Q&A with 826LA Board Member Eileen Shields
After volunteering with 826LA for many years, writer and producer Eileen Shields joined 826LA’s Board of Directors in 2018. We asked her to share a little more about her life as a self-proclaimed bookworm.
How did you first get involved with 826LA?
As a fan of Dave Eggers’ work, and a high school English teacher in the LAUSD, I had been following the development of 826 in San Francisco and New York. When the Venice chapter first opened in the SPARC building, I attended an open house, looking for a way to make 826 work for me and my students, who attended an underserved high school where English was the second language for most of them. Geography worked against us (my school was in the north San Fernando Valley), but years later, when I left teaching, I began volunteering in Venice. That would be around 2010?
Why is 826LA’s mission meaningful to you?
There is little I value above literacy. Since childhood, I’ve been a writer and a bookworm. Both activities have brought me hours of pleasure, and also provided a lens through which I can enjoy and interpret the complexities of world. Beyond the practical applications required for success, without literacy, a person has no voice, no way to make themself understood.
Who is a mentor who helped you become the person you are today? Did their influence play a role in inspiring you to volunteer with and donate to 826LA?
I’m not sure I ever had a true mentor–but I’ve certainly been humbled and inspired by the many devoted and talented teachers I’ve worked with over the years, many of whom are still in the classroom, fighting the good fight every day for their students. The outreach and support 826LA brings to Los Angeles classroom teachers is a big reason I support it.
What do you hope to accomplish or focus on as a board member?
That’s a tough one. Possibly community outreach? I feel like there are many students and educators who could benefit from 826LA if they were aware of the scope of its programs.
You write fiction, personal essays, and restaurant reviews. What is your best defense against writer’s block?
I also wrote and produced a movie last year! It’s called “The Amaranth” and it premiered at the Austin film festival in late October. But in response to your question, the best cure for writer’s block is a deadline.
If you could time-travel to any era, where and when would you visit?
I suppose I’d travel back to 2017 and take my sweet dog on one more hike. He departed this world last April and I miss him terribly. Other than that, I prefer to time-travel through books. Most of those previous eras had terrible hygiene.
Who is your mentor? Will you Raise a Voice and help 826LA unlock a $10,000 challenge grant. Donate today to support 826LA students, and the volunteers that work closely with them, as they continue to write and be heard.