A few weeks ago, I was speaking with the head of our creative writing group (a group who are resurrecting our school's defunct literary magazine). A bunch of my writers are taking part in National Novel Writing Month, known to devotees as NaNoWriMo, where participants pledge to write 50,000 words of a novel in the month of November. Impressive, yes?
I was exploring the site's companion Young Writer's Program as well as the main site and reveling in all the information. Granted my teenagers seemed to fall between the YWP and the adult version of the program, but the flyers and free supplemental materials were terrific (awesome Facebook banner, anyone?). That's when I stumbled on "The Night of Writing Dangerously."
It was just crazy enough to work. I bought some prizes from the NaNoWriMo website which was for the creative writers at the party (so popular!!) and contacted by Director of Student Life since this would be a nighttime student activity. He said that end of term activities the weekend before exam week were always tough to plan since we want kids to relax but also don't want to distract them from studying, so this fit the bill. He was happy to provide the pizza and soft drinks and I would handle the sweet stuff.
- Order 12 pizzas
- Have a case of bottled water and a couple boxes of soda
- Keurig hot beverage maker and a couple boxes of the entertaining assorted cups for hot drinks
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes (12)
- Vanilla w/Vanilla Bean Frosting Cupcakes (24)
- Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes w/Lemon Frosting (24)
- Chocolate Chip Cookies (48)
- Brownies (36)
- English Toffee Pretzel Bark (2 1/2 pounds)
- Cake Batter Bark (2 pounds)
- Homemade marshmallows (for the hot chocolate K-cups)
Because I wanted to make sure everyone who came understood they needed to work, I built off of NaNoWriMo's idea of "Guilt Monkeys". In actuality, I have no idea what the heck these are, but my local NaNoWriMo leader threatened people with them. I decided to create Guilt Monkey stickers (Avery label 22807) that we would slap on people if they weren't working. Three Guilty Monkeys and you were out of the library. Kids loved the Guilt Monkeys so much (I only gave out two and each to a different person) that they actually asked to have one to keep at the end of the night, which made me laugh.
The night was incredible. To see between 50 and 60 students diligently working on their writing projects on a Friday night from 6 pm to 10 pm was so gratifying and they seemed to love having the opportunity to work. We took a break midway through to run around the library (literally - see below video) and then got back to business. I interviewed the kids between helping students, so here's the video of their feedback about the night (it's about fourteen minutes).
I think we will definitely do this at the end of each semester - I might be ready to collapse from all the baking but it was so helpful (this number of kids represent about 15% of our school population) that I can't deprive them of this opportunity.
I'm glad that NaNoWriMo managed to inspire me to reach out to all kinds of writers and that I have a student body willing to immerse themselves in the fun of a work night. I ended up having a ball with all the sugared up enthusiasm floating around and cheerfully look forward to future Nights of Writing Dangerously.