Dave Eggers is an author, screenwriter, publisher, English tutor, visionary and seller of pirate supplies. If you have heard of McSweeney’s (a literary quarterly that is published, as he puts it, “two or three times a year”) then you probably know who Dave Eggers is. If you went to see the 2009 feature film adaptation of the children’s classic Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, then you are aware of what Dave Eggers can do as a screenwriter. He has also written a memoir called A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and has at least 4 novels and 3 short story collections under his belt.
But how he has made the most impact has been as a co-founder of a literary project which began as 826 Valencia based in San Francisco. Over the last couple of years it has blossomed into a national program with chapters also in Boston, Chicago, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Michigan, New York City and Seattle. The 826 project was begun as a writing and tutoring center providing free, one-on-one opportunities for students ages 6 – 18 to explore creativity and improve their writing skills. It has grown into so much more, including a store for pirate supplies. Dave Eggers explains why in his own words below.
Dave Eggers participated in a Ted Talk back in 2008 and his vision is inspirational. His presentation clocks in at a little over 24 minutes but it is well worth your time. Go get your cup of coffee, sit down, get comfortable and click play. You will be engrossed, entertained and hopefully moved. You will find out what pirates, time travel, super heros and robot repair all have to do with English tutoring, writing, homework, publishing, self-esteem and volunteerism.
I vehemently implore you watch the full length version above but if you can’t devote that much time, below is a version that has been edited down to roughly 4 minutes. The short version is not as engaging or inspiring but it touches on most of the salient points, so it’s better than nothing.
It is amazing what one person can accomplish. Yes, Dave Eggers has accomplished much and made a huge impact, but I am really talking about what you can do. You can easily make a difference in one person’s life. I have mentored boys for seven years at a local Boy Scout troop devoting three of those years in the position of Scoutmaster and, believe me, there is nothing more rewarding than working with kids. I suspect that getting involved in a local 826 chapter, if there is one near you, would be a way to spread the joy that you have for writing or any other creative outlet.
There is an 826 chapter near me in Washington DC and I will definitely look in to helping out there. If you are not so fortunate to live in or near one of the chapter cities consider contacting your local schools to find out what opportunities there are to effectively get kids happily engaged in English and excited about writing or any other creative outlet. I fervently believe that exposure to and encouragement in the arts is vitally important. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it (even though I don’t know who to attribute the quote to, but I do agree with it whole-heartedly):
“I can imagine a world without art,
but I don’t think I want to live there.”