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Engineering the Sentence

In eighth grade, I took an elective to prep for a yearly STEM competition. I was eager to build rubber-band-powered airplanes and roller coasters, but as we filed in on Day One, there were no materials or tools to be found. Instead, the teacher divided us into pairs. One of us had to describe an object, the other had to draw it.

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Each Sentence a Brushstroke

After I bought my son his first set of good paintbrushes, the All-Knowing Algorithm spammed my social media with time-lapse videos of artists painting. As a writer, I can’t help it — I see metaphors for writing everywhere. I thought ... that's just like writing!

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Diving Deep

I once helped a college applicant who wrote beautifully about a terrible place to swim. It was a stretch of bay marked by strong currents, stinging sea lice, and a pungent smell when the tide stole the water altogether. 

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The Other Side of the Desk

I’ve always known how overwhelming the college application process can be, but this is the first time I’ve experienced it firsthand with my own child. I’m continually struck by the level of accompanying stress, but what I didn’t see coming? The stress I would feel as her parent.

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Following the Details Home

I asked her to draw a map. This is something I do sometimes when a student tells me they have nothing to write about. I have them draw their hometown or a place they know well. I have them sketch landmarks and points of interest. No detail is too small. At this early stage in the writing process, our work is to deal with self-doubt by gathering possibilities.

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Your Story Is Already There

My grandmother immigrated to the U.S. from Lebanon and, for years, worked as a seamstress in a uniform factory. By the time I was born, she lived alone in the three-bedroom duplex. Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered an entire room dedicated to frivolities: a mannequin, a collection of yardsticks, and notebooks written in a cryptic hand.

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Writing as a “Math Person”

The lights of the theater dimmed and all I could think was, "Is this really a good idea?" From a young age, I’d believed I was destined for a different kind of performance. But here I was, at age twenty-seven, backstage at Improv Boston, about to perform a sketch comedy show. Three years later, I would quit my electrical engineering job to pursue writing and teaching full time.

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River
The Value of What We Do

I recently wrote a message to our team in anticipation of our summer work with students who will be writing out of their life experiences for their college applications. I share my reflection here because it provides a look inside our coaching for those who are curious to know who we are, what we do, how we think, what we talk about.

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Where Writers Grow

At our new online home, we’re delighted to share how we look at writing and what it can mean for the writer. Our decade of coaching has deepened our belief in the enduring personal growth a writer experiences in the journey between the blank page and the final draft.

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The Anxiety of the Takeaway

As we come face-to-face with the anxiety of where this essay is going, I’m reminded of trying to walk my son to school on time. Once we hit the street, he’s fascinated by everything he sees. Don’t tell my son, or I'll despair of ever getting him to school on time, but college essay writers should be like him!

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close-up of typewriter with blank page.
The Process and the Pearl

Here’s an incomplete list of things we don’t typically think about when we think about writing: the doodled-on diner napkins, the hastily-scribbled notes on the backs of receipts, the three cryptic words on a palm: “mulch, apple, Volkswagen.” The scattered moments of potentially promising thought.

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The Creative Freefall

When I started writing in elementary school, the stories flowed out of me like magic. I remember hunching over my paper, scribbling down each chapter as fast as I could. Writing was fun and effortless and — at least the way I remember it — I never agonized over ideas or phrasing.

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