826 Valencia

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826 Valencia sign.

826 Valencia is the name and address of a nonprofit writing workshop and tutoring center in San Francisco, United States, whose aim is to help students ages 8–18 "with their writing skills, in the realm of creative writing, expository writing, or English as a second language." It was founded by Bay Area writer Dave Eggers and is run by a small regular staff along with hundreds of volunteers and professionals. The center offers adult writing workshops, scholarships, drop-in tutoring for students, and in-classroom visits, among other educational activities.

There are three key areas of programming:

  • In-schools activities, where volunteers go into schools both in the neighborhood of the center and further afield in the city to work on either existing projects as classroom assistants or tutors, or work on an 826-themed project which will often culminate in the production of a book. Most afternoons from Sunday to Thursday the centers are overtaken by children and volunteers for drop-in tutoring, where children can complete homework with the help of a tutor, spend time working on their literacy and reading skills, and have a safe place to go after school until their parents are free to collect them.
  • The centers also run field trips, where groups of children come in to work on a project. The most popular of these is the "Storytelling and Bookmaking" field trip, in which a class (usually between 1st and 4th grade) collaborates to create a new, original story, with the help of a typist and an artist, both volunteers. The group produces two or three pages of a story, then each child is given a blank page to finish the story. The books are then bound in-store, and the children can leave with their very own published book.
  • An added incentive is the presence of the center's cranky publisher, who has read every book ever written and knows every story ever told. The publisher is unseen but every book written by a child is submitted for approval, so each story ending must be absolutely original. Examples include 826 Valencia's Mr. Blue, 826 Chicago's Admiral Moody and 826 Seattle's Mr. Geoduck.

The above programs are all free, and are funded by various efforts, including adult seminars run in the evenings, where a panel of established writers discuss topics such as writing and publishing a novel, or creating your own magazine. Other fundraising efforts include sponsored mustache-growing contests, an annual comedy night (the 2007 event for 826 Valencia included Patton Oswalt and Janeane Garofalo in its line-up) and proceeds from the themed store-front of each center.

[edit] Pirate supply store

826 Valencia runs San Francisco's "only independent pirate supply store." Located in the heart of San Francisco's Mission District, the store is the front entrance of the tutoring center and has the look and feel of an authentic pirate shop.[1] The store sells pirate clothing, eyepatches, compasses, spyglasses, pirate dice, skull flags, and secret treasures. It features handmade signs, scattered around the store, offering tongue-in-cheek wisdom, such as "Uses for Lard" (#5: "Lard Fights") and "Guidelines for New Shipmates" (#4: "No forgetting to swab"). Unsuspecting visitors are sometimes treated to surprise "moppings." Shoppers can also find back issues of McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, books published by McSweeney's, and essay and story compilations written by 826 Valencia students. The books of student writing published by 826 Valencia so far are I Might Get Somewhere, Waiting to Be Heard, Talking Back, and their newest book, Home Wasn't Built in a Day, which includes a foreword by Robin Williams.

The pirate supply store was originally created through necessity. After being turned down for regular use of church basements and school facilities, the founders discovered an empty store for sale on Valencia Street. The city ordinances stated that any businesses in that particular area of the city must be either retail or catering, so the Pirate Supply Store was developed as the "legitimate" business front for the writing center.

There are now six chapters that make up 826 National: a second writing center, 826NYC in Brooklyn, New York, features a superhero-themed supply store, and another at 826 Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan is home to a robot store. The 826 Seattle writing center in Seattle's Greenwood neighborhood is host to the Greenwood Space Travel Supply Company. The Boston writing center is home to a Bigfoot store. Additional satellites of 826 Valencia — located in Los Angeles (826LA) and Chicago (826CHI) — are also now up and running.

[edit] References

  1. ^ "A heartwarming work of literary altruism" San Fransisco Chronicle, Accessed on 2009-04-07

[edit] External links

Coordinates: 37°45′35″N 122°25′17″W / 37.759665°N 122.421509°W / 37.759665; -122.421509

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