Meet Nick Willy, our new education director of our soon-to-open Vonnegut Writers Workshop. Nick worked with Dave Eggers 826 project in Chicago and has now joined forces with KVML to get our program up and running. Nick is passionate about youth writing and all it can do to lift up young people and the community as a whole. We had a chance to sit down with Nick recently to learn more about him and his work.

Director of Education, Nick Willy

Thanks, Nick for talking to us. Tell us about yourself.

I grew up here in Indianapolis.  When I think back on my “literary heritage” here, I would suggest that my fascination with writing began before I could write—constructing stories with various action figures and dolls.  I earned a BA in English (creative writing) from Ball State University.  After that, I moved to Chicago to attempt the “starving artist” lifestyle for about six years.  That resulted in a lot of bad poems.  I moved back to Indianapolis to get an MFA at Butler; poetry was my genre.  During that time, I realized how passionate I truly was about youth literacy and that it’s possible to make a career out of it.

Share your experience at 826 Chicago and what you expect to bring to Indy following that incredible experience.

After watching Dave Eggers’s TED Talk many years ago, I instantly became inspired to be a part of the youth literacy cause.  Understanding that literacy can be one of the most important factors in ending the cycle of poverty was really the impetus for my involvement.  It turned out that 826Chi was about a five-minute walk from my apartment—I really had no excuse not to volunteer my time.  When I moved back to Indianapolis to complete my master’s degree, I worked in both collegiate and high school writing centers.  When I think back to my experience at 826, I am reminded how important the physical space and the “tone” of a writing program is.  Our environment affects our mood—a fun environment can make writing and reading fun.

Tell us more about your plans for and role in the writer’s workshop. What’s the end goal for youth readers?

Because we are just getting off the ground, there is an incredible amount to do.  Obviously, the build out of the physical space is going to allow us to really meet our mission and vision.  Essentially, we want to be able to offer a space where we can engage with Indianapolis youth through the written word so that they can be inspired, empowered, and heard. My job specifically, as education coordinator, is to build relationships with the community and help find great writing mentors.  I think our end-goal, ostensibly, is to improve literacy, give kids an opportunity to succeed in school and life.  However, in my mind, I want us to be mentors on the path to self-realization.  I think that creative writing workshops can be just as important as the “homework help”—I’m of the belief that if you can express yourself well you can listen well.   I think a world with better communicators is a better world.

Why do you think KVML is a good organization to steward this program?

Anyone who has read a Kurt Vonnegut novel understands that his brain was a hyper-whimsical and a hyper-intellectual one.  I can’t think of a better pairing for an 826-like writing center, KVML, an organization that wants to celebrate such a brain.  I’m not a literary critic, but I think Vonnegut could fall under the magical-realism umbrella.  If we project that “genre” onto our center, I can’t think of a better environment to learn in:  a magical, real one.

Anything else you’d like to add?

We want anybody who wants to be involved with this program to be involved, even if you don’t have writing or tutoring experience.  The best credential you can possess is a desire to help.