Venice’s literary history is long, storied and honorable.
Beyond Baroque Literary Foundation in Venice has been a kind of home base for writers – established and new —– and readers, since its founding. Its workshops, readings, free-wheeling events and bookstore are vital parts of the L.A. literary landscape, and astonishing writers, like Amy Gerstler, have begun their remarkable ascents from its remarkably encouraging rooms.
Located in the old Venice City Hall, it is a singular regional asset, as well as a Venice icon.
In March, another kind of literary center, 826LA, opened nearby at SPARC. It combines free tutoring programs with writing seminars ard appearances by noted authors and could very well produce the next generation of writers for Beyond Baroque.
Its founder, writer Dave Eggers, named one of the world’s 100 most influential people by TIME in April, not only writes books — A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, a memoir, in 2000, You Shall Know Our Velocity, a novel. in 2002 and How We Are Hungry, short stories, in 2004-he publishes McSweeney’s literary magazine and now McSweeney’s Books, and he starts things, like 826 Valencia, a tutoring program for kids in the Mission District in San Francisco, 826NY, and now 826LA in Venice.
As James Pontewozik wrote, “Eggers’ enterprises are refreshingly dedicated to the idea that writers can actually change things in more than an abstract sense.”
At 826 Valencia, about 400 volunteers, including Eggers, teach writing and comics creation, run workshops on SAT preparation and help students start student publications. They send groups of tutors into classrooms at the request of teachers for one-on-one.
According to Pilar Perez, Executive Director of 826LA, “826LA is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.
“Our services are structured around our belief that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention, and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success.
“With this in mind, we provide drop-in tutoring, after-school workshops, in-schools tutoring, help for English language learners, and assistance with student publications.
“All of our programs are challenging and enjoyable, and ultimately strengthen each student’s power to express ideas effectively, creatively, confidently, and in his or her individual voice.
On July 1, 826LA published Rhythm of the Chain: Young Writers Explore Teamwork written by the students of Animo Inglewood High School with an introduction by legendary Lakers coach Phil Jackson.
As progenitor of the book’s concept, Jackson assigned the forty-two students to write about teamwork. The range of subjects they explore as they address how teamwork (or lack thereof) has affected their lives is astonishing. They write about unity inside the African-American community, gang relations and the strengthening of the bonds with their friends and family…Each student worked through multiple drafts of his or her work with the help of volunteer tutors from 826LA who visited the school three times weekly for two months.
826LA is offering a full schedule of workshops and programs for young writers. To learn more, go to the websirte: www.826LA.org.826LA is located in the SPARC Building, 685 Venice Boulevard in Venice. (310) 30-8418.