughed through the phone and said that if Emmet wanted the house, he must take Esperanza as well. Now, as Emmet took in the broad woman standing before him, flat feet planted firmly on the wooden slats of the porch, he wondered who truly owned the house he had painstakingly bought from what remained of his bank account back home in Chicago ...

To read the complete story, go to http://www.youngwritersproject.org/node/70602

Prompt: Winter Tales. Tell a narrative about winter in poetry or prose.

Evil winter is cold and so white,

it's too white!

Evil winter makes us bundle up tight.

Evil winter makes the day turn to

night too fast!

Evil winter takes away warm day fun,

I'm aghast.

Evil winter...

Okay, winter is not that evil.

Winter skating, oh, such fun,

doing beautiful figure eights!

Winter snow that makes it so perfect

for snowballs, snowshoes, and even snowmen too...

I guess winter is not so evil!

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