Listen to Dave Eggers Lecture on Education
Date: May 12, 2011
Location: Hopkins Center for the Arts
Event: Each year, since 1997, the Hennepin County Library Foundation has put on an author lecture series called, “Pen Pals,” bringing renowned authors such as Amy Tan, Tim O’Brien, Michael Chabon, John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates, Ann Patchett, and many, many, others to our Minneapolis writing community. Who knew?
As I was assessing the monthly literary events on the Rain Taxi Lit Calendar, still aghast that it was already May, I came across Dave Eggers and assumed I must be delusional. But no, clicking through to the Library Foundation website, I found that yes, this was real. I was not manifesting my subconscious (I had just finished reading A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and am a bit more than obsessed with McSweeney’s). So when I read that Dave Eggers was nearing the vicinity of Minneapolis, I thought real hard about the pricey ticket to attend, since I’m moving across the country soon and starting the next leg of my life on a graduate teaching salary, but not too hard. Because, in fact, my life goal is to start a lit magazine, housed in a coffee shop/wine bar, with an open art studio space, and classrooms–sort of an 826 Valencia meets Open Book type vision. So this was too good to pass up. It was, like all things of course are, destined. Right? I like to live my life that way. Whenever I’m consciously living my life that way, a mysterious, yet unquestionably present force sets everything in a positive motion. This was a must.
For those of you that do not know of this amazing, inspiring, incessantly funny man, he is somewhat of a rock star of the Lit world, if you will. From the exuberant tales of his jadedly fantastic mid-twenties, raising his younger brother Toph after the tragic deaths of both his parents, from cancer, five weeks apart, documented in his pseudo memoir, the aforementioned Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, to the fabulous, also noted, often hilarious Lit Journal, McSweeney’s, Eggers has authored a prolific number of similarly terrific and bizarre works, such as the fur-covered Wild Things novel, based off the childhood favorite, Where the Wild Things Are, and a series of faux-educational visual reference books, like Giraffes? Giraffes!, no joke, yet there are many jokes. Eggers, if not to find light in life after the unthinkable, is no less a talented humorist, with a parallel side of thoughtfulness, which is evident in his latest works, based on true stories, Zeitoun and What is the What (which I have since purchased and will review soon!).
Going into the lecture, I had no idea what he would cover, but that did not much matter. It obviously would be something of a near-comedy show, with, I presumed, a bit of personal bio, and, likely, some sort of take-action component. After about eight seconds, we were all laughing, then Dave (can I call you Dave?) began his magical storytelling and proceeded to talk, appropriately enough for the crowd, about: education. Listen to the fabulous lecture above.
A little history
In 2002, in the Mission District of his resident San Francisco, Eggers started an amazing organization with educator Nínive Calegari called 826 Valencia, which offers free tutoring for students from professional writers and volunteers. In order to house the space for the tutoring center, as well as the offices for McSweeney’s, they needed to front the space with some sort of store because it was zoned for retail. So, they did a bit of market research and found that there was a real void for one particular type of shop: Pirate Supplies. And so the successful non profit was born, the air of fun already rolling off of glass eyes and out of secret drawers. Of course this type of atmosphere was bound to spark the creative mind of a child. They have since created 826 National, the parent for the non profit organization, and have created a model for sister chapters of 826 literary centers across the country, with seven recognized chapters, all with their own themed stores, including the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store in NYC, the Echo Park Time Travel Mart in LA, the Liberty Street Robot Supply and Repair Store, and more. Click here for more information on the 826 chapters, how to apply for chapter recognition, etc.
Just six short years after founding 826 Valencia, Eggers was awarded the TED prize: $100,000 and one wish to change the world. His wish was to inspire and collect the stories of private citizens engaged in their local public schools. Once Upon A School is the online initiative developed to facilitate these stories and work as a guide for educators to learn how to help or how to receive help.
Check out the Once Upon A School “How To Guide” here: