Please welcome today's guest blogger, Lacy Crawford, author of Early Decision, which went on sale in paperback yesterday! A delightful and salacious novel about the frightful world of high school, SATs, the college essay, and the Common Application—and how getting in is getting in the way of growing up, Early Decision is perfect for teens, parents, or anyone who has ever sweated the SAT.
When the hardback of Early Decision came out last year, I wrote on this site about the book club of sharp women I’d held in mind as I worked on it—trying to write a satire of the college admissions race and helicopter parenting that would make those women laugh and think and turn the pages late into the night to see what happened to the five students whose fates I follow in the book.
The college race has gotten out of control. We all know this. I wanted to tell a great story to remind us all that life is a lot bigger and richer than a degree. At the heart of my story was the act of writing itself: how working on college essays can help a young person learn to live.
How earnest, how naïve I was! Because here’s what happened next:
Some journalists read review copies, and asked me to write more about college applications—specifically, how to crack those Ivy gates. So I wrote heartfelt pieces, for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post and the New York Times, about valuing a young person’s voice over where they are accepted to college. And then the producers started to call, and I kissed my toddlers goodbye and flew to New York City, hands shaking, to spread my message about this fun novel with a heart. I took the advice of journalist friends and refined my message: it’s not about how to get in, it’s about how to grow up. I actually said this to myself in the mirror. I was terrified about getting my words right, terrified about what to wear. I packed tall boots, thinking them very New York. I arrived at the Fox studios before dawn, sat for a makeup application more complex than on my wedding day, and was led to a studio lit like an operating room. They perched me on a stool and said something about my microphone and my hair and then counted down five, four and in a blaze of light the anchor said to me:
So, Lacy Crawford, author of Early Decision, give us your top three tips for parents wanting to get their kids into college!
Except that you can’t sigh on national television. If you do, they cut to someone else. (Unless you’re crying, which I almost did.)
Wobbling on that stool, I tried to focus on the anchor’s perfect face, but out of the corner of my eye I could see my image on the monitor there, and it was full-body, and there were those city boots, all shiny, and I thought, Oh my God. I look ridiculous.
I must have said something, because soon the segment was over, the lights went dark, and my publicist gathered me up and shuttled me to the next interview, and the next. Over and over again, they asked me: How do you get a kid into Harvard? And I wanted to say, Read the book! It’s a story! About kids and learning and life! Read the damned book!
But this does not go over well with television personalities. Also, it’s ungrateful.
So after three days I returned home. And then, once the lights were off, I began to meet readers: first at my local indie, Warwick’s, and then other bookstores and festivals, and finally in emails and letters. Parents with kids of all ages were getting it, hearing me loud and clear. Sure, some of them wanted to hire me to write their kids’ essays anyway. But most of them just said: That was FUN. Thank you.
One girl wrote to say the book changed the way she approached her applications, and she wrote again nine months later to say she’d gotten into her first choice. I never saw a word of that application, but Isabel: Good luck at Cal.
Now that the paperback is coming out, I’m thrilled that Early Decision will find its way onto more kitchen tables, more piled desks, more weekend bags. I do have three top tips for getting into Harvard. They’re all in the book. But it’s a story, first of all.
One more note. After I left Fox News that first morning, cringing and exhausted, my publicist took me for coffee. The city was loud all around us. Her cell phone lit up with a text, and she held it out to me. Her mom, who had been watching at home in Georgia.
GREAT BOOTS, it read.