Writing Tips Blog

Writing Prompt Battle Winners!

Teen writers from all over recently joined us for a TABC 2021 preconference event that gave birth to some fantastic on-the-spot writing! We decided to post some of the prompts here and some of the best teen writers' responses!

Emma Bitner

My name is Ben.

“Don’t start it like that!” Josh snapped over my shoulder. “Everybody starts a bottle message like that!”

“Well sorry,” I replied sarcastically. “I’m trying to write a plea for help to save your hide. I’m not really focusing on making it sound nice right now.”

“Excuses, excuses,” Josh mumbled, clomping away across the deck.

The sea smelled strongly of salt and fish.

Ben was SO. SICK. OF. IT.

If you thought adventures on the high seas sounded fun, it wasn’t.

It REALLY wasn’t.

He scribbled out what few clues he could give to whoever found this letter - though it was probably hopeless - and slipped it inside a bottle.

Elsie Tripp

I stared at the bottle that had just washed to shore, not wanting to open it. Maxwell gave me a little nudge.

“Go ahead.” He whispered.

I gulped and walked towards it. I picked up the bottle hesitantly and pulled out the piece of paper. Inside was a note written in my mother’s handwriting. My eyes filled with tears. I grabbed Maxwell’s hand. “It’s time to go.” I whispered and we set off.

Elizabeth Mayor

The bottle, washed smooth by the sea waves, drifted onto the shore, unnoticed by the swimmers and sunbathers on the beach. Unnoticed by all but one.

The girl picked up the bottle and carefully uncorked it, tilting it to slide the rolled-up piece of paper out of it. She read the message written on the paper.

"You are unique. You are precious. You are loved. Pass it on."

Tears slowly welled in the girl's eyes as a smile appeared on her lips. She slipped the paper back in the bottle and gently threw it back out to sea for someone else to find.

Elizabeth Atkin

It was weird, waking up with nothing to think. You know, the feeling of absolute blankness, of a quiet in your brain. Or maybe you don’t. I don’t actually know you. Maybe your brain is always busy and loud. But not me. I woke up that way, with blank, fuzzy whitish nothingness.

And then light, sand, and the noise of the ocean. And something hard resting in my palm. I looked down and saw a bottle. Something, a small piece of paper I think, was inside. Curiously, I uncorked it to find two small words scrawled in black ink: “Your penetralium.”

How odd.

Mary Francis

The stars sparkled in the night sky, the breeze chilled my bones. This is it. Tonight. I can’t put it off any longer. Taking my trembling hands, I finish the letter and roll up the paper. Tonight. I need to do this tonight. The sand pricked my feet as I walked out onto the beach. Tonight. I barely feel the breeze as I throw the bottle out. Never… never again. I will never see this letter again. My pain… It’s now forever buried in the waves.

Sydney Wilson

A single piece of paper was all that was left. The only remaining evidence that the Old world had existed. 120 words. 1,400 letters. The entire scroll was memorized by thousands of minds. It was all that was left from the place they called North America. And what a fascinating place it sounded like, with its creatures of wonder and its people of many nations.

And wars, apparently. Many.

Sarah Hall

One bottle.

That was all it would take.

If it could get there, I would see him again.

If it didn’t, I would never know. But perhaps that didn’t matter. I’d done all I could, so he would know. Then I could pass on in peace.

One bottle.

One message.

One life.

That was all it would take. I remembered the day we’d climbed the cliffs together.

My hair, windswept and tangled--but he said I’d never looked more beautiful.

Just to reach the top--that was all we needed. Then we could see what we’d been waiting for. It was there; it had to be. My past, his present. Our future.

He’d reached the top first--but I knew he hadn’t done it to beat me. He reached down to take my hand, pulling me up, and it was as though he lifted me into a new life.

Maren Detlefs

Cannons blasted, rocking the ships back and forth. The jaw-shatteirng sounds of wood wrenching apart split the air. Alarmed shouts could be heard from every angle amid the roar of the angry sea. The captain ran to her quarters, snatching the bottle she kept for this purpose. A plank of wood rocketed through the air, impaling itself in her stomach and breaking her stride. Still, ignoring the pain, she made it to the railing and hurled the bottle overboard, muttering a silent prayer as it disappeared in the chaos. Months later, a young boy found a bottle washed up on shore.

Isabelle Perry


I dug my fingers into the swamp's mushy ground and pulled myself up. I took a few shaky breaths, trying to get my bearings. The sky was dark, except for the small slither of moon overhead. Shaking my head, I reached into my satchel and grasped the small, rough object. This was my hope. This was my kingdom's hope. And now I had to get it back to them.

Elizabeth Atkin


Her heart lifted with every sweaty, sticky, agonizing step upward. She was so close to him; her heart, her very soul! Finally, she felt the top, and lifted her face towards where she knew the sun would eventually be.


They were everywhere! With their grime-smeared bodies twisted into grotesque shapes, they clawed and dragged and pulled, like a mass of living death growing closer and closer to where they stood.

Sydney Wilson


The god of death was never supposed to reach this far. Anything, of course, for Serene. A mortal. He clawed at the dry grass with aching hands, searching for the softer, warmer hands that helped him up. Serene always helped him to the surface for that single kiss. Just enough to let him remember how it felt to live again.

Joshua Pendleton


Jon climbed up a steep cliff, each rock he grabbed was firm and unmoving. As he neared the top he called out to Claire, “I need your help getting over the top.” No answer. He struggled up and finally peaked over the edge, there was Claire, holding a large rock over his head.

Leah Darling


I sighed and leaned on the tool next to me. Content with the job I had done, I stared at the calm water lapping at the land. Out of the corner of my eye I saw two hands reaching out from the hole and crawling closer and closer out of it.