Prescott: Uppity-Downity — The Art of of Flash Writing Sessions

A few weeks ago we announced the launch of the Raven Write-a-thon (event April 8, registration still open with plenty of time to get involved via links at right) and we asked blog readers to send posts about how they stay in the chair and get the writing done. Vivian Faith Prescott of Alaska and Puerto Rico sent this inspiring post. It’s not only about cookies and writing, it’s about building community wherever you are.

Every week, I bake a batch of cookies for my teen writers group. I’m mentoring five teenagers. We meet every Monday for one hour after school. The first day, I baked cookies for them; after that they expected cookies every week. Cookies and writing became our ‘thing.’ Funny, though, I inadvertently discovered that writing and baking cookies go hand in hand. It literally keeps my butt in-and-out of the chair.

Baking cookies keeps me writing? Well, it helps that my office is in the living room and the kitchen is within running distance when the oven timer goes off. It’s kind of the reverse Ron Carlson advice combined with flash sessions; something like speed dating.

First, mix the cookies and while you’re doing that have your writing plan mulling over in your mind, like the short story idea that’s been in your notebook all week. Put the cookies in the oven and set the timer for twelve minutes and head to the computer.

Now you have twelve glorious minutes to write. So write. It’s amazing what can be done in twelve minutes. But then the timer goes off and you have to stop, even though you don’t want to, even though you were mid-thought or mid-sentence. Head to the kitchen and take the cookies out of the oven. Of course the cookies have to cool before you slide them off the tray so here’s where you get an additional fifteen minutes of writing. Set the timer for cooling and then head back to the computer. You get the picture. Write for fifteen minutes and when the timer goes off head back and take the cookies off sheet. Repeat write-cookies-write-cookies until the batch is done.

Now you have to figure out what to do with the cookies. Maybe, like me, you can become a mentor. It doesn’t take renting a building or even a lot of time. It takes some cookies, enthusiasm, and a bit of word-of-mouth. I started with one interested teenager who asked me about starting a group for teens since she wasn’t old enough to join my adult writers group. I said that if she found two other teens and came up with a day and time that worked for all of them, then I’d do it. Within a week, the teen had organized a small group. Word got around and soon I had two others who joined. Though I opened my home, I’m sure there are free places you can meet. Keep in mind, though, that teens are soooo full of energy so keep your mentoring group small. And have your notebook ready and your pencil sharp because not only are you mentoring them, they will fill your head with ideas and you’ll come away remembering what it was like to be young. It’s intoxicating, really. Oh, yeah, and have cookies on the table, too.

And it all starts with cookies; baking cookies keeps your butt uppity-downity in flash writing sessions. It’s amazing what the muse can do under pressure and the promise of a chewy chocolate chip cookie fresh from the oven.

4 thoughts on “Prescott: Uppity-Downity — The Art of of Flash Writing Sessions”

  1. Vivian – I will take to heart what you said about working with teens… that they bring something. I had wrongly considered working with teens a real chore. Fortunately, for any potential teen students, I wasn't teaching any teens, carrying to them the sense that they were "work" for me. You've opened my eyes. I remember now. Especially, when you said "energy." Ahh,yes. It would not be a chore. It would inspire and enrich. I see.

  2. Sandy,

    They most definitely aren't a chore; they are a joy. After the first session, and they became comfortable with me, they would come in the house and sit at my table and start chatting about the day. The first time they did this,
    I literally saw the energy zinging around the room as they talked and laughed about their day in school. I had to interject with "write that down." This is how our routine naturally found itself. First we talked about the day/week, then we got into our writing from there.

  3. Lynn Lovegreen

    The cookie/writing routine is a great idea; I'll have to try that. And I too would like to work with teens and writing. This blog was a good motivator for me. Thanks!

  4. Lynn,
    You will really, really love working with teens, but be prepared for the crazy questions they ask you about life and try not to blush when you answer them. I had no idea it would be so fun working with this age group.

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