quaranTEEN voices 'Accessing Your Memories' Writing Prompt

News —— April 6, 2020

For this week’s quaranTEEN voices, special guest author, J. Courtney Sullivan, joins us to help write and revise our stories through the prompts below! Sullivan, the author of Friends and Strangers: A Novel and The Engagements is a New York Times best-selling novelist and former writer for the New York Times. Be sure to write down your questions and bring your curiosity this week, as well as your voice, to quaranTEEN voices to share with Sullivan and your fellow quaranTEENs!


From J. Courtney Sullivan:

Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “Memory is a net; one finds it full of fish when he takes it from the brook, but a dozen miles of water have run through it without sticking.”

There are so many moments in our lives that are forgotten almost as soon as they happen. Others will stay with us for a lifetime. Those are the ones that shape us, as people and as writers. This week, since we are all cooped up at home, let’s dive into our memories of the past—good and bad—to help us cope with the present.

Prompt 1

Think of a time when someone wronged you. When you were treated unfairly. We’ve all had these experiences in our lives, and they tend to leave their mark. We don’t easily forget them. So conjure up that moment, whatever it is, and then write about it for ten minutes without stopping. You don’t have to create beautiful prose or a story with a beginning, middle, and end. You can focus on the emotion you felt.

Prompt 2

I am 38 years old, a mom of two young kids, but when I hear the Fugees sing “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” it takes me immediately back to the summer I turned fifteen. Music is like that—it transports us. Make a playlist of songs that have been like this for you. Then choose one at random, listen to it, and write down whatever comes to mind.


Be sure to sign up for our newsletter HERE to receive weekly prompts and other virtual youth writing opportunities right to your inbox! On Wednesday we’ll send out a few ideas to help you revise your pieces. Sign up to talk to J. Courtney Sullivan and share your writing with other quaranTEEN’s on Friday HERE!