What happens when you combine a world-class selection of the antique books and ephemera with three days of special displays, live literary-related entertainment, and family fun? The third annual Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair, of course! And this year, the BABF is excited to host a fun-draising event for 826NYC as part of its opening evening.
826NYC, a chapter of the 826 network, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. Their staff, teaching artists, and over 200 volunteers help to serve about 3,000 NYC students each year. 826NYC’s services are structured around the belief that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success. The organization provides after-school tutoring and writing programs, workshops, storytelling and bookmaking field trips, and in-schools programs. They are headquartered in the Secret Library behind the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. in Park Slope, Brooklyn. All proceeds from their retail store go directly to supporting 826NYC’s free creative and expository writing programs.
To learn a little bit more about 826NYC and their great work and mission, we spoke to Joshua Mandelbaum, the organization’s Executive Director. Here’s what he had to say:
ANLAOB: Can you give us a brief introduction to 826NYC – your goals and mission, how you got started, and how long you have been around.
Joshua: 826NYC was founded in 2004, the second chapter in what was, at that time, a very informal network. We were founded by individuals who had been involved with McSweeney's (a literary/art/creative/retail organization founded in 1998 by Dave Eggers which had a storefront in Brooklyn from 1999-2003) when it was headquartered in Brooklyn. We are dedicated to helping underserved NYC students strengthen their writing skills through creative and expository writing programs. Our goal is to help students write their own paths forward and flex their creative muscles.
ANLAOB: How did you personally get involved with 826NYC?
Joshua: I joined 826NYC in July 2013 after the departure of founding Executive Director, Scott Seeley. I had a colleague who had worked for 826 National, and when the position opened, she recommended me. I was serving as Executive Director of Words without Borders (an organization that promotes cultural understanding through the translation, publication, and promotion of the finest contemporary international literature) at the time. I was reluctant to leave an organization I very much cherished and had helped grow in significant ways, but was very excited for the opportunity to move from a strictly literary nonprofit sphere to arts education. Also, to one with a secret door.
ANLAOB: On the national scale, how do the 826 divisions work – does each have their own budget, operations, and programs, or are some or all activities centralized?
Joshua: There are seven chapters that do direct programs and 826 National which oversees the brand, provides support to the network in a multitude of ways, and works to expand the network. We are all independent nonprofits with our own budgets and boards but collaboration is extensive. We all gather annually for a professional development conference, there are monthly calls for executive directors, program directors, store managers, and so on. Resource sharing is high and best practices surface to the top. That said, we all have different character, different program emphasis, and different stores.
ANLAOB: How did the tie-into the superhero theme come about? Do all 826 chapters use this theme?
Joshua: As I understand it, the storefronts were a matter of necessity when they opened 826 Valencia (the 826 chapter in San Francisco). Zoning required a retail operation and so they opened the Pirate Supply Co. When we were founded 2 years later, New York's connection to superheroes made our store theme obvious. Each chapter, by design, has a different store. In addition to the Pirate Supply Co and the Brooklyn Superhero Store there is the Echo Park Time Travel Mart (LA), the Greater Boston Bigfoot Research Institute, The Wicker Park Secret Agent Supply Co (Chicago); Liberty Street Robot Supply & Repair (Michigan); and Tivoli's Astounding Magic Supply Co. (DC).
ANLAOB: Tell us about some of the programs you run out of your chapter, and perhaps how they have changed or evolved over time.
Joshua: Every chapter runs 4 core programs: After-School Tutoring and Writing; Field Trips, hosted at our Park Slope center; Writing Workshops; and In-Schools. There has been an ongoing focus over the last three years to make sure our programs are serving the students who need them most in the best possible ways. We're making a big change to our workshops program this year. They have always been interdisciplinary but were community submitted. That made it somewhat difficult to align to our goals or to plan around. Now 9 of the field trips will be part of a STEM and Writing program that will run over the course of the year.
We are also opening a new full-time In-Schools program at PS/MS 7/Global Tech Prep in East Harlem this September that the network calls a Writers Room. 826 staff and volunteers will provide school day support to educators around writing based portions of the curriculum. It's a very exciting expansion of our work.
ANLAOB: Tell us a brief success story about one of your students.
Joshua: One of our students, Alex, started coming here when he was six. His love of film was apparent as he'd come in with a Flip camera and talked non-stop about movies. The staff built our summer film program around his interest. It is easily one of our more popular workshops. By the time I joined the organization Alex was working more behind the camera and has since outgrown our program for more rigorous opportunities. He was just accepted to UCLA's film school.
ANLAOB: How do you integrate today’s popular obsession with all things gaming, handheld, and electronic to “old fashioned” creative writing and thinking?
Joshua: I'm not sure those things aren't already naturally integrated. I think the emphasis on coding and computer science that has emerged over the last few years has obscured how much creative storytelling and clear communication play a part in our electronic work. There is certainly a ton of creative storytelling happening in video games at the moment, far more than the early years when Mario ran from one castle to the next. And we're communicating constantly through our devices, sometimes quite well and with major impact. That said, I think making students more thoughtful about how they communicate via their devices is important work and something we've not really touched on. We had a hashtag activism workshop that was a step in that direction but there is more we could do. I'd love to find a way to do more with video games as well.
ANLAOB: How did you connect with Marvin Getman and the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair?
Joshua: Marvin reached out to us and I thought it was a great fit. The world of books is our world.
ANLAOB: How do you see the missions of 826NYC and the BABF overlapping?
Joshua: I think both are looking to inspire readers and writers. I find--and here I'm speaking as an individual not on behalf of the organization--that writing and a love of writing can be such a complicated and messy thing. There are writers who find their inspiration in one genre, or who develop an interest in antiquarian books and the cultivation of a library, and others who choose a more deliberate path. 826NYC is, we hope, the start of a lifetime of reading and writing for our students. The BABF is a potential stop on that path.
ANLAOB: And finally, why should people attend the BABF opening night fundraiser for 826NYC?
Joshua: Because it will be awesome fun that also helps support close the 3,000 students build their writing skills. What's better than that?
ANLAOB: We could not agree more, and look forward to meeting new friends and catching up with old ones at this wonderful celebration.
If you have not done so already, mark your calendars for the upcoming BABF - it will be here before you know it! This highly anticipated event, featuring over 100 national and internationals dealers plus many special events, will be held at the Brooklyn Expo Center, on Friday, September 9th from 6-9pm; Saturday, September 10th from 11am-7pm; and Sunday, September 11th from 11am-5pm. A variety of ticketing options are available from $7 to $25; for more information and to purchase tickets please click here.
Our Friday evening fundraiser supports 826NYC. Benefit guests will be feted with “first dibs” access to the fair’s 25,000 items on offer, live entertainment and poetry from the Haiku Guys & Gals, as well as locally sourced refreshments, including Peruvian treats from Jessy's Pastries. Tickets for this great evening are $25 each and can be purchased here. And, as a special thank you, each guest attending this fundraiser will receive a free limited edition BABF2016 poster.
The Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair is sponsored by ABEBooks and brought to you by Book and Paper Fairs. Book and Paper Fairs produces top book and ephemera fairs in the Northeast US. Our professionally managed events have a long history of bringing together the finest buyers and sellers in the industry, and are held in major locations including Boston, New York City, Brooklyn, Concord, NH, and Lexington, MA. For more information and a calendar of our shows, please visit www.bookandpaperfairs.com.