In elementary school and junior high, I had a handful of teachers who encouraged me to write. One of them, Mrs. Beeler, read one of my essays aloud to the class, a little piece I had written about flowers in the spring.

“Can you believe these adjectives?” she asked a roomful of bored seventh graders. “And the imagery! Tolly! This is wonderful. Just wonderful.”

Everyone else doodled on their shoes, no one was paying attention. But I was beaming.

“Euphoric!” she cried. “You used the word ‘euphoric!’ Wow!”

Up until, say, the eighth grade, I was a dork with braces who didn’t have a friend clique going yet. I liked theater and English, but I wasn’t a “smart” kid, or a “sporty” kid, or a “pretty” kid. But, writing? Writing made me feel like I had a thing. Even if that thing, unlike A-team volleyball or clothes from Banana Republic, didn’t have any hard social currency yet.

“Tolly, thank you for this essay,” Mrs. Beeler cooed. “A-plus.”

Ok, so that day was a little embarrassing. But Mrs. Beeler, God bless her, entered that essay for a school wide award, which it won. So after that, I did feel kind of smart.


Good English and writing teachers will always have a special place in my heart, so Thursday night, I’m incredibly proud to be a part of this local benefit: Austin Bat Cave’s Bat to School Bash.



Just what is Austin Bat Cave, you ask? Oh, only the coolest non-profit ever. They offer free writing classes to kids (including many underprivileged youth), and it’s staffed by volunteer writers! Our dear Lauren Modery of Hipstercrite just started teaching, for example.

Many from Austin’s writing and magazine community will be in attendance, as will Mother Falcon, who’s playing a set. There will also be readings from Texas Monthly‘s Karen Olsson, novelist and J.J. Abrams writing collaborator Doug Dorst, and writer Elizabeth McCracken, who edits one of my favorite authors on the planet, Ann Patchett (drool).

AND! It will be MC’d by me! (Oh dear.)

There are a ton of rad prizes being given away too, including nights at Hotel San Jose, dinners from Qui, and handwritten and illustrated writing advice from George Saunders, who gave that beautiful commencement speech at Syracuse earlier this year (text, video; I recommend both).

If you’d like to support this extremely worthy organization, are a fan of the written word, or just want get your rocks off with famous writers for a night, come on out to the Gibson Guitar Showroom (3601 South Congress Ave) at 7pm on Thursday.

See you there!