A Word Nerd, Her Sister, and Harvard: My Origin Story

Hello, hello, hello!

I am very pleased to present the very first installment of Storytime with Rosie, a special posting at the end of each month.

It occurred to me that while I throw tons of writing advice at you, I should practice what I preach and write some of my own stories for you. Each installment of Storytime with Rosie will contain an essay of 500-650 words in length (perfect for a college app!). It will help me show you some of the writing tricks I've been telling you about, and it will help you get to know me a little better.

So let's start at the very beginning. (A very good place to start!) Here is the story of how Write with Rosie came to be. 

TODAY'S TIP: Starting a story in the middle of the action helps cut out a lot of filler. Click here for more on that.

“Will you pleeease write my essay for me?”


Pleeeeeeease? You can write this stuff in your sleep.”

“Okay, okay, okay. I won’t write it for you, but I’ll help. When is the application due?”


“Three days from now.”

Death glare.

Little did I know that this moment of eye-rolling annoyance would be the birth of my business.

You see, my highly intelligent sister had randomly decided that applying to Harvard would be a fun idea. She already had an undergrad degree in Education from SUNY Geneseo and a grad degree in Higher Ed from Boston College. She really didn’t need a second Master’s degree.

But who wouldn’t want to go to Harvard?

Over Christmas break she hatched her plan. And on New Year’s Day, she dragged me into it.

My sister had written two successful college applications before, but when the time came to do it again, she completely panicked. I understood. The same thing happened to me when I was applying to college. It happened again when I wrote my grad school application essay. And I was an English major—I was supposed to be able to write a brilliant essay in my sleep. Even writers have a hard time writing sometimes.

I had agreed to help my sister, and I certainly wasn’t going to abandon her. So for two days, we talked nonstop about anything and everything that had happened to her that might make a Harvard-worthy essay. She talked and I took notes. I edited and she took notes. She cried. I threw my arms up in the air. We didn’t speak for one very tense family meal.

In the end, we created a charming, polished, successful essay. She got in to Harvard.

On that not-quite-relaxing holiday break, I realized that there are tons of people like my sister out there: people who are very successful at a ton of different things but have a mental block when it comes to writing about themselves. It’s not that my sister couldn’t have done this on her own. She just needed a real live person to bounce ideas off of. She needed someone to help refine her words and point out sentences that could be jazzed up. She needed an editor.

Luckily, she had an editor in the family.

I’ve been a word nerd ever since I was a teeny tiny first grader reading Little House on the Prairie. My parents couldn’t force me to go out and play. I spent my summer days trotting to and from the local library, and I spent many a family picnic reading. Inside.  (I was a very pale child.) When I ran out of things to read, I started to read my favorite books over and over and over again: the Ramona books, the “Shoes” books, the Narnia books. I didn’t realize it at the time, but rereading books really helped me figure out how the authors were crafting their stories, which, as you can imagine, is an essential element of being an editor.

I am still obsessed with stories. I love meeting people and hearing those fascinating little tidbits that make them unique. I am drawn to theater because I enjoy watching truly talented actors create a whole world before my eyes.  I watch (a little too much) reality TV because I love trying to distinguish the “real” elements from the manufactured stories the producers dream up.

I love hearing my clients’ stories and helping them shape those stories into essays, blogs, and even resumes. It’s funny—people often say, “I am a terrible writer,” or “I have nothing to write about.” Half of my job is convincing them that this is simply not true. Everyone—and I mean everyone—has a unique, hilarious, heartwarming story to share. Sometimes they just need someone to help figure out the best way to share it.

In a nutshell, I owe my entire career to my sister and her whining. Now, ain’t that a great story? 


© 2014 Write With Rosie. All Rights Reserved.

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