quaranTEEN voices



Feeling isolated and bored during quarantine? Now’s your chance to connect with teens and professional authors from around the country! We’ll talk about writing, how we’re getting through social distancing, and share our own work through quaranTEEN voices.

Each week, you’ll receive an email with two writing prompts created by a guest author. You respond to the prompts on your own if you like. Then join us on Friday to meet our author, make new friends, and work on the prompts together at the quaranTEEN voices gathering.

Sign up for quaranTEEN voices here


August 7 – Using Your Senses with Shruti Swamy

Special guest Shruti Swamy joins us for this week’s quaranTEEN voices! An award-winning writer of short stories, Shruti has published work in various publications, including The Paris Review. Her debut collection of stories A House Is a Body features tales set in the United States and India, centered around the themes of love, loss, and life across cultures. The collection is highly praised and comes out later this month.

From Shruti:

Often, we focus all our description so much on what things look like, we can neglect the other, more subtle senses, that can bring the reader much more richly into the experience of the story.

Prompt 1:
As an experiment, find a place to sit, preferably outside (or beside an open window), with your eyes closed for a few minutes. How else is the world describing itself to you? How far away and large is the tree, whose leaves are being ruffled by the breeze? Who is walking down the sidewalk? What is the smell of the air today? What do your clothes, or sun, feel like against your knees? Take notes if that feels helpful. Another option: reach especially into a sense that is not your most dominant, like (perhaps) taste. What does this sense offer to you in terms of both establishing place and narrative?

Prompt 2:
Whether or not your protagonist is sighted, write a scene in which you move them through time or conflict (or both!) without describing the way that anything looks. What do they smell/hear/taste/feel that might communicate to the reader where they are and what they are doing? If they are in conversation with someone, how might we determine mood besides looking at their face? The tone and texture of their voice? The heat and energy their body gives off? Their scent? Remember, your protagonist does not have to be human!

Check out talks from our previous guest authors here, and read works written in previous sessions here!


Miss the prompts from previous weeks? Use the links below to catch up!

Spring 2020
Week 1: Quarantine Silver Linings
Week 2: Accessing Your Memories with J. Courtney Sullivan
Week 3: Small Details with Jacqueline Woodson
Week 4: Objects & Habits with Isaac Fitzgerald
Week 5: Last Times with Amanda Gorman
Week 6: Screenwriting with Spike Jonze
Week 7: Taboo Emotions with Tiphanie Yanique
Week 8: Getting Into Character with Lilliam Rivera
Week 9: Playing With Words with Aracelis Girmay
Week 10: Release with Claudia Rankine
Week 11: Making Conversation with P. Carl
Week 12: Social Movements with Lisa Ko


Summer 2020
Week 1: Reimagining Stories with Lev Grossman
Week 2: Playing with Timelines with Phil Stamper
Week 3: Where I’m From with John Murillo
Week 4: Where It’s At with Pitchaya Sudbanthad
Week 5: Using Your Senses with Shruti Swamy

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