This week we're spotlighting Boston-based admission coach, Adrienne! Adrienne is currently an English Ph.D. candidate at Harvard, and previously attended Iowa Writer's Workshop to get her MFA in Poetry. Interested in working with Adrienne, either in-person in Boston, or online? Check out Adrienne's tutor page here!
Where are you from?
I was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, but my family moved to Vermont (the Northeast Kingdom) when I was ten.
Where did you go to college and/or grad school, and what did you study?
I went to Princeton undergrad and studied English and creative writing. Then, I did an MFA in poetry at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Now, I’m doing a PhD in English.
What do you do now?
In addition to Cambridge Coaching, I’m getting a PhD in English at Harvard. I’m a writer: I do freelance work in many flavors, and I have a book of poetry coming out soon.
What’s your favorite subject to teach, and why?
Poetry workshops – when you get students who are really in the room with each other, there’s nothing better. I also really like teaching With CC, I love consulting for application essays. The personal statement is probably one of the most impossible genres to write, and editing the statement feels like a combination of alchemy and psychotherapy (for both writer and editor).
If you were to recommend a book to the CC community, what would it be?
Elizabeth Bishop’s “Geography III”.
What’s a lesson you’ve learned from tutoring?
Even when you’re not sure you know the answer, say it with authority. If you can convince yourself, you’ve convinced others.
What's one of your favorite intellectual feats from your field?
I love pyrotechnic feats of linguistic gymnastics that still manage to produce astounding poems. In 1981, a Danish poet named Inger Christensen wrote a book-length poem called “alphabet” that progresses systematically both according to the alphabet and the Fibonacci sequence. The next year, in an equally impressive feat, Susanna Nied manage to translate the whole thing into English without losing either the structural integrity or the poetic impact.
Tell us about the most memorable student you’ve ever had.
In my first year at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, I taught an English literature class, and one of my students failed to turn in his first paper. He came to my office hours, down in a dark, dingy basement, and explained to me that the reason he hadn’t finished his paper was that he had been cursed. He told me that the curse had been placed on his parents but that it had moved down to him. But he assured me that he had thrown salt over his shoulders, crossed himself with gold, and when he burned a Ouija board in the local park, “the deer came out and stood in a ring around me and watched it burn.” I think I told him he could have an extension.
Describe your perfect weekend morning.
Coffee, long run, more coffee, brunch, writing / reading / dawdling around aimlessly.
Introduce us to your 15 year old self.
Total musical theater junkie – both listening and performing… I might have had the lyrics to every Stephen Sondheim show memorized at some point.
What are 3 alternative career/life paths you have considered (even just for fun?)
When I was little, I wanted to be a geologist or a paleontologist – I was obsessed with rocks, fossils, and gemstones. Avant-garde fashion designer, if I had any skills with a needle. Children’s book author – actually, this is still my goal.
What’s a misconception about you, and why?
A lot of people think I’m very neat and tidy – not true. I’m a total mess. One person described my bookshelf as an “avalanche,” and another as “book lasagna.” I like to think of it as geological strata.
What are 3 (non-generic) things that you’re grateful for?
Contact lenses that correct for astigmatism. Rhyming dictionaries. Running watches.
What are 3 places you'd like to visit in the next 5 years?
Norway (the light / the sagas), Venice, Kyoto.
If there were one skill that you wish you had mastered, or one subject that you wish you had spent more time learning, what would it be?
Drawing. I’m hopeless at sketching – I always fail the parts of IQ tests that require visual/spatial reasoning.
Share 1 weird fact with us about yourself.
I’m really into nail polish. I also love the names of all the nail polishes – posh French names like “Accessoire” or “Vert Obscur,” all the way to stupid puns (“Green-wich Village”).