The back room of 826DC buzzed last Thursday evening as it filled with MFA students, AU alumni, and prospective students who were excited to hear the American University MFA Creative Writing faculty read. Seats filled, listeners gathered wherever there was room to stand and, as the faculty members prepared to read some of their new work, everyone grabbed a glass of wine or two.
Dolen Perkins-Valdez read from an advance copy of her upcoming novel, Balm, which will be released on May 26 of this year by HarperCollins. Richard McCann, Rachel Louise Snyder, and Kyle Dargan each read short pieces of new nonfiction, Stephanie Grant read from the novel she is working on, and David Keplinger shared some of his poetry.
According to Joe Callahan, Executive Director of 826DC and former AU professor, the event raised almost $500 for 826DC. The staff and volunteers who work at 826DC serve approximately four thousand public school children ages 6-13 in Washington, D.C. every year, working towards the goal of helping students learn how to tell their stories. Evidence of their success can be found all over 826DC in the form of books written by the students, with titles like “The Giant Lizard + The Big Collection” and “Hot Dog Man Saves the Day!”
The mission of 826DC and the MFA program at AU are not all that different, and Rachel Louise Snyder, nonfiction and literary journalism professor, articulated the necessity of nurturing the ability to tell stories well before she read when she said, “There is no cap on the number of artists in the world. There’s room for all of us.”