For MISC Magazine, I recently had the opportunity to interview ten of what we are calling, “Creative Challengers,” or design thinkers who challenge conventional wisdom - “upsetting the status quo, seizing opportunities that others miss and improving systems by inventing new approaches and solutions.”
Working closely with Publisher/EIC, Idris Mootee, Editor, Ashley Perez, and Art Director, Jessica Tien who is responsible for the elegant collages that accompany each interview, we wanted to compile an impressive list but even more wanted to produce substantive content on each Challenger - meatier than your usual run-of-the-mill end-of-year magazine list. To this end, I interviewed each individual - to provide a feel for the forces he/she is driven by. Along with the expected (required) traits - bravery, perseverance, creativity, and a desire to change things - we were struck that across the board, these individuals were humble and curious lifelong learners.
I will post versions of some interviews here, or you may read the entire feature in PDF form here.
Below is a snippet of my interview with one of this year’s Challengers, Dave Eggers, the author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Geniusand the mind behind 826 Valencia, a non-profit organization devoted to helping children and young adults develop writing skills.
Tell me about your inspiration for 826 Valencia, and the importance of one-on-one tutoring attention for students.
The original idea behind 826 Valencia was to build a simple drop-in tutoring center in the Mission District of San Francisco. We geared the services toward kids from non-English-speaking homes, kids who needed some extra one-on-one attention. I knew that huge leaps could be made through one-on-one interactions; studies say that a student can gain a grade level with 40 hours of one-on-one work. But after that, the center grew in dozens of unexpected ways — into student publishing, workshops, teacher assistance and advocacy, college access, scholarships. It keeps growing as the students grow.
You’ve published children’s works in print form, and found it motivational and transformative for them. It says something about the book as an artifact — that it can have that effect.
I was in Brooklyn yesterday, holding in my hands a young adult novel that was produced at 826NYC and afterward was acquired by a real, professional publisher. The kid was 16 when she wrote it, but it was good enough to attract an agent, a house, everything. And there are tons of students whose work deserves our attention, and they work like mad when they know their work will appear in a book. So we see publishing student work as honoring student voices, amplifying student thought.