One Hundred Topics for Personal Essays
Provided by Jean Davis on NCTE-Talk
1. Did you ever stick up for someone?
2. Describe your neighborhood bully.
3. Did you ever hitchhike?
4. Did you have a paper route?
5. Write about a babysitting experience.
6. Describe a great fort you built or a great game you played as a child.
7. Write about an enemy who eventually became your friend.
8. Did you ever fall through ice?
9. Write about a time you cheated and were caught.
10. Write about a privilege you earned.
11. How did you get along with your cousins?
12. Write about the stray animals you brought home.
13. Describe an event that made you realize you were growing up.
14. Did you ever send away for something that turned out to be a disappointment?
15. Did you ever prove yourself to someone older?
16. What was it like to go shopping with your grandma? mom? dad? friends?
17. Write about a time you performed in front of an audience.
18. Write about a difficult decision you had to make.
19. Write about a time you found out something about yourself.
20. What did you do last summer? What did you do the summer you were ten?
21. Write about learning to skate, to ride a bike, to climb a tree, or to turn a cartwheel.
22. Describe learning to drive.
23. Did you ever get lost in a strange town?
24. Were you ever locked in or out?
25. Did you ever witness a birth?
26. Write about getting fired or quitting.
27. What was it like to spend your first night away from home?
28. What was it like to come back home after a long vacation?
29. Write about a disappointment.
30. Write about something minor that turned into a big deal.
31. Write about something that flopped.
32. Write about a time you had to communicate with someone you couldn't understand.
33. Did you ever win or lose a contest?
34. Write about something you desperately wanted as a kid.
35. Did you ever see a ghost?
36. Did you ever run away from home? How far did you get?
37. Write about the best attic or basement you've ever been in.
38. Did you ever know someone who had "everything"?
39. Write about a time as a child when you played in one of the following: a treehouse, a cornfield, a construction site, a junkyard, an abandoned house or barn, a stream, a cemetery, a pasture, railroad tracks.
40. What did you do to amuse yourself as a child when you had to wait for a long time? (for instance, at the doctor's or dentist's office)
41. Did your mom or dad ever make you wear something you hated?
42. What was the earliest you ever got up in the morning? the latest you ever stayed up?
43. Write about a time you were talked into something and regretted it.
44. Were you ever in a helicopter, limousine, race car, hot-air balloon, submarine, or horse-drawn carriage?
45. Did you ever forget something extremely important?
46. Write about an experience in a hospital.
47. Were you ever accused of something you didn't do?
48. Write about a disastrous trip or vacation.
49. Were you ever give a responsibility you couldn't handle?
50. Were you ever in a fire, flood, tornado, or hurricane?
51. Did you ever have a secret language?
52. Write about becoming disillusioned with someone you admired or respected.
53. Describe the best concert you ever attended.
54. What was the best nickname you ever made up for a friend?
55. Did you ever become friends with someone much younger or much older than you?
56. Did you ever make friends with a wild animal?
57. Write about a window you broke or something valuable you lost.
58. Did you ever climb onto the roof when your parents weren't home?
59. Did you ever save someone from getting hurt?
60. Did anyone ever save you from getting hurt?
61. Did you ever catch fireflies? crickets? frogs? snakes?
62. Write about a time when you tried to help and ended up making things worse.
63. Did you ever break an important promise?
64. Write about moving to another town or city.
65. Describe an outdoor game you used to play in the summertime.
66. Write about picking apples or berries.
67. Write about building sandcastles or mudpies.
68. Did you ever meet a famous person?
69. Describe a club you organized or belonged to as a kid.
70. Writing about mowing the lawn, burning leaves, or weeding the garden.
71. Describe a car or bicycle accident you were in.
72. Write about being a misfit.
73. Write about a day spent in another country.
74. Write about a terrifying nightmare.
75. Was there a haunted house in your neighborhood?
76. Write about a time you outsmarted someone.
77. Write about a time you had to wait for something you wanted.
78. What was it like to get glasses or braces?
79. Write about being friends with your brother or sister.
80. Write about going shopping for new clothes.
81. Did you ever try to be something you really weren't?
82. What kind of adventures did you have in the bathtub?
83. Write about job hunting.
84. Write about wearing high heels or neckties for the first time.
85. How did you find out the truth about Santa Claus?
86. Write about seeing the ocean or the mountains for the first time.
87. Have you ever had a broken bone?
88. Write about being in Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H, or some other organization.
89. Did you ever turn someone in or tell on someone and feel bad about it later?
90. Write about going back to school after summer vacation.
91. Describe your playground or vacant lot.
92. Write about a time your parents embarrassed you.
93. Describe learning something from a friend.
94. Describe teaching something to a friend.
95. Have you ever taken a long trip alone?
96. Write about a book or a movie that made a strong impression on you.
97. Write about a time when you gave someone good advice.
98. Describe the best time you ever had in your life.
99. Write about the funniest thing that ever happened to you.
100. Write about a time you embarrassed your parents.