Getting some ink

Last Saturday evening, at a modest Midtown party with balloons and unremarkable finger foods, some groundwork was laid for a literary renaissance. If this sounds a little bombastic, consider some of the epigrammatic wisdom on display that night at the found-poetry booth: “What I know for sure / I’m not gonna / Eat / Baby / Pancakes / wearing / lipstick.” So pragmatic, yet affirming. So nimble with word choice (from a magazine-clipped pile) and arrangement (lyrically affixed to colored construction paper), it suggested much promise in the combination of lexical deliberation with childlike enthusiasm.

That combination is of vital interest to GiantInk (, the nascent nonprofit writing and tutoring center whose development this party was organized to support. The organizers—teachers; school administrators; members of the California State University, Sacramento, English department; and writers—wore outgoing airs and powder-blue GiantInk T-shirts. With help from traipsing children in glow-stick bracelets; mellow, grooving jazz; and energetic chatter, they shared a mood of cautious optimism. They were introducing the GiantInk concept and canvassing for, among other needed resources, the volunteer tutors who will become the organization’s lifeblood. The softly padded space, courtesy of Retrofit Recording, was cozy and conducive to humble solicitation.

Emulating 826 Valencia, the writer-friendly and kid-friendly San Francisco nonprofit founded by Dave Eggers a few years ago, GiantInk ideally will serve two functions: First, it may help the Sacramento area’s loose confederation of literati become a slightly tighter confederation through community service (some writers, once in a while, just need to be gotten out of the house); second, and more importantly, it will invest profoundly in the lives of local youngsters. GiantInk plans to make tutors available after school at Sacramento High School this fall and eventually send them to schools throughout the area to work with local 8- to 18-year-olds on writing projects of every conceivable sort. One plan already on the agenda is a Sac High literary journal.

At the party, the mixed-ages crowd of roughly 75 greeted these ambitions warmly. A handful of tutors was recruited, and gratitude was expressed for what had amounted to a fairly uncommon Saturday-evening occurrence: the family-friendly event that respects intelligence enough to actually encourage it. The found-poetry booth was only one of many crafty outposts; others included a cartoon caption contest, and a table full of photographs with the suggestion to base characters and stories on them.

The illustrated GiantInk mascot-suggestion booth was also popular, if ultimately inconclusive. Vivid renderings of a lizard; a butterfly; a bunny; some figments of zoological fancy; and, in the SpongeBob mode of literalism, a book with arms and legs called Giant Ink Guy all have been taken under advisement.