H·A ThirtyOne’s #whoshareswins posts are all about spreading the word about good things, no matter how far afield from our higher ed focus they may at first seem to be. There’s typically a dose of serendipity that, as the idea keeps coming back to us, pieces start to fall into place and before we know it we can’t even imagine not sharing.

A month ago, I was looking for an appropriate bit of stationery to use for a note. The message was for a young friend battling a very specific type of brain cancer. Any old card would not do. It needed to be a fun card, one that used an interesting design that would appeal to this friend’s exceptional creativity and deep independent streak. Something she hadn’t seen before.

I’ve always kept a stationery collection (because I love ephemera and paper). With every trip and adventure, I pick up blank postcards, interesting printings, swatches, adding these and the like to the drawer of stationery. It’s truly priceless for occasions such as this, when the paper has to be just right.

<i>Yeti, illustration by Mick Wiggins, for sappi</i>

Yeti, illustration by Mick Wiggins, for sappi

As expected, I found the perfect card. The inside of the card was a blank canvas, offering me plenty of space to say what I wanted to say. The front presented an illustration, by Mick Wiggins, of a textured, white-fur yeti caught in a peaceful pause before continuing his lumber through a drifting snow-scape. She’d love it. The card came as part of a set, given as samples by sappi during UCDA’s 2016 Design Conference. There was a big block of text on the back of the card that I hadn’t noticed before. It was touting a non-profit, 826 National, that works to encourage writing and publishing among young people. I knew she’d love that, too. But I didn’t give it much more thought.


Flash forward, a week or so later. I’m reading Grace Bonney’s, In the Company of Women, a gift to me from H·A ThirtyOne’s Director of Enrollment Solutions, Ginger Hansen. It, like Ginger, is a gift that just keeps on giving. Of late, I’ve taken to reading a couple of Company’s profiles daily, getting a boost of inspiration from a glorious variety of female creative entrepreneurs. And that’s when the serendipity happened — while reading a feature on chef and author Samin Nosrat. Her answer to the question, “If you were given $100 million, would you run your business any differently?” Nosrat said first, “I’d build a beautiful, inspiring workspace…,” and then, she’d “…hire a support staff, and support them.” And third? Third, “I’d found a non-profit organization. I’ve always admired the work of 826 Valencia, the nonprofit established by Dave Eggers to support under-resourced students with their writing skills.”

Wait a minute. Synapse firing. Isn’t that the same organization that…. I hustled through the house to the stationery drawer, almost frantically looking for another one of the cards from the sappi set. Point proven, each card featured a different 826 organization. And from there I was online checking out where the nearest one might be and how I or H·A ThirtyOne might get involved with this effort.

826 National Chapter Locations (graphic from 826national.org)

826 National Chapter Locations (graphic from 826national.org)

The first thing I noticed was the absence of any smaller cities. The next thing I noticed was, except for New Orleans, there’s not an organization in the Southeast. Then there’s that big ole chunk of the country’s mid-section that is, to use an appropriate metaphor, a big, blank page. There are a lot of future writers that could be putting words to paper in those geographies. And where might those words take them?

Considering how critical strong communication skills are for every stage of life and every role one may play, the more we can do to support and promote writing, the better. I’m just at the very beginning of learning about 826 and all they do, but it’s a perfect time to share.

Have something you’d like us to include in a future #whoshareswins post? Have cool stationery to send my way? Let us hear from you!