Using a spark


You have 25 minutes to compose an essay on the topic assigned below.

Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and assignment.

Eight-to 12-year-olds in this country spend more than $40 million a month on beauty products, and teens spend another $100 million. New statistics from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery show that cosmetic-surgery procedures performed on those 18 and younger have nearly doubled over the past decade. The society's president says, "I think what we've done is level the playing field, in that someone who may not have had great exposure to these things before--say, on a farm in Iowa--has the same options available to them."
(Adapted from Jessica Bennett, "Generation Diva," Time magazine, March 30, 2009)

Assignment: Are today's children and young teens overly concerned with their physical appearance? Compose an essay in which you develop your point of view on this topic. Support your position with arguments and examples drawn from your reading, studies, experience, and observations.

What could the spark be? Overhearing young children talking about whether they are too fat, knowing someone who is saving money for plastic surgery, overhearing a conversation between two friends where they discuss how they feel "ugly".


Here is a quote from the American writer Raymond Carver where he talks about how he used a brief description of a customer his wife once waited on to write a story. Keeping a journal will mean you have these possibilities at your fingertips or if you are faced with a prompt such as this recent one from the SAT times writing essay you will not freeze and panic. There are weapons in your arsenal that will banish writer's block

"Stories don't come out of thin air. There's a spark. And that's the kind of story that most interests me. For example, for "Fat," my wife, my first wife, worked as a waitress and she came home one night and told me she had had an enormous man for a customer who spoke of himself in the first person plural: "We would like some more bread . . . We are going to have the dessert Special." That struck me; I found that extraordinary. And that was the spark that gave rise to the story. I wrote that story years later, but I never forgot what my wife had told me. Much later, then, I sat down to work and asked myself what would be the best way to tell this story. It was a conscious decision. I decided to write from the viewpoint of the waitress, not my wife, but the waitress."


I want you to think about a spark that is in your file (brain) that you haven’t explored in writing. It could have happened yesterday or ten years ago.

Think about the thing and write that down in as much detail as possible. Then brainstorm around it, words, images, movements, whatever.

Then write a scene around this spark-something close to the truth or something completely made up.

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