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GOOD Q&A: Dave Eggers

Dave Eggers famously included a drawing of a stapler in the incomplete guide to symbols and metaphors that introduced his first novel, A Hearbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. We guess the idea was that it might help hold everything together-or, at least, signify a need for things to be held together...

Dave Eggers famously included a drawing of a stapler in the incomplete guide to symbols and metaphors that introduced his first novel, A Hearbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. We guess the idea was that it might help hold everything together-or, at least, signify a need for things to be held together. Since doing that, he's authored You Shall Know Our Velocity, How We Are Hungry, and What is the What. He's also a co-founder of McSweeney's and 826 Valencia-the flagship of our Choose GOOD partner 826 National. As part of our focus on education, we asked Mr. Eggers for a first hand look into the world of 826, as well as a little glimpse into his personal reading list. We'll leave the symbols and metaphors to be determined by you


.What does a $20 donation do for 826?

It will purchase necessary supplies for our writing lab: 100 pencils—yes, we still use pencils—or a sturdy chair. It will also sponsor one student to attend our morning field trip program, in which a local class visits our space to collectively write a story within two hours. Each student walks away with his or her own storybook, professionally illustrated and neatly bound.

How do you describe 826 to someone who's never heard of it?

826 is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. Our services are structured around the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success. We offer a variety of free programs that reach students at every opportunity-at school, in the evenings, and on the weekends-all free of charge. We're especially committed to supporting teachers in their work, offering services for English language learners, and working with local schools where the English scores aren't as high as they might be.

What's your goal for students who show up for the first time?

Our main goals are to provide undivided attention to students' writing. Most of our drop-in kids are from families where English isn't the first language at home, so they can't necessarily get the homework help at home that they need. We step in and bolster their English and writing skills through hours of one-on-one attention. So, their first time, we're concentrating on nuts and bolts, but we're also engaging the students,drawing them out, trying to shine a light on their ideas and get them passionate about writing.

How are the themes for the centers established?

Each local group comes up with a theme they think works for their neighborhood. But the themes are supposed to be strange. They're supposed to raise money for the centers, and supposed to bring kids and parents and volunteers in, but they're also supposed to signal to the students that our centers are really offbeat, and that we invite the unexpected. Any kid who considers writing a chore, or boring in any way, might have that preconception. But, by walking through the stores, it makes clear that we won'ttolerate boredom.

What's the toughest obstacle that 826 faces?

As a nonprofit, fund-raising is a continual process that keeps us on our toes. And because volunteers are at the heart of what we do-in fact, there's nothing we could do without them-keeping them involved and happy is always a priority. It's our goal to make volunteering easy for everyone. Whether you can contribute an hour a month or ten hours a week, we are grateful for your time. And we will put you to work.

If you could commission any writer in history to chronicle the story of 826, who would it be?

Jules Verne.

What was your favorite book as a kid? Why?

The Book of the Dun Cow. It's a very strange book.

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