Creative writing is and always will be my first love; over the past three years I’ve surprised myself by finding out I also love working with children. Therefore, the mission of 826 National is very dear to my heart. Founded by novelist Dave Eggers, 826 National encourages students ages six to eighteen to express themselves through creative writing.

There are eight centers across the United States–in New York, DC, Boston, Ann Arbor, Chicago, LA, San Francisco, Seattle–which offer after-school tutoring, workshops, and field trips. They also frequently publish compilations of their students’ work, including the very popular Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country: Kids’ Letters to President Obama (in which kids offered advice such as “When you move into the White House, turn on the heater so it won’t be cold. You could also take hot baths in your new antique bathtubs,” and “You should not smoke when you are president! There are simple reasons. Because you will die by smoking, and then you will not be president! But I want you to be”).

In addition to the writing centers, each 826 branch includes one-of-a-kind retail stores. Pirates in San Fran flock to their local 826 store for supplies such as eyepatches and mermaid bait or repellant (depending on one’s mood, I suppose). Gotham city superheroes can stock up on capes and antimatter at the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. while the Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co. offers ray guns and intergalactic peace treaties to all astro-adventurers.

Oh, really?

My favorite, of course, is 826Chicago’s store, the innocently titled Boring Store. This store–“not by any means a store for spies”–sells disguises, surveillance gear, and carrier pigeon supplies: exactly the kind of stuff I would have loved in my early days of dreaming of becoming a spy. I can only imagine how thrilled I would have been as a child to take writing lessons at a place that doubled as a spy-supply store. Perhaps I’d be just as thrilled to work as an adult at a creative writing center for kids that sells spy supplies. Hmm…topic for next week?