Spy of the Month

spy of the month

Agent Name: Dr. Q
Real Name: Jill Quarles

Congratulations, Spy! How does it feel?
It's humbling because I know how many talented spies are part of the 826 network.

How did you first get involved at 826CHI?
I believe that volunteer work is an important part of belonging to a community, so I started looking for opportunities soon after moving to Chicago. I had a couple of frustrating experiences, because it seemed like I couldn't find anything that fit with my schedule, interests, personality, and values. Then one Saturday morning I was sipping my coffee and reading a Cosmopolitan article about ways for women to be involved in our communities. There was a blurb about another 826 location, and I remember thinking, "Wow!!! If Chicago had a place like this, THAT would be perfect for me." The rest is history. I got online almost immediately to find more information and started tutoring a few months later.

What has been your favorite 826 experience so far?
I love seeing students share their work at the chapbook parties, but I think my favorite thing is talking with the After-School Tutoring & Writing students. They are bright and thoughtful, and I learn so much from our conversations. I grew up in rural East Texas, so my childhood and teenage experience was different from theirs in many ways; it’s exciting to learn what their experience is like and how it compares and contrasts with my own.

What do you do when you aren't working undercover?
Many things. To earn money, I teach Spanish and edit confusing academic documents. To satisfy my intellectual curiosity, I work on my PhD dissertation, read as much as possible, and visit museums. I also love exercise, especially running, and I travel every time I can. (I'm in Spain right now.)

Can you tell us about a highlight from your time in Spain?
I got to see a classic play by one of the writers that I study. It was performed by a local theater group in a small, outdoor venue. The actors were talented, and it was a fun, dynamic story, but there was also a really beautiful sense of community. It was even more exciting since i hadn't planned to do this; I found out about it earlier the same day.   

What was the last thing you read that you loved?
Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own by Kate Bolick---It was about women writers who either never got married or who had nontraditional marriages. I identified personally with so many of the ideas and inner conflicts that the author discusses, and I also learned a lot about some fascinating women writers and their work.  

Our top agents always have the greatest codenames. What's yours?
Dr. Q. My last name starts with a "Q", and that's pretty unique. (I graduated from college with about 900 other people, and I was the only one with that initial.) A "doctor" can have many meanings: an expert, a teacher, someone who cares for other people... I think all of these are great aspirations.  

Any words of wisdom for aspiring spies of the month?
Learn as much as you can from the students. They've taught me about  trampoline parks (which are wonderful!) and those jellos that you suck straight from the plastic (which are not!). They are also full of information about poetry, Chicago Public Schools, and pretty much anything else an 826 spy might need to know.