About Lesley Quinn

As a student of comparative literature at UC Berkeley, I read the first essay in Joan Didion’s book, The White Album, with my mouth agape. I found the clarity of her insight and the precision of her prose breathtaking. Within weeks, I was smitten by the entire genre of narrative non-fiction (Truman Capote, E. B. White, Maya Angelou, not to mention Montaigne!), and there began a life-long love of personal essay. Many anthologies and essays later, I’m a fervent believer in the power of true stories told with insight and skill, especially when an individual’s story touches something universal in the human experience.


The finest college application essays are exactly that: revealing stories expertly told. That’s why I’m fascinated by every student I meet, regardless of whether they’re bubbly or shy, anxious or chill, emotional or analytical. Uncovering the qualities and stories that turn each of my clients into a unique, 3-dimensional person on the page is both fascinating and fun. Together, my students and I dig for the anecdotes and scenes that will demonstrate a distinctive character: what it meant to mow an elderly neighbor’s lawn every Saturday for five years, or how it felt to harness Serengeti wind to provide lights to a remote village, or even something seemingly silly, like a vexing inability to create (after seven batches!), even one edible strawberry macaron—until the day we regard with triumph a plate of perfect pink discs sandwiching centers of buttercream.


I have never met a high school student who didn’t have compelling topics for her admission essays. Regardless of topic, these essays may be the most important thing a young person ever writes, and they require exceptional technique, perseverance, and attention to detail. They also have to get written. Having spent the early years of my career managing technology projects under enormous pressure, I’m acutely sensitive to the sometimes life-changing importance of a project’s success, and the necessity of breaking all projects into small, manageable deliverables while keeping a steady eye on my clients’ goals and deadlines.


What I know about the craft of wordsmithing I know from personal experience. My own narrative non-fiction has appeared in The New York Times, Carve Magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Gettysburg Review, Brain,Child Magazine, Skirt!, as well as numerous anthologies. (Many of my essays center around my mothering of a child on the autism spectrum and are chapters in an upcoming memoir.)


To add a few more details to your sense of me, I’m an avid reader, a world traveler, an inventive cook, and I find almost holy pleasure in gardening. I live with my husband (a clinical psychologist with an irreverent sense of humor), my daughter (a small, sincere person with an explosive laugh), and our two dogs (hairy creatures with attitudes and under-bites). All of them are allowed on the furniture.