BOB MAKELA has been paid to write magazine articles, screenplays, sitcoms, books, blog posts and stage banter for a rock star. He’s the Bob behind indie publisher Bobtimystic Books and the blog/podcast 2 Degrees of Bob, in addition to being the curator/co-founder of Barstool Poetry. He’s also currently in pre-production on his upcoming web series Green Thumbs. And this month he’s launching Behind the Tracks Publishing, which will help teachers publish paperback books of student stories and poetry, in addition to assisting clients with publishing oral histories of departed loved ones. To sample some of his writing and photography go to www.2DegreesOfBob.com.
How did you first get involved with 826NYC and why did you decide to volunteer?
My wife and I were online looking for possible places to volunteer in Brooklyn, and 826NYC sounded perfect. I was an early fan of Dave Eggers. (I saw him talk at my alma mater, UCLA, back when he was promoting A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.) And the reason I decided to volunteer at all is because I’ve been acutely aware of the benefits of volunteering for nearly 30 years now, ever since I began mentoring a 9-year-old orphan in Hollywood, who’s since taken my last name and become like family. I also volunteered with an elderly assistance program, visiting four different old folks about once-a-week over the course of nearly 15 years. I long ago discovered the secret gift of volunteering: Helping others nourishes the soul.
What’s your favorite part of volunteering at 826NYC?
Seeing the kids get excited about their story or their poem. Watching a kid excitedly pull out the test I helped them study for last week—which they got an A on! Seeing them read their stories at the chapbook party, stories I was present for when they were first being hatched. Watching them crack up…or try to crack me up. Hearing a kid get excited about the new book they’re reading. So many things to love about this experience!
What do you do when you’re not at 826NYC?
You mean besides all the stuff I mentioned in my bio? I like riding my bike around New York, playing my guitar, watching/playing sports, watching movies and good TV. I haven’t gotten up the courage to try surfing in New York, like I used to do back home in California. I also like making things, creating things, reading things. But mostly, I’m trying to be a good husband to my wife Molly. We’ve been married all of 2 1/2 years, and it’s the first go round for both of us. So we’re trying to get it right.
What advice would you give a new volunteer?
Tap into every ounce of patience you can muster. You’re there to serve the kids, not your ego. Treat the kids with respect and curiosity. Be present. Put your phone away and listen. And have fun!
What are your superpowers?