Inspiring Writers: The Night of Writing Dangerously

3:15 PM 1 Comments A+ a-

One of the most important parts of successful library program relates to serendipity. By being among students in unscripted settings (for me, it's sitting out at the desk with kids casually hanging out at our "information bar"), I hear their interests and can bounce ideas off of them. I think of it as my "daily zeitgeist" reading.

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."

Seemingly meant as both a motivator to write in a party-like atmosphere and as a fundraiser for the nonprofit that runs NaNoWriMo, The Night of Writing Dangerously seemed to have food, fun and writing all in one package. Why couldn't we have a writing party at school? When the kids and I began talking, we quickly made the connection to the fact that November is the end of our fall term semester - and it's crunch time for a lot seniors working with December 1st college deadlines. This was one event that could combine creative writers, kids working on term papers, and our college-bound seniors in one fell swoop.

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.

Anyone who knows me is aware that I take sugar very seriously. "Teenager" is synonymous with "hungry wolf-like human who loves chocolate" in my opinion and I have enough of an established reputation as a baker to draw kids in. But I wanted to make this extra special and pull out the stops. We had a sign up sheet (exclusivity gives it a little more cachet and helps you predict how much food to make) and I was astonished to have 60 kids sign up in two days! I actually had to turn people away since more than 60 kids makes the library kind of zooey. I could have easily added 10 more students if my library could have accommodated them. Here's what to make for 60 kids:

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.


Write comments
Jen K.
October 21, 2015 10:39 AM delete

This is such an awesome idea! I've been looking for activities to do in November, and your point that Nights of Writing Dangerously can include admissions essays, midterms, and creative writing really sold me on this idea (though the baked goods didn't hurt either). Thanks so much for sharing, can't wait to make some Guilt Monkey stickers!