It has been five years since I have started to ask others to share their writing through these compilations. This year though is the first year that I am asking people to write every day through teaching. As I ask my students to write, I am constantly reminded that the process of writing is personal and unique to each writer. It is hard and often frustrating, but writing on paper or typing our words on a screen is also a place where we each have the opportunity to speak what we see, hear, and think.

Every day I am blown away by the words my students write. I am blown away by the words they speak on paper and out loud. They have so much to say. Stories, experiences, and thoughts that matter greatly and that have been changing me. They are the inspiration behind this prompt “speak”.

Enjoy these writing pieces my friends. The authors, individually and together, create another powerful conversation. May their words meet you where you are at and speak to you. There is empowerment behind it all!

A few words from me…

Fear loves to quiet the voices within us that are dying to speak. Fear can keep us from speaking the words of love another may need. Fear can keep us from speaking up for ourselves when someone else’s words or actions belittle us. Fear can keep us from speaking for what we believe in. Fear can keep us from speaking our words onto a page due to wandering what others may think.

And I have learned that fear isn’t just something we can easily wish away. We all batt;e it in some way. But, what I will say, is that we each have to encourage and fight for one another to – Speak anyways.

Speak through the fear. Speak over the fear. Speak to the fear. Do not let it take you and your words away.

Speak the words you need to say. You never know who needs those words too.

I think maybe, it would be different now
If speaking was the reflex
Instead of harboring
In lieu of keeping bitterness captive
Or maybe enough was spoken
But with no audience willing to listen
The words lost
More breath all the same as the last
Then the only things spoken were anger
Bitter, bitter, bitter
“I can do nothing right”
The false labels fastened tight to each participant
I wish someone had spoken
I wish someone had listened
Because once someone believes no one is listening
They too, stop listening
And by then, they’re only speaking
Emotion overrides judgment
Again again again
Cyclical it seems
I got my voice during this mess
I used it
I tried, I did
I thought I could make an impact
Professionals told me I couldn’t
I thought it worth it to speak my mind
Even if just to clear some weight from my chest
It backfired a good bit
I should’ve gauged my audience better
My prayer?
Let truth win
Let truth win
Let truth win
Because my speaking only has so much power
And we need the speech of a far grander Counselor
One who has not turned His ear
Who knows the words
Who knows His audience
Who can override any labels
Who is speaking now

Plain Pain
Just pain.
No window.
All shame.
Blood flow
Red brain.
Nothing but
Plain pain.
Like watching
the slow drop
of any drain.
into your
your blood flow.
And dragging your soul
Splitting skulls
on the
until the
red meat
Or do you show blue in
your pain?
Blue like the sky’s famed?
it can’t be
That Pain.
Just plain.
Plain Pain.
It flows Red from My Veins.
Messy like Membrane.
Showering me in Shame.
No Window.
All panes.
Clear pain.
Just like an old flame,
That good ole best friend,
The wild cat that stands in the wind,
Pretty lame.
Super plain.
Just pain.
W.D. Hurston

Babel Rising

We teach ourselves to speak.

Our infant tongues mull over

Sounds. Arch the tongue,

Tip to teeth–control the air.

Make your voice: here, now.


We babble out sounds,

And learn how to mean.

Metaphor is our first fluency.


But the rest of our lives

Are spent learning

To hold our tongues.

Not now–talk later,

Wrong place, wrong time.

There are sounds you can make–

Don’t make them. There are

Thoughts better left to hot air.


But living a life with words

Chained to our throats is

A conquest in censorship,

An experiment in self-destruction.


When we speak,

We speak for ourselves.

Your voice loses no value

Just because they scold

Air passing between our teeth.


We were given weapons–

They have no reign over

How we use them.


So, speak your truth.

Break chains, pull triggers

That will shatter overgrown expectations.

Language is a gift.

Do not squander yourself

To placate others.


We are wordsmiths,

So light a fire under the forge

And get to work.

A life of curated silence

Is no life lived.


Braden Turner

you say “I’m listening”

it’s ironic

because your screen knows your face

better than I do. I’m sorry, you’ve lost my respect.


did you know?

the world isn’t revolved around you.


“speak your mind! But don’t say too much. No really! By all means, share your opinion! Just as long as it fits the box.”


i’m sorry, should I even dare?

i’ll keep my mouth shut


i don’t know how you do it.

all the right words at all the right times


i think I’ve heard that before.

do you even know what you’re saying?

well your actions don’t show it.


i guess you’ve become an expert

at tricking people into thinking

that you actually care.

but let’s face it- your mind isn’t really here.

it’s 30 minutes ahead. Preparing for the next place you’re going.

i’m sorry, I won’t fall for your tricks this time.


i don’t blame you. this is all you know.

but wouldn’t you rather be someone

who isn’t full of empty promises?


let us be quick to listen.

and slow to speak.

the real secret to being the loudest voice in the room.


Maddie Howell


hold on, my friend

to what is true

but what is?


painted in the pages, I find

stories with a heartbeat. brought to life

with words

filled with color.

wisdom resting on their faces.

tangible magic.

i grab it- something to hold.


but before my next breath

the words slip through my fingertips as

the smoke fogs my memory

into a melody

the constant.            moving.           forward.

the surface- level “knowledge”

an arms reach.

she made it sound like something I wanted

something beautiful

until it wasn’t.


when did it become so dull?

an ever shifting world makes the magic

feel like an illusion

did I really make it all up?



i need you to stay.

please- stay here. let me fly away with you back into the painted pages.

with the stories with a heartbeat

that plant my dreams

into the soil.

and with the colors that pervade.

-mmm. the pulse of life itself.

words! don’t drift away.


hold on to them, my friend. and

step on the fire

even as you question

because I can tell you one thing.

what you once knew to be true

is still true

and what you once was sure was spoken

was, in fact, spoken


before you could even speak yourself.


 Maddie Howell



I have been told I am a good listener

But the truth is, I am afraid to speak

You won’t like what I have to say

And neither will I

Because I’ve never liked the sound of my own voice

Wincing at the memory of the words I regret


I am afraid of those words

That will pour from my mouth

Like sour, spoiled milk

They will hang heavy on my tongue

Asking to be retracted

And for time to reset so I don’t embarrass myself again


And I am afraid of the faces watching

Those that will hear my words

Tumbling from my brain uncontrollably

They will scoff at the way I enunciate

And my inability to control anything

Including the things I share


But the fear isn’t the end

There is also pain

A burning sensation in my chest

That bubbles up like resentment

It pierces my eardrums

Reminding me to keep my mouth shut


And heat will rise to my face

Knowing I should have held back

I shouldn’t be so honest

I shouldn’t lie so much

That pit in my stomach never retreats

I water it and watch it grow


Why do I ever let anything out

Or anyone in

My words can’t possibly be of service

You never asked to know what I thought

But I told you too much

And I’m sorry…


Because when I speak

I will say something wrong

And I won’t be the only one in pain

Words are too powerful

And not powerful enough

Saying no never worked why would anything else


So, I must not speak

For fear and pain and love,

And keeping words locked up

Will keep them from running wild

If I only speak when spoken to

Then maybe I won’t hurt anyone else

Annie Vogel

Speak! her heart cries

Only to remain silent

With fear of rejection

Speak! her heart cries

This time louder

Only to be drowned out

By the chaos that surrounds her

Speak! Your voice matters! her heart pleads

While the mind overrules her

And silents her cry

Speak – it’s only a whisper now

Creeping past her heart’s lips

Silent and weary

Silence. All her heart can muster up is silence.

She has cried out and pleaded

Only to be left feeling depleted.

Drained and exhausted

Her heart turns away

Filled with shame

She averts her eyes to avoid the pain

“Your voice doesn’t matter”

She actually believes

While her insides twist and ache

With the passion roaring within


She hears something –

A gentle whisper

Roaring through the wind

Speak! it says

Slow and gentle

Passionate and wild

Where does this come from?

Her heart wonders

As she searches and searches

For the source of this sound

She turns around

And lifts her eyes – the eyes still filled with shame –

To see a heart just like herself

With eyes that look quite the same

How could this be? her heart cries out.

How could this heart,

Filled with the same doubt,

Cry out past the silence,

And isolation,

And rejection,

That lingers all about?

And again she hears something

Weary and weak.

Yet filled with the might

Of a million roaring lions –

Speak! it says

This time a little louder

And this time she feels

Courage all around her

She turns and sees another heart

Just like her.

Broken and bent

Yet standing tall

Amidst it all.

And beyond this heart

Lies another.

Bruised and beaten

From the lies rejection has spoken

And even another

Draws closer still

Barely beating

But still surely breathing

And all at once

They look at each other

And with tears in their eyes they cry out

Speak! For your heart is strong

Speak! For your voice matters

Speak! You are worthy of being heard

Speak! This is your chance

Speak! Don’t be afraid

Speak! What you have to say is important


For pain

And isolation

And rejection

And silence

Have no hold on you

Because you are strong

And this will always be true

Even when you can’t feel it

And even when every other thing tells you otherwise

Your heart is strong

And she is fighting. She is fighting.

Together, we can fight for truth.

Together, we can fight for freedom.

Her heart begins to run wild within her

Unashamed she calls out –

Speak! she says

This time with no doubt

For the wild within her

Had never been tamed

It had simply been put away

Because of what she had been told each day

And so with strength and scars

She looks past the bars

Of this prison she had locked herself into

A prison of silence

That demanded her obedience

Yet this whole time

The doors of the cage lied wide open before her

And so she walks forward

With strength

For she now knows she’s strong

And she joins the others that look just like her

That have been waiting for her all along

And together they cry

Speak! for you matter

And past the noise of this life

Their voices came bursting forth into light


You are not alone.

Hailey Hawkins 

lately I’m reading and listening
trying my hardest to listen, really,
but it’s not always easy
but what is real easy lately
is speaking and God speaking
I’m no good at reading the Bible stories
and yesterday prayer put me to sleep
but speaking and being spoken to is
The easiest to come by, to say hello and
maybe we’ll stay a while
here, God and me both speaking.
slow to speak
it’s hard to speak lately
hard to speak out
when I’m busy speaking’ to myself
just to stay alive and okay
Everything I know about God is
that God don’t want you to speak so much
that you have no voice
to speak tender to yourself anymore
and no ears to listen
yeah, I’m a speaker
but I’m being a little quiet right now
and I say, that’s okay
speaking, to my friends
it must be exhausting
to be my friend
you can tell me you’re here
a thousand times
and I think you’re still looking
looking for the first exit door
I read every action, every word
as a whispered “I’m leaving”
and I need you to tell me
with every new day,
that you’re here
and you love me
or I might feel certain
you’re already two feet out the door
  and I was too dumb to notice sooner
it’s like when I was a little girl,
(but old enough to know)
and I sat my mom down late at night
and asked her if she really
truly loved me.
Except I do that with everyone
and don’t listen for the answer
Katie Lynch 

speak- ten thoughts.


I avoid a lot of things.

Speaking is probably towards the top of that list.

I don’t speak up. I’m easily outspoken. I get anxiety when I do have to speak.

If there’s anything I avoid, its speaking.


Majority of the time I don’t think God is speaking to me.

In clouds of frustration, I decide that I am simply deaf to His voice.

Or I just believe that He simply isn’t speaking to me at all.



I learned a lot about speaking this summer.

I spent a month in Colorado, in a beautiful valley, overlooking the mountains.

If I’m being honest, I still don’t think I heard God speak to me much.

I felt His presence but I didn’t hear His voice.

But I think He gave me a voice to speak instead.


In my fear of speaking, I don’t speak up.

I don’t confront others despite how much I’m hurting.

Except this summer, out in Colorado, I chose to speak.

I spoke up, through tears, to my intern about how someone made me feel like I wasn’t good enough at my job.

A weird feeling. A new feeling.


“Your voice matters.

Just because you’re quiet doesn’t mean that people get the right to walk over you or treat

you like you’re not doing a good enough job.

People think that because I’m quiet they can do that to me too.

But I’ve learned that it’s important for me to use my voice.

And when I choose to speak up, they listen.

Your words are important and powerful.

Being quiet can be a strength if you let it be”


My words tend to stay in my own head.

Especially my hurts.

Speaking about the things that cause doubts, hurt, frustration-

Those are saved for my counselor.

Even then, she has to pull them out of me.



I was given a voice to speak while I was out in Colorado.

I spoke through tears on more than one occasion.

I spoke about things I’d never said out loud.

I felt like a new person.



Maybe God did speak to me.

He gave me people that spoke truth into me.

He gave me people that listened.


I’m not very attentive to God’s voice.

Maybe I’ll be more aware now.

Maybe I’ll remember that how He speaks to me isn’t how He speaks to someone else.

Maybe I’ll remember that His voice isn’t one size fits all.

I think He does speak to me.

I think I just choose to ignore it.


I still don’t speak very much.

But I avoid it less.

I don’t think recognizing that my voice matters will ever get easier.

But here’s to trying

Jen Kunin

Speak up!

I have spoken at weddings, graduations, classrooms, and morning assemblies. But the most impactful setting that I have spoken in is at three funerals. I would mark those three days down as three of the hardest days of my life, but of course I did not pass up an opportunity to share the reasons I loved my grandmother, grandfather, and best friend. All three times, as I prepared what I was going to say, the reoccurring thought in my head was “why did I never tell them _______ before.” And there began my personal goal of speaking up. Speaking life. Speaking gratitude. I no longer want to hold back my thoughts. I do not want to be someone that waits until birthdays or funerals to tell the people around me why I love them.

When I think about how I love the way Be-Fred challenges everyone to use their voices, I want to tell her right away! When I think about how I admire the way Katie Bouchie is so quick to be vulnerable, I want to tell her right away! When I think about how Lindsay Magill is the most thoughtful person I know, I want to tell her right away! The list could go on and on.

Yet, so often, we hold back to speak encouragement or share our gratitude. What if I come off as too much? What if they begin to feel like it’s all just words? What if it is awkward? What if…. But then, I think to myself, when have I ever received affirmation or a note or a text and not smiled or felt a sense of joy. It is always worth it. It always means something.

It doesn’t have to be a ten minute speech or a five page letter. All it is the practice of speaking out the things you think. Our voices can be used for so many reasons. What if everyone chose to use their voice to speak up, to speak life into the people they love! I really think this world would be a better place. Make the phone call! Send the text! Write the card!

Morgan Maier 



It’s about time I told you

those expectations- your need for shiny, beautiful, clean and better.

That’s what is doing it.

That’s what’s pulling you down.

That’s what has made you lose yourself to the deep.

It’s not your busy schedule

or your many obligations

or your countless passions.

Sure, yeah, life is a jumble and a whirl right now.

But those expectations-

that’s why.

Why you’re drowning.


And it’s about time I told you

You’re the only one who’s anchored yourself to them.


So it’s time to start.

Start untying myself.

Because I can’t hold my breath any longer.


I am already shiny

I am already beautiful

I am already clean

Everything is better

Because He is.

And he says I am.

Already and forever.


Hailey Lombardi 

When I hear the word “speak”, I think of people who speak to share or inspire others. It makes me realize that everyone has a unique story full of situations, whether they’re pleasant or difficult. I’m constantly reminded that I’m not the only one who’s facing difficult challenges. Those people who have a positive attitude towards the difficult times have inspired me to do the same.

Nick Soong


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