June 2010 – Katy Shay

June 1, 2010 | 826 Blog Post

Katy Shay

Katy Shay!

The hardest part about writing about Katy Shay is that our favorite thing she does lately is not something we can really, well, talk about on our website. We’re gonna see if we can get around that. Read on and find out if we are successful!

Katy Shay has been with us so long that we don’t even remember how or when she started. It seems like she’s just always been here. Katy is one of those volunteers who finds her niche and sticks with it, at least as far as we’re concerned. In our experience, she’s one of those people who focuses on the thing she’s into, and then just keeps working and working at it, and getting better and better at it.

As it happens, this niche happens to be our Storytelling and Bookmaking field trip. Just about every Friday, we invite a classroom of public school students from Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, or sometimes even Detroit to our writing center. When they get there, we stage an elaborate and clever ruse that, essentially, transforms continually over the course of two hours. We confuse the students by telling them it’s Thursday, not Friday, and that they’re going to participate in the Selection and Care of Your Magical Goat workshop, or the Table Manners Seminar, or some other such thing, and it goes from there. There’s a typist, a projector, a lot of equipment. Playing an important role is Dr. Blotch, our curmudgeonly editor who hates everything (including, yes, puppies, rainbows, and cupcakes). Sometimes his even-more-curmudgeonly wife, Dr. Mrs. Professor Blotch takes over. No one’s ever seen the Blotches, but their voices come through over a speaker, and they are, generally speaking, not happy. They also think that young people a) can’t write and b) wear diapers.

Katy started out as our Storyteller for this field trip. We are pretty sure that is one of the most challenging volunteer opportunities we offer. It involves keeping several ruses going, keeping up to thirty students focused, and keeping the ten-to-fifteen volunteers who are necessary for the whole production moving like a well-oiled machine. At the time when Katy was our Storyteller, the field trip was fraught with bad luck: A projector that flashed green and purple sometimes (if it turned on at all), technological problems aplenty, any number of cords that needed to be plugged into a series of holes, and more. Essentially, helping out at a field trip was, in the early days, running around in a state of panic for about thirty minutes, and then pulling everything together the moment the students stepped off the bus. And THEN acting cool and collected, as though you hadn’t been muttering at an amp a few minutes earlier.

Katy performed this task with amazing calm. Her love for working with young people is obvious, and infectious, and–even better–totally natural. She gets along with young people because she treats them as equals, she honors their ideas, she plays along with them. Pretty much exactly what we look for here. There is never anything forced with her interactions with our students. And because of this, she is able to pull ingeniously creative and often hilarious ideas out of them.

This year, Katy finally got to step down from the stressful Storyteller role after spending a good couple of years honing it (for at least a year and a half, she was literally the only person who could handle it). There’s quite a bit of man-behind-the-curtain aspects to the field trip. Or perhaps we should say, ahem, woman-behind-the-curtain. And this particular woman has every adult in the room smiling and laughing, and every student nervous. This particular woman can sometimes see Russia from her house, and sometimes has a British accent (and a slew of made-up-on-the-spot British slang). This particular woman is GOOD.

And I think that’s about all we can say about it, for fear of giving too much away. Which, by the way, made writing this incredibly difficult. But, hey, Katy! Here’s the bottom line. We love you! We’re are thrilled you’ve been around so long! We think you are smart and funny and super creative. We are glad you stuck through the hard parts of the field trip, and continue to stick around when new hard parts crop up (ahem, skype, cough cough). Thank you for everything you’ve done for us! You’re the best.

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