Agent Name: Bianca Foxtrot
Real Name: Ellen Sawyer
Congratulations, Spy! How does it feel?
It feels like I won an Oscar! *steps on to podium, holds Spy Award in the air, thanks family, blows kisses to the crowd* My family and friends are excited to come to my induction ceremony in Siberia over the summer!
How did you first get involved at 826CHI?
When I was in spy college, I read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and I thought, "Man, if I ever get lucky enough to live in a city with an 826, I really want to volunteer there." When I first moved to Chicago I was walking through Wicker Park, I was so happy to see the Secret Agent Supply and thought, "My destiny!" I began to volunteer shortly thereafter. It feels like I've come full circle here--read Dave Eggers, was so excited there was a place that helped students with creative writing and being silly, and then I got lucky enough to volunteer at the place! I'm even such a fan I visited the Pirate Supply Store on a trip to San Francisco.
What has been your favorite 826 experience so far?
I love when students come on field trips and write for Admiral Moody. Getting to see their faces and excitement is so rewarding. A standout experience was when a primary-aged student on a field trip whispered, conspiratorially, "Should we hide?" when Admiral Moody was talking to us over the intercom. I love that we have such creative and fun way to engage students in writing and reading! I also love spending time assisting in the store, I love talking with people about what we do and encouraging them to buy all of our fun stuff. Also, the staff at 826 are pretty incredible; it's so cool to be around other fun, creative people who love reading and inspiring that love in students.
What do you do when you aren't working undercover?
Honing my spycraft is really important to me, so I have a bunch of different activities I do to develop myself. I do a lot of swing dancing (builds up my legs for when I'm jumping over fences to chase after bad guys), am in a bowling league (builds up my arm strength for throwing nunchucks), and do yoga (helps me calm myself before big meetings with Head Spies.)
What's your favorite item in the Secret Agent Supply Co.?
Marty, this is like asking someone to choose their favorite child, I never could! I can, however, choose three in ascending order of favoritism: 1) the invisible ink pen (DROP EVERYTHING YOU'RE DOING NOW AND TRY THIS PEN OUT), 2) spy glasses where you can look at what's going on behind you, and 3) the soda cans with hidden compartments. My nephews have received all three as presents, and they approve!
Our top graduates from Spy College always have the best codenames -- what's yours?
Beside Bianca Foxtrot? Oh, I would love to reveal my REAL spy name from Spy College Definitely Not in Siberia!, but I can't, because if I did I would be revealing the identities of cover agents from here to Timbuktu, and then top brass would be really mad at me!
Any words of wisdom for aspiring spies of the month?
Go to as many events as your schedule allows. The staff is really good at preparing you before an event and will help you feel less apprehensive about it! Volunteer as little or as much as you would like. And DEFINITELY attend the volunteer game nights, where I would love to show off my espionage skills with you in a game of Mafia. (Fellow volunteers will vouch for my abilities in this game.)