Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dave Eggers Wish: Once Upon a School

So there is this Dave Eggers guy, a writer, who opened a pirate supply store in San Francisco. Even though there is no longer a large pirate community in San Francisco, Eggers is doing well. He is accomplishing his goals nearly beyond his creative imagination. His success is where it gets weird.

Eggers' pirate supply store is actually a writing tutoring center. The pirate supplies are just a front to disguise what is actually a tutoring center, just like a pizza joint for the mob’s racketeering business. 

Capt’n Eggers and his crew of 1400 bucca-teers have one goal: to provide one-on-one writing tutoring to as many local area students as possible. 

That’s it! They sell pirate supplies only because their business place is zoned as a retail location, not a tutoring center. 

The success of the tutoring center is astonishing. The place is popular with kids and always busy after school hours. Students working side-by-side with writing professionals have published books together, like Khaled Hamden, a 9 year old video game addict converted author, and writing projects like 826 Valencia project. Students who are published achieve a level of professional writing and "once they’ve written at that level, they can never go back” (Eggers). Hamden has now been published in five books through the help of programs spun-off from the pirate store. 

This is all because Eggers created a community of writers made up of both professional writers and student writers.  The set-up he and his crew created has been mimicked as far away as New York City and as close as Chicago. Each center has a different theme such as "The Travel Mart in Los Angeles, the "Robot Supply and Repair Store in Ann Arbor Michigan, the New York "Superhero Store", and "The Boring Store" in Chicago.

Even closer is EIU’s own Writing Center at 3110 Coleman Hall.  Although the staff doesn't dress with one-eye patches and peg legs, they are doing essentially the same thing as Eggers’ pirate store. 

The only real difference is that EIU's Writing Center has been around for far longer.  Although most of the staff (including myself) are not professional writers like Eggers' volunteers, we are graduate students hoping to make writing our profession. 

The point is that EIU and many college campuses have created a writing community  for the purpose of collaborating with students so they become stronger writers and thinkers.  Although not everyone can be a published author by age 9 like Hamden, many students do want an enthusiastic group of writers to talk with.   

The Ted Talk below has been most inspiring to me as a member of community with such outstanding goals and positive attitudes towards writing. Eggers' enthusiasm is inspirational. I hope Eggers Ted Talk inspires you to become involved with an amazing resource such as your local writing center. 

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