Students and I use the admission essay as an occasion to reflect on their lives and to discover and articulate what has been significant. At first it’s a little bit like a jazz improvisation as we discover where the excitement can take off and what works. We start with an interview. Then we take interesting elements from the interview and brainstorm about them in writing. Students then generate drafts of possible essay directions and we work together to weave memories, imagination, and their own unique voice into clear and compelling essay material. Finally, we strategically organize their stories into personal statements and supplements that are unique, clear, strong, and stand out. From our start with exploratory improvisation we end with a final essay that is more like a symphony.
I also offer writing support for research, theses, job application letters, essays, fiction and nonfiction book projects, creative writing, poetry, and ongoing writing inquiry. Writing involves many drafts. Together we may conceive of ideas, compose, draft, revise, organize, and polish your writing project. No matter the kind of writing, I work with all clients to develop:
Curiosity and excitement replace frustration when revising includes unexpected discoveries. Frustration is diminished when no one expects to have it right and finished on the first or second draft.
Through brainstorming, reading aloud, interviewing oneself, being interviewed, getting feedback, and in conversation about values, fantasies and memories, clients become increasingly aware of their own unique process. Through practice one comes to hear oneself think while writing and vice versa. This means that one can be surprised and learn about oneself from writing.
Writing is a practice. Like riding a bike, the more you do it the better you get. I help clients sharpen their ability to discern what is useful and what can be discarded. The result of patience and refinement is skill—the increased ability to hear, see and edit one’s own work, so goals can be met with minimal anxiety and maximum efficiency.
All writing is a process, even writing that has a final goal. Writing comes from feedback and more writing. So, the nature of the feedback and conversation between student and teacher, client and writing guide, matters. Each individual’s needs must be discovered and engaged, resulting in a conversation that is lively, safe, and fun. This is a tall order and can only be carried out well when experience and patience are put into play.
Poetry, scholarship, and teaching form the foundation of my passion for working with children and teens to realize their potential. As a mother who has shepherded her own child through the maze of school applications from kindergarten to college I have a particular affinity for the challenges that families face during this process. And my experience sitting on college admissions committees for California College of the Arts, where I am a professor, gives me an insider’s understanding. In addition to guidance on the admission essays, I also assist on a wide array of writing projects for every age and in every genre.
Writing draws from experience, the intellect, and imagination, and this combination is evident in the two critical books I have published, my eight books of poetry and my numerous chapbooks and articles. As a poet, I understand that imagination is necessary to a compelling essay and any powerful writing. My approach addresses all aspects of this important work.
It would be my pleasure to work with your child or with you to meet a goal, strengthen skills, and discover the surprises the writing process holds.