Category Archives: Writing

Do Ivy League Schools Expect Too Much In Their Application Essays?

I was recently asked to help an 18 year old write an Ivy League college entrance exam essay. And maybe it’s because I haven’t written one in a while, but I found it absolutely ridiculous how much experience Ivy League schools expect young people to have before even reaching the legal drinking age.

The questions they ask teenagers to answer, such as life changing and altering experiences in travel, leadership, honesty, and other things are so overrated, especially for someone who is barely legal to vote or marry. Many haven’t had the opportunity to engage in one meaningful relationship, let alone many and in various circumstances.

How many life altering things do they think really happen to the average kid before they turn 18? Or do they only hope to admit those who have lead difficult, broken, and abused lives?

But if that’s the case, then they are in fact promoting all the things that no child wants to endure – divorce, poverty, alienation, etc.. Because let’s face it, those questions require answers that come only from challenges and hardships that most parents try to shield their children from.

College should be a place where kids learn about these things. This is where kids should be exposed to all these coming of age milestones, when they are legal adults, and more physically, mentally and emotionally prepared to handle these sorts of situations.

As I was reading the question choices and considering the kinds of answers that would be most appropriate and impressive to the admissions committees, a thought dawned on me. I was the most qualified to write these essays. My life and life challenges, failures, successes and overall experiences are what would make these essays interesting and even get me into these schools.

The only problem is that I’ve already graduated with a bachelors in Communications and have no intention of continuing my education or applying to any of these universities.

Do Ivy League schools expect too much from our kids, or do we just not expect enough from our teenagers, who are constantly struggling to be treated more like adults? Perhaps if we gave kids more hardships and challenges to deal with, they would have a better chance of getting into all these prestigious universities.

But if an 18 year old had to endure all that I have gone through in over 30 years, what would that person be like when he or she finally reached true adulthood?

Perhaps in their quest to find the brightest, smartest and best individuals, Ivy League schools are actually promoting kids and their parents to engage in and lead unhealthy and dangerous lifestyles.


How A New Character Is Born

People often ask me who or what inspires me. How I get my ideas for the stories I write and the characters I come up with. Sometimes it’s hard to think up an answer on the spot, but I can definitely say that a lot of my stuff comes from things I watch or read. I’m a huge fan of various television shows and books, including popular series.

So, how do I take a well known character and turn it into a brand new persona that’s virtually unrecognizable to the public as anyone else but the character as portrayed in my work?

First, I think about what I like or most easily relate to in the storyline. Is it the actual storyline? One of the characters themselves? A particular relationship? A setting?

Once, I’ve narrowed it down, I take that one detail and start playing with it. Let’s say it’s a character. We’ll call him James. And let’s pretend he’s in a television show that set in New York City, where he plays a detective, who’s in love with another detective. His character is a stand up guy, with a strong work ethic and an endearing personality. But he’s also a little brooding and very sexy.

This is definitely someone I would be attracted to and would want to put into one of my stories. But, how? First, I change his name, then I add or subtract at least five years from his age. Already, my character is taking on a little bit of a different role. But, I won’t stop there. Next, I’ll put him in a different location than the character of James is usually found in, and I might even give him a different career, with a slightly altered personality. Now, the character who used to be James, known by millions around the world, is suddenly a completely different guy, and ready to be known as anyone I want him to be.

Sounds easy, right? It can be, but it can also be challenging. Of course, that’s part of the fun of writing. Giving birth to characters is one of the most rewarding aspects because then I get to sit back and watch them come to life.

Then before I know it, they’ve take on a life of their own, with conflicts, decisions, and feelings that feel as authentic as if they were my very own. Well, almost. Every character I’ve ever come up only feels complete when he or she has a part of me within them. Whether it’s a good or a not so good aspect of my personality, or some other trait like fear, hope, dream, or deep dark secret I’ve never shared, it’s safe to say that little bits of me live on, and often in very exaggerated forms, through the lives, thoughts and actions of my characters.

And that is how a character in one of my writing projects is born. As a very good writing teacher once said, nothing comes from nothing. That’s why it’s always easier and better when you can start with something and work you’re way out, or in, from there.