On a recent December evening, members of Partners in Time enjoyed a very special dinner with writer and actor BJ Novak and author, publisher, and 826LA co-founder Dave Eggers. This intimate event was generously hosted by 826LA board member Teresa Eisner and her husband Anders Eisner, as part of a series of events presented especially for members of Partners in Time.
After mingling with fellow 826LA supporters over cocktails and enjoying a delicious meal, guests settled down by the fire for a conversation about creativity, generosity, and the universal desire of children to make grown-ups look silly.
warmed up BJ with a series of rapid-fire questions written by BJ’s very own friends at 826LA: students with whom he’s worked as a volunteer tutor over the years. Student Brandon took special care to mention that BJ was his “second favorite tutor ever” and Ana wanted to know if BJ had been naughty or nice this year (he was nice.)
Ana also asked why BJ enjoyed being a tutor. “I’m here for the kids to make me laugh,” he answered.
Making kids laugh–and connecting to young people in general–became a central theme of the evening. The pair discussed how a volunteer’s relationship to students can deepen and transform over time. According to Dave, 826LA is an after-school haven for students; it is their space and you are merely invited into it.
“You feel like a baby-sitter or a substitute teacher at first,” said BJ. Yet over time, volunteers and students form relationships that Dave called “healing and mutually beneficial.”
The conversation soon turned to The Book With No Pictures, BJ’s recent, first, and wildly successful children’s book. “Parents curse this book because it makes idiots out of us all,” said Dave. “Which is exactly why kids love it. Why did you write this?”
BJ designed the concept for the book after realizing that when reading to a very small child, “You’re essentially an actor for hire. You’re performing a script. I followed that line of logic and asked, ‘What would a kid dream for the book to make you say?’ No illustrations then became the hook.”
When asked whether a sequel was in the works, BJ wondered allowed whether a series would “damage the brand”– and then wondered whether such concerns were “Hollywood.”
An answer came in the way of a comment from 826LA board member Krystyn Madrigal, who said kids don’t care at all about the brand– they’re too busy loving the book, and sharing it with others. “I was recommended this book by a 6 year old,” she said.
826LA thanks Dave and BJ for talking about writing with us, all of the Partners in Time members who attended, and Terena and Anders Eisner for hosting this unforgettable event. You can help students across LA to tell their stories with creativity and confidence when you join Partners in Time. Members are invited to great events like this one throughout the year. Become a member at 826LA.org/join or email Annie for details!