May 2011 – Richard Ford

May 1, 2011 | 826 Blog Post

Richard Ford!

Richard Ford!

We *probably* know what you’re thinking. Something along the lines of, Oh, 826michigan has a volunteer with the same name as that super-famous, super-talented writer, you know, the one with the Pulitzer. Friends, you are not far off. Because, we are delighted to tell you, that super-famous Richard Ford? Well, it just so happens that he actually volunteers for us, and he is actually the Volunteer of the Month.

So if you haven’t heard about it by now, well, it’s time you did. The wonderfully generous and critically praised and all-around brilliant novelist and short story writer Richard Ford has edited an anthology of stories as a benefit for us!

Upon Amanda’s invitation, Richard stopped by our lab in the summer of 2008. We thought he would sort of pop in — maybe hang out for thirty minutes or so. Instead, he stayed for several hours. We told him about our students, their writing, what they need, and how we help them. Not to toot our own horn too much, but Richard was pretty impressed, and wanted to help. And so, even though he lives in Maine, in his own words, he basically came into our tutoring lab three years ago and never left.

Turns out he’s thoughtful and serious and he sincerely supports writers and writing, like we do. He’s not afraid to go out of his way to do things the very best way. He offered to compile a short story compilation for us, and we quite excitedly accepted. When he and Amanda were finalizing the book contract, he called from Ireland to figure it all out. When we asked him to make time for an 826 event on his last very busy visit here for a book signing, he said, “Of course” and charmed everyone with stories of 1970s Ann Arbor, jokes with pig punchlines, and his somewhat shockingly pink socks. And during intense novel-editing deadlines, he’s over and over offered to speak with reporters, come to our parties and just generally do whatever we need and wish. He is hugely generous and goes far beyond what’s necessary in his help to us.

Over these three years, he’s helped us in immeasurable ways and done so quietly and earnestly and in the hope that his efforts would pay off for us. And, boy howdy, they have. Blue Collar, White Collar, No Collar: Stories of Work was released last week by HarperCollins and, in addition to more positive reviews that we can easily count, there is already discussion of it being translated into different languages. It’s a stunning book and a beautiful tribute to 826michigan’s hardworking students, especially as our tutors are helping them every day to succeed in school and in life and to launch them eventually into the workplace.

In addition what we can only refer to as “untold hours” reading and collecting the stories, contacting writers, and just generally editing the book, and contributing 100 percent of the proceeds to our student programs, he’s doing and has done so much to help make this a successful project. He’s done countless interviews and is visiting Chicago’s Printers Row Lit Fest next month to talk about the book. Even more exciting for us, he and Jeffrey Eugenides are our guests of honor at the May 12 Storymakers Dinner (already sold out — we warned you).

For all you have done to make the world a better place for 826michigan’s students, thank you, Richard Ford! We were huge fans of yours before this process even started. At this point, I think it’s safe to say we’re all SUPERfans.

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