Who should read this: anybody interested in writing a Princeton Application Essay, or the Harvard Application (that book/intellectual interest prompt, still going strong) or the Stanford Interest short essay or . . . you get the picture.
The broad scope of writing an essay about a quote means some aspects of this post will work for prompts other than Princeton, inside and outside of the Ivy League. So read on if a quote from an essay, or an essay about an essay, or an essay about ideas is a good topic for you.
My final word for those needing a quote essay, or an essay about a piece of writing, or even an essay about an intellectual experience is . . . read an essay. Or a bunch of essays, and grab the ones that really draw you in. Then have a contest, in which you make the rules, to decide which one to write about and why. See if you can find anything out about the author and/or otherwise find a framing context for how this essay altered your mind, and you are on your way. Some links provided below, to get you started. More links and specific authors coming soon on my private site, available by subscription and for my college advising clients. Read on or simply jump to the end of the post for more on that.
In my last post, I discussed writing about a quote from a book for Princeton. In this post, I am writing for those who are frustrated that their book essay looks too much like a school essay, and for those who like to write about ideas but have only had time to do the assigned reading in school and know that this will not set them apart (that’s most folks, these days). Let’s face it, you do not want ot recycle a school essay on To Kill a Mockingbird or The Great Gatsby, or Twilight. Kidding on that last one.
Or not, maybe–Have a look at this fun post about the Twilight series for an idea about how not to be boring and stuffy while writing about something you like, even if it is despite yourself: Geeky Feminist Muses on Twilight.
She uses a series of quotes and has a good time. You could too, though you won’t have space to wander as much or be as open-ended as she is–you need to make a more clear point, and to turn the attention back to yourself, and you have ca. 500-650 words, depending on what your essay is for (Stanford? 250 words), while this post is part of larger conversation that is itself part of an even larger conversation . . . .as you can see if you keep reading her blog.
And speaking of blogs, you might try looking at a few of them–there are all kinds of essays of superb quality in electronic form, with dozens of good to great sites that are online only, while some old-school literary reviews have migrated at least in part online in ways that work for today. You will find great essays on some of these as well as discussions linked to essays and to ideas and events—with many quotes and googols of ideas:
Links to great lit and idea blogs
Paris Reviews blog and essay site, The Daily. Caution for the sensitive: can be rude.
Gotta follow that with a shout-out to Dave Egger’s old hang, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. I can’t explain, you just have to click and then keep clicking and reading. Can be rude as well. Super!
Essays on all kinds up in-the-now topics: The New Inquiry
The book blog for the New Yorker (Never fear, plenty of essays here): Page Turner
Science or history guys and gals, the Smithsonian is still going strong, online, and what if you did Crash into a Black Hole? Huh?
The Los Angeles Review of Books (Great essays, great ideas, started on Tumblr):LARB
Mostly about reading books, but not yo Mama’s buddy-duddy book site: Book Riot
And I cannot leave out N+1. Most of their stuff is protected: you have to pay for quality work, they claim– what a crazy idea–but maybe this link will still work: Now Less Than Ever.
Get reading, as you do, copy cool quotes, add a few lines of context, the title, author and place you got the essay, and you are on your way to some material that you might be able to make something out of.
Did I say I will be writing about this in more depth, with links to authors, on my private blog? (Subscribers and clients only . . . like those N+1 guys, I believe my work has value . . . it ain’t all free, folks. Contact me for more information).