05/30/2012 11:06 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

826LA's Young Authors' Book Project

The Young Authors' Book Project is one of 826LA's most exciting projects. Over the course of a semester, high school students become published authors. This year, 826LA partnered with the Academic Leadership Community pilot at the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex in Downtown L.A. With the support of teacher Andy Molnar and 826LA's trained tutors, seventy students wrote and completed essays that are now being published in 826LA's newest publication: A Ring of Sunshine Around the Moon.

We thought these hardworking, newly published authors could use some advice from a more seasoned professional, so we invited a special guest to speak with them in their classroom about a life in letters. As one of the key writers for The Office, B.J. Novak's writing has been appreciated by millions of television viewers. And, in addition to his work as a writer, actor, director, producer, and stand-up comic, B.J. Novak is also a dedicated after-school tutoring volunteer.

Speaking writer-to-writer, B.J. was upfront about the difficulties of being an author. When a student said that laziness was one of his greatest obstacles, B.J. admitted that he sometimes rides the wave of procrastination. But, he continued, the guilt of wasting time combined with witnessing other's achievements drives him to be productive. "I know there are people who write everyday, and they are more successful than I am," he observed. He didn't sugarcoat the difficulties of finding work as a writer either, remembering years of struggle after landing his first big job.

B.J. also recounted the joys of writing collaboratively. He talked about the writer's room at The Office, where his ideas were gauged by how hard they made those around the table laugh. B.J. noted a similar sense in the Young Authors' Book Project, where students seemed to be writing for the student sitting next to them more than to impress the teacher. He encouraged students to continue writing for their friends and to create works that would entertain their peers. In that way, their writing would continue to be relatable and real rather than pedantic.

One of the many things we take very seriously at 826LA is giving young people a chance to meet established writers. Often, students wonder what sort of opportunities exist for people who become writers, and we do our best to expose them to the many career paths that exist in their own backyard.  After hearing B.J Novak share his victories and challenges, many students said they too wanted to be professional writers (truth be told, some others wanted to be actors like B.J., too!). It was clear that all left feeling wonderful after having their work recognized and acknowledged by someone other than their teacher or 826LA.

We hope you will join 826LA, the students, teachers, and faculty from MCLC, along with special guest B.J. Novak in celebrating the release of A Ring of Sunshine Around the Moon on Friday, June 1, 2012, at 7 pm. The event takes place at The Last Bookstore, just a few blocks from where many of these newly published authors live and learn.