Hello, Darling: This Is a Job For Journal Buddies

She’s reading a list of writing prompts, I bet. Image: Wikipedia.


Oh, the things I can’t do.

I can’t be naturally blonde. I can’t change another person. I can go backwards on skates, but I can’t really skate backwards. I cannot meditate. I can’t change the past. I can’t build a balsa wood airplane (or a balsa wood anything) and I can’t keep honey from dripping down the side of the jar. I’ve never been able to wait.

There’s this one thing I do really well, though, and that’s content.

All my life, if there’s a project that requires words, themes, angles, description, rhyme, structure, information, or rhetoric at all, really, I immediately produce a surplus of ideas. Need content developed, designed, or otherwise structured, I will assess what type of content is needed and take pleasure as “it” instantly takes shape. Every time, I snap my fingers and go, “Ooh! I got it!” and I often do. Yes, when other kids in 8th grade English class were lamenting to the teacher that they didn’t know what to write about, my pencil was already halfway down the page.

Does it sound like I’m bragging? I sure am! We live in a brutal world. There are horrible balsa wood airplanes you might be asked to put together and you might love a person who you can’t change, and you might actually want to have your tea in the morning without getting honey on your knuckles, but if you can’t do any of those things, you’ve got to accentuate the positive, latch onto the affirmative, and in my case, that means make content and make it good.

Imagine my agony when I finally felt ready to pick up the ol’ PG some months ago and found something wrong with my fingers. I had just cracked the laptop and was about to begin writing when I realized they were just sort of … hovering over the keyboard. But they couldn’t do anything else without a strong signal from mission control and I’m mission control and I didn’t know what to write.

No, no, I thought to myself; I’m just out of practice. Hang on. I sat back. I cocked my head to the side. I chewed my lip. I bit too hard at one point but all this was normal. A few thoughts did alight on the bean, but nothing got my fingers to work for more than a few listless minutes here and there. The great filing cabinet in my mind remained firmly locked. Denying that this was happening, I’d close my laptop or — far worse — keep it open and watch something outrageous on YouTube.

But it kept happening and I spent several weeks low-key panicking. The mind was willing, but the flesh was weak and it was an uncomfortable and foreign experience. Then one day, I remembered what English teachers use when their students find their usually active, imaginative brains drawing blanks:

Writing prompts. And they work.

My eyebrows raised up into my bangs. I got the prickly heat. I started to breathe through my nostrils. Oh no you don’t, I thought, backing away from the computer, I do not need writing prompts. Writing prompts are for students. They’re for break-out sessions at corporate team-building retreats. Prompts are for people with “writer’s block” but “writer’s block” doesn’t actually exist if you’re … if you’re writing all the time.

And there it was. I’m out of practice with you, darling, because I haven’t been writing you for a good year, now. Maybe it’s just a Tin Man situation and I just need a little oil to get myself moving again.

Well, Dorothy has arrived with her oil can, and Dorothy is something called “Journal Buddies”.

Journal Buddies is a website with thousands of writing prompts for kids. It came up when I was googling around and though there are endless websites with endless writing prompts, for some reason I just liked Journal Buddies. The site was created and is currently maintained by a person named Jill Schoenberg. I liked the list of “51 Exciting Things To Write About In A Journal” on its own, but then I read Jill’s bio page and I have decided she’s better than Dorothy with an oil can. She’s an educator and a publisher and the vibes are good. This was meant to be.

And so, as I cut myself a generous slice of humble pie with a scoop of rum raisin ice cream, topped perhaps with some pecans or something crumbly, it is my sincere pleasure to announce this PaperGirl is present and accounted for. Present and accountable, you might say: I’m doing this list. I won’t commit to taking them in order, but I’m going to write a post for every one of these prompts until I’ve done them all. After that, if I’m not back in the swing of the ol’ PG, we’ve got bigger problems. I’d rather not think about it.

Thank you, Jill Schoenberg, for being my journal buddy. Thanks all of you for being so patient and beautiful. God, I love a list.


Journal Buddies 51 List

  • I am the one who …
  • My first memory is …
  • My wildest dream vacation is …
  • If I were in the circus I would be …
  • I believe …
  • Describe a person you admire.
  • I can …
  • Sunshine makes me feel …
  • The most amazing thing I’ve ever seen is …
  • I’m thankful for …
  • What do you want the most out of life?
  • What are the characteristics of a hero?
  • What do you think of people who use profanity in public?
  • If I were famous, I would …
  • I wish I were there when …
  • If I were a fish in the ocean …
  • My favorite places.
  • My least favorite places.
  • How a puppy feels.
  • My ideal day is …
  • Is it better to give or to receive?
  • If I had three wishes I would …
  • My most embarrassing moment is (or would be) …
  • Where would I go in a time machine?
  • Describe a rainstorm from above the storm clouds.
  • Write from the perspective of a mouse going down a hole.
  • Describe a rainbow to a blind person, and do it so that the blind person can say without a doubt that they have SEEN a rainbow!!!
  • What was your favorite meal?
  • What does snow feel like?
  • What does squishing sand through your toes feel like?
  • Write a letter to yourself 1, 3, 5, 10 or 20 years from now.
  • Write a letter to yourself as a child of ___ years old.
  • Write a thank you letter to your favorite teacher.
  • If I could be anything in this world, I’d be …
  • If I could be anywhere in the entire UNIVERSE, I’d be …
  • Write about the taste of peanut butter, how it smells, and how it looks.
  • How would you feel as a passenger in a space ship on the way to the Moon?
  • How can you make friends?
  • How do you keep your teachers happy?
  • Describe Sundays at your house.
  • Observe at least 5 things you see happen on your way home from school/work and write about them.
  • Describe a place from your past.
  • Describe your concept of luxury.
  • Describe a family member.
  • Describe sloppy.
  • Describe your ride home.
  • Nothing can be worse than …
  • Write about your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Describe the most comfortable spot you can find.
  • The problem is … And this is what I plan to do about it …
  • The joy of today is …

92 Responses

  1. Maureen Esposito
    | Reply

    Oh Mary, you have been sorely missed. So glad you’re back. I’ve been worried about you!

  2. Eric
    | Reply


  3. S
    | Reply

    SO happy to hear from you again! You are my hometown buddy, Girl!
    Welcome back with heart and hugs!

  4. Kelly Ashton
    | Reply

    Hooray!!! Great “seeing” you, again, Mary!!! Brava to you, to Jill, and to writing prompts!! ❤️

  5. Jim , of Marjim
    | Reply

    Ahhhhh… I can exhale now !!!!
    Welcome back , Mary

  6. Ruth Quinn
    | Reply

    You may not be able to change people the way you want them to change, but you HAVE changed my life, and I’m sure you have changed the lives of many others of your readers. Thank you.
    I think about you a lot, even when you aren’t posting anything, and I wish you well.

    • San Juanita Lopez
      | Reply

      So glad you are back. You’ve been on my mind. I’ve always wished I could write. I just might try these prompts just for fun. Take care.

  7. Suzanne Kaye
    | Reply

    Sigh. Welcome back. I am so pleased.

  8. Linda
    | Reply

    Thank you for your email, Mary. I’ve missed your humor and wit! And thanks for including the writing prompts list. It would be good for non-writers such as myself to give this a try!
    Til the next time…

  9. Veronica
    | Reply

    Brilliant , Mary!!!!!!
    Dying to try some of them !
    The lovely way you see and describe the most ordinary things is so good to read – you don’t need to worry ever about having something interesting to write about , for us.
    So lovely to connect with you again – Yaaay & Thank you xx Veronica

  10. Vickie
    | Reply

    Hello friend.

  11. Susan Skuda
    | Reply

    Welcome home, PG! We’ve kept the light on!

    • Danielle Nichol
      | Reply

      So elegantly phrased.
      Welcome back PG

  12. Liz Flaherty
    | Reply

    Lol. I love the humbleness. That terrible blankness happens to all of us at one time or another, doesn’t it. I like the prompts, too–it’s a new list of them for me . It’s good to see you and hear from you again. And, see? You were in there all the time.

  13. Judy
    | Reply

    Welcome back, girl! I’ve missed you!

  14. Elizabeth Andrews
    | Reply

    I would love to read something PG has written about any of the above writing prompts. I think I got on to PG late in the game, but I have missed her very much. I found myself reading articles in QF over and over that were written by MF, just to somehow keep in touch with PG. The entire magazine is so beautifully written. My friends and I are quiltfolk, in case you haven’t guessed. I believe that reading everything in Quiltfolk, as the editor in chief must do, would surely help bring PG back to life, even more then writing prompts.

  15. Val Larson
    | Reply

    I have missed you!!!!

  16. Maggie
    | Reply

    Miss you. Glad you’re back

  17. Anne
    | Reply

    So glad you are back! Hope you are fine :).

  18. Marianne Fons
    | Reply

    Hello Mary! This is your mother. Your new post is itself a beautiful piece of writing.

    • Robin K Gabriel
      | Reply

      Love this! “This is your mother!”

    • Liz Flaherty
      | Reply

      Lol. How many of us say this to our children? “This is your mother.” As if they didn’t know!

      • Lorel Maple
        | Reply

        I do! I say, ‘Hi Pook (my knickname for her), this is Mom’. Full knowing, but not caring, that as she looks at her phone to answer, my photo is on the screen. AND, I use punctuation in my texts. Oh well, I’m proud of my 71 years.

  19. Kris G.
    | Reply

    YAY!!! You’re BACK!! We’ve never met in person, Mary, but I have missed you.

    Here’s a thought: YOU are my journal buddy. When I read your blog, I want to write. So I do. Thanks!

  20. Marianne ten Kate
    | Reply

    The problem is, I can’t stop thinking about peanut butter now. And what I plan to do about it is get a spoon and crack open a jar of legume-y goodness. Thanks, Mary 😉
    PS I was only thinking fondly about the ol’ PaperGirl yesterday and here you are today. Grand!

  21. Judy Snook
    | Reply

    Oooh, I like writing prompts. They really get my mind in gear. Some are fun to do and others bring me up short and really make me think and maybe I don’t like what I’m thinking. But sometimes that makes me figure out what is bothering me and maybe I can write about it and find a solution. Thanks for the journal buddy list. I’m taking it on too.

  22. Helen Marie
    | Reply

    Telepathy. How is it that, every single time I think I’m missing you, here you are! So happy to read you once again. Don’t be a stranger.

  23. LeAnn Ryan
    | Reply

    Glad you are back. Have missed reading about your comings and goings. I sometimes have a block when I want to quilt and sew. It is hard to push past it sometimes. Thank you for the new post.

  24. Deb Hanahan
    | Reply

    YEA Mary, you’ve been MISSED!

  25. Mary Dusenberry
    | Reply

    Welcome back. You have been missed.

  26. Kathryn
    | Reply

    I grinned when I say you in my I box. It’s so good to see you back! You’ve been missed!

  27. Pamela Barnes
    | Reply

    I have missed you.

  28. Kathryn Darnell
    | Reply

    Oh Mary what a sweet ray of sun you gave me this morning. I feel like I had a delicious cinnabon with lots of cream cheese frosting with my coffee. What a treat. Like a seasoned traveler you will find your True North. It’s in your DNA. Happy Trails.

  29. Margaret Smeeding
    | Reply

    Yay! Welcome home, you have been missed.

  30. Maggie
    | Reply

    Yay!!! So excited to read your writing again.

  31. Debra White
    | Reply

    The joy of today is reading your writing.

  32. Sue
    | Reply

    So happy and relieved you’re back! Have been reading Quilt Folk, Tennessee issue, love, love your writing.

  33. Lashonne
    | Reply

    Welcome back PG. Dear friend, I have surely missed you!

  34. Karen Johnson
    | Reply

    Welcome back!!!! I missed you!

  35. Jackie Ries
    | Reply

    We have missed you. I was afraid that you were sick again. Please keep up with PG.

  36. Laura Lukes
    | Reply

    Yay! You are back. How I have missed your bright, wry, voice. (Although it’s true that the quarterly fixes I get in Quiltfolk have helped to sustain me.)

    I am looking forward to your Journal Buddy posts.

    And boy howdy, do I also love a list!

  37. Robin K Gabriel
    | Reply

    Whoot Whoot! Welcome back PaperGirl!

  38. Belinda Mobley
    | Reply

    Mary, so happy to read your posts. You are an amazing young woman. Keep going, you can do this. Actually you are doing this! You are back. Blessings to you, Mary.

  39. Pam Williams
    | Reply

    Bless your heart. Welcome back. I missed your voice. I was dancing with joy this morning when I saw your post.

  40. Georgeanna Couldry
    | Reply

    YEA!!!!! I was thinking about you the other day. So I check to see if I was just missing the your posts. So glad to see you again. I always love your posts. But it’s ok to take a break.

  41. elizabeth a hinze
    | Reply

    Hi Mary,
    Glad you are trying : )
    I’ve missed you.

  42. Nancy McFall
    | Reply

    So excited to see your post, like an old friend coming to town!

  43. Deborah Rice
    | Reply

    Hi Mary!
    It is so good to read your blog!
    I was so concerned for you and was praying for you.
    I like the list, it has brought to my mind, that when I get an idea of what to write about in my journal,
    I should start me own list and then as the idea percolates in my brain and in my heart, I can one
    day write about it.

    Hugs and smiles,


  44. Kathy Callahan
    | Reply

    Mary, I have been patiently waiting and always looking for something from you! This is going to be an adventure looking at those writing prompts. Can hardly wait to see what they inspire!

  45. Camille Wilsie
    | Reply

    At Christmas, my daughter gave me a copy of Michelle Obama’s Becoming that is a journal full of prompts to encourage me to tell my own becoming me story. Some are unique and some are familiar. I wish I’d write daily, but at least I am writing. I suggest it to you and others to get started again.

    I’ve missed you!

  46. Donette Kurtz
    | Reply

    I was so surprised in a happy way to see your post.

  47. Sara F
    | Reply

    Welcome back! Missed your wit.

  48. Cindy
    | Reply

    Hello Mary!!!! I did a little happy dance when I saw you in my email this am. Mary’s back!!!!!
    I have missed you!

  49. Caroline Nelson
    | Reply

    So very glad to have you back. Truly missed you. Please share them with us!

  50. Becky Garten
    | Reply

    When I saw this in my inbox my heart leaped. I read and deleted all of my trash emails so that I could savor this one. I was not disappointed. I knew you would return when the time was right.

  51. Nancy Pederson
    | Reply

    Welcome back!You have been missed!

  52. Janet
    | Reply

    Hooray! On a cold and dreary day when my sleep has been scrambled and the world not quite “right”, Papergirl is back!

    Welcome home, Mary. We’ve missed you.

  53. MrsB
    | Reply

    Mar! Welcome back! You don’t know how much we’ve missed you. ☺️☺️☺️☺️☺️

  54. Michele
    | Reply

    A wonderful surprise to see PG again. Always a pleasure, Mary, and I hope your list gets you going.

  55. Tracy Besmer
    | Reply

    Welcome back. So happy to see you in my emails again!

  56. Amy Carlton
    | Reply

    At the risk of being the sort of person who uses profanity in public, hot DAMN, it good to see you again, Mary Fons!

  57. Ang
    | Reply

    Ah Mary!!!! If I could figure out how to put heart emojis here I would!!

  58. valerie
    | Reply

    Hello Darlin’ so glad you’re back!

  59. Christine
    | Reply

    So glad your back❤️

  60. Jan Darwin
    | Reply

    What a sweet surprise! So glad you are back, Mary! You have been sorely missed.

  61. Linda G
    | Reply

    (Hollering “YAY!!!” While dancing joyfully around my living room.)

  62. Mary Lynn
    | Reply

    Glad to see you again – you have been missed – but even more glad you found a spark.

  63. Lynn Carpenter
    | Reply

    Missed you!

  64. Lorel Maple
    | Reply

    To celebrate your ‘toe in the water’, I will search and try a Rum Raisin next time I’m out for ice cream!

  65. Carmela
    | Reply

    PG welcome back!! You popped up on my feed and I am sooooo happy you’re back. Might even do your 51 list!

  66. Lindsey
    | Reply

    I’m so very happy that you are with us again. I was worried.

  67. Mandy Laseter
    | Reply

    I eagerly await your offerings. Yea! Paper Girl!

  68. Ann
    | Reply

    Happy dance has commenced! I heard somewhere that absence makes the heart grow fonder. True dat.

  69. Paula
    | Reply

    Mary, I love reading your blogs. I loved watching you quilt with your mom. I loved visiting with you in person when you visited my city. I want to send you a virtual hug, and tell you keep going and stay strong. You inspire me.

  70. Bob Collis
    | Reply

    Yea! I was just thinking about you, (and missing you) and here you are!
    ‘So glad you’re back!

  71. […] by a list of writing prompts from the website Journal Buddies. If you’d like to know more, here’s where I explain what this is and why I’m doing […]

  72. Debbie
    | Reply

    I was just thinking about you the other day! So glad you’re back Mary. You have been missed.

  73. Shannan Sabby
    | Reply

    Oh how I’ve missed you!!! I saw the email in my inbox and thought, “Could it be?” IT IS! IT IS!! HURRAH!
    Thank you for being back. I need some wit and wonder in my life, and I welcome you back wholeheartedly as the source!

  74. Marilyn
    | Reply

    Glad you are back Please feel good and keep writing!

  75. […] by a list of writing prompts from the website Journal Buddies. If you’d like to know more, here’s where I explain what this is and why I’m doing […]

  76. Mary O.
    | Reply

    ❤️So enjoyed going to your lectures and your tour of the quilts at QuiltCon.
    Love your writing! ❤️

  77. Kristin
    | Reply

    I’m happy to have you back on PG. xoxo

  78. […] by a list of writing prompts from the website Journal Buddies. If you’d like to know more, here’s where I explain what this is and why I’m doing […]

  79. […] by a list of writing prompts from the website Journal Buddies. If you’d like to know more, here’s where I explain what this is and why I’m doing […]

  80. […] by a list of writing prompts from the website Journal Buddies. If you’d like to know more, here’s where I explain what this is and why I’m doing […]

  81. […] by a list of writing prompts from the website Journal Buddies. If you’d like to know more, here’s where I explain what this is and why I’m doing […]

  82. Wend
    | Reply

    Oh Mary, welcome home! All of us have “travels” sometimes that keep us from home, whether internal or external travels, but it is always good to come home, isn’t it? There’s a comfy chair (with a soft quilt) and warm drink here waiting for you.

  83. […] by a list of writing prompts from the website Journal Buddies. If you’d like to know more, here’s where I explain what this is and why I’m doing […]

  84. […] by a list of writing prompts from the website Journal Buddies. If you’d like to know more, here’s where I explain what this is and why I’m doing […]

  85. […] by a list of writing prompts from the website Journal Buddies. If you’d like to know more, here’s where I explain what this is and why I’m doing […]

  86. […] by a list of writing prompts from the website Journal Buddies. If you’d like to know more, here’s where I explain what this is and why I’m doing […]

  87. […] by a list of writing prompts from the website Journal Buddies. If you’d like to know more, here’s where I explain what this is and why I’m doing […]

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