“All serious daring…

…starts from within.”

So said Eudora Welty, one of my favorite writers, in chapter three of her memoir, One Writer’s Beginnings.

And so does yours. For writing a compelling, personal essay calls for the sort of courage you might need to look deep inside yourself, discover values that mean the most to you, and then share them with your readers through the shining lens of your words. But you have it in you. I know it. Onward.


Thomas Jefferson never had to give advice…

…about writing admissions essays,  for when he wrote, “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom,” he never could have imagined the unhappy lengths to which some students will go in their personal essays to make themselves stand out to the admissions committees. Yes, you want to be forthright, yes, you want to differentiate yourself  from the multitudes of other applicants–but you can accomplish this without resorting to the kind of unintentional self-sabotaging self-revelation that you can read about in this terrific article from the New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/15/opinion/sunday/frank-bruni-oversharing-in-admissions-essays.html


Newly Minted: Common App Topics

I received a notice from the Common App organization today about the new personal essay topics for the 2013~2014 application year. They are thoughtful prompts, eminently adaptable to wonderful essays–and they’ve increased the word count to a maximum of 650: two positive things indeed. Please see my “Resources” page for details. You can also read an article about it in the New York Times here:


“Be of good cheer…”

Helen Keller is one of my heroes. For her joy in life, her indomitability, her grace. If you ever find yourself stalling out in your writing (or any other endeavor, for that matter), thinking that you will never get to the other side–and get there in triumph–try to remember what this remarkable woman said:

  • Be of good cheer. Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourself a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles.

Mark Twain: Better and Better

The more I read Mark Twain the more I like him.

When it comes to talking about the best kind of writing, no one’s said it better than he did:

To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself. . . . Anybody can have ideas–the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph.
~ (Letter to Emeline Beach, February 1868)



You may feel stuck. Perhaps you don’t know where to begin–or where to stop. Too many paths loom (or none at all!) and you wonder which one will take you unerringly where you want to go. Take heart. You have all the tools you need and I’m here to help you use them.

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.

~Abraham Lincoln