Secret Recipes

Recipes can spark the imagination, but more often, we look to them when we want assurance of success in reaching some specified goal, such as, say, making a perfect soufflé.

Writing teacher Sondra Hall, on the other hand, uses recipes—or the idea of recipes—as a way to lead kids into the wide world of the imagination. She does it through a program she initiated five years ago called “Take My Word For It!” Along with a group of instructors with MFAs from local colleges and universities, Hall now offers a wide range of writing programs for young people all over the Bay Area. The classes are held in schools, as part of the daily lessons, or in after-school or community settings, as well as through summer camps.

“The idea for recipes came out of developing a whole set of food writing activities for our curriculum called ‘Peanut Butter and the Pen’,” Hall explains. “We started teaching that program at 18 Reasons in San Francisco a few years ago and now teach it in many of our after-school programs as well. Recipes lend themselves well to the imagination. We use them as the centerpiece for writing scenes describing family celebrations around food. We use them as a format for describing oneself in an activity called ‘Recipe of Me.’ We also use them to inspire stories about Secret Recipes.”

During their upcoming weeklong Creative Writing and Art summer camps, kids will have adventures with pencil and paintbrush exploring a variety of topics. “They’ll delve into the almost lost art of the handwritten letter, write and illustrate children’s books, and transform the terribly dry subject of writing mechanics into an adventure we’re calling ‘Grammar-ama and The Punctuation Party’.” Kids will explore each theme through writing as well as visually through a variety of art projects.

Interested? Go to for more information on all the programs. To read more examples of students’ work, wander over to their blog at



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