Services

Helping people with their writing is the perfect confluence of everything I love most: words, nuance, paying close attention. I’ve been helping unwittingly since elementary school, when peers first identified my knack for grammar, syntax and punctuation. Things are much more forthright with The Varsity Pen. All services are available on your own timetable—as frequent or infrequent, short-term or long-term as you seek. I’m here to help you grow—whether it’s by way of your college admission essay, your academic paper or your manuscript of short stories.

what won't the varsity pen do?
  • Write your school paper or application essay FOR you (that’s unethical).
  • Take your 1am call about that thing that’s due at 8am, but which you haven’t yet begun
    (even ‘the city that never sleeps’ has some limits).
  • Work with you on any non-writing subjects.

admission essays

Each word must be chosen with precise purpose. This is never truer than with pieces of institutionally limited length. The writer Lorrie Moore wrote, not with an eye toward admission essays, but nonetheless fittingly:

“A line is like a lifeboat—only a limited number of words get to go in it and you have to decide which word-lives are most valuable—the others die.” *

I’m here to help you make the choice of whom to let drown. And if you’ve got no word-lives from which to choose, I’ll help you fill the boat.

Anagrams, p.116

college admission essays

Your grades and test scores may be great—but if you’re accomplished enough to have earned them, you don’t need me to tell you they won't always grant you admission to the most selective colleges. In these competitive times, you’re not the only applicant with a leadership role or a coveted internship. The rest of your application demonstrates what you've DONE; the admission essay is your chance to convey who you ARE. There are only two tools in your arsenal that none of your peers can duplicate: your IDEAS and your WORDS. The essay is your chance to mold them into something the admissions committee hasn’t seen before.

school admission essays 

Preschool & kindergarten

Feeling defeated over your child’s school admission essay? Why not consult one of NYC’s most undervalued resources—the nanny? Specifically, the nanny with a Master’s in Nonfiction Writing from Columbia University. My experience as such entails sustained, cross-sectional exposure to scores of young families. I know the incomparable market of NYC schooling—from toddler classes through high school, public and private. I’m passionate about helping NYC parents navigate that shadowy stressor that links them together while simultaneously pitting them against one another: the school application essay.

My goal is to guide you in creating an essay you’ll treasure—not only because it'll (hopefully) help get your child into Shmalton or the 922nd Street XYZ, but because it captures what you love about your child. When you succeed at translating your child’s specifics onto the page, s/he’s no longer a candidate; s/he’s a character. Characters make for interesting reads; candidates don't.

Why is it so difficult to find words that do justice to a real-life character? In the words of one of my most gifted college writing professors, “Only ideas are perfect. Language is the imperfect medium of thought.” * Thus I’m here to assist with the leap from those perfect ideas about your child to the language that best embodies them. Or, if you’ve already got a draft, from adequate language into language that renders your child 3-D.

* Thank you, Dr. Alec Marsh.
Middle school & High School

These years are challenging enough without having to compete for admission to school. Competitive school admission being the NYC reality, however, there's a benefit to having an impartial party—rather than a parent—collaborate with the student who is writing the application essay. Nothing rocks family relations more easily than a well-intentioned parent's critique of a stressed student's work.

I'll take the heat for you—I have nothing to lose. I strike a delicate balance between being rigorous and relatable—gaining the tween or teen's trust and setting the expectation for nothing short of his/her best work. Whether your child is struggling to summon necessary motivation or is ambitious in the admission process, The Varsity Pen will improve his/her chances of attending the school you've selected.  

Personal statements / Scholarship application essays

You’ve got all the qualifications for this scholarship. You completed the forms and short-answer questions weeks ago. The thought of the essay, however, leads you to reconsider whether you actually have a shot at beating out the competition. I could remind you that "You have to be in it to win it," but that's insufficient motivation for most people when faced with a blank page. Sometimes all that stands between a strong applicant and a strong application is a partner like The Varsity Pen—one that's removed from the stakes, serves as an editorial sounding board, and is experienced in a range of writing styles. 

academic papers

Elementary grades through graduate school, I’ve got you covered. I’m experienced in working with people of all ages on writing assignments across all subject matter. From thesis development and large-scale organization, to grammar and syntax, I address writing concerns at every level. Come to me with just your assignment sheet and angst…or submit your draft in advance of our session so we can hit the ground running.

writing tutoring

The Varsity Pen is founded upon the belief that clear, compelling writing—and its accompanying critical thinking—are skills that anyone can master. If you haven't mastered such skills, you are not (as I've too often heard) 'a bad writer'—you simply haven't yet learned the fundamentals of writing. Take the example of a challenging board game: it's unlikely you'll win if you don't understand the rules. Likewise, it's impossible to write well if you don't have a solid grasp of writing's basic principles. Rather than just 'correcting' a tutoring client's writing, I focus on the foundation to determine where gaps in knowledge lie.

Through tutoring, I sharpen my clients' skills by drawing lessons from their writing samples. By doing mock assignments and assessing the client's thought process while writing, I locate and then prioritize specific deficits that can be resolved by a customized tutoring plan. These include an essay's structure, thesis, evidence, syntax, grammar and punctuation. Of equal importance, I pride myself on making lessons engaging and relevant to daily life.

editing / Proofreading /
grammar

editing / proofreading

It’s your 200-page thesis; coffee no longer keeps you awake.  Your research is sound and you’re not about to re-work the whole premise, but that doesn’t mean you stand by every sentence. If you WANT, however, to be able to stand by every sentence—and every word, and every punctuation choice—get your thesis to The Varsity Pen!

grammar

Many of us were taught grammar, but never actually learned it. Others were never taught grammar, but are expected to intuit it. Both of these groups are in luck, because The Varsity Pen is nothing short of obsessed with teaching grammar in ways that are relevant and fresh. 

copywriting

Your endeavor needs clear, compelling copy that sets it apart from others. Some of the best ideas languish because of uninspired copy that fails to command attention. Anyone who's ever watched an infomercial knows that an idea doesn't have to be brilliant to succeed; it only needs careful presentation. Give your project the chance it deserves.  

everything else

Creative Writing

Writing a short story or memoir piece, either for a class or as a personal pursuit? I’ve taken tons of creative writing courses (undergrad and grad), including workshops in which peers held the role of critiquing one another’s work. Just as I can advise you on academic writing, I’m experienced in providing constructive feedback on creative writing—including dialogue, character development, plot and more.

Manuscript review

Writing an article or book that you plan to have published? Once you’ve spent enough time on a project, it’s almost impossible to view it objectively. I can be that brutally honest reviewer (unlike your friends and family) before you send your work out, maximizing your chances of publication.

speeches

You’re running for college class president and need to give a speech or compose your platform, but your writing doesn’t even capture your own attention. That's a problem.

Toasts

Someone close to you is getting married, but between the fact that you’ve always struggled with speeches and you’re lukewarm on their future spouse, you’re at a loss for words.  

business proposals

You have a winning concept to present to an investor for funding. The idea is ingenious, but how does one convincingly argue that? You’re an entrepreneur, not a writer. Let The Varsity Pen pick up the slack.

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