Musical Monday: Jason Odell Williams

Musical Monday: Jason Odell Williams

Welcome to another installment of Musical MondayEvery Monday I will feature a book and the music that inspired it! This is an awesome opportunity to showcase your book and also inspire other writers looking for new music. In case you missed it, last week’s post can be found here.

Today on the blog, we have the fabulous author Jason Odell Williams!

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Personal Statement

by Jason Odell Williams

Book blurb: 

Getting into college has never been harder. You can no longer rely on that perfect SAT score or a 5 on your AP Mandarin exam. And field hockey or basketball? Please. The real sport is Volunteering. This year, seniors all over Connecticut are positively euphoric over a natural disaster that’s promising Katrina-style opportunities. Let the games begin!

The Personal Statement is what separates the men from the boys, the ladies from the whiny bitches. Nowadays, everyone applying to top schools has the credentials on paper. But life experience… front line, in the trenches, blood-on-your-shirt and sweat-in-your-eye life experience… that’s the ONLY way to stand out these days. Especially for me. Not only am I competing against thousands of highly qualified candidates. I’m also competing against hundreds of Emily Kims. Not metaphorically. Literally.”

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Writing Playlist

Below is a playlist of songs I listened to for inspiration and/or I felt like the main characters of the book would listen to. Enjoy!

Personal Statement Playlist by Jolene Haley on Grooveshark


“Don’t Get Me Wrong” – The Pretenders
“Who’s Gonna Drive You Home” – The Cars
“Fast As You Can” – Fiona Apple
“Strangers” – The Kinks
Carol King – Tapestry (full album)
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors (full album)
“Valerie” – Amy Winehouse
Back to Black (full album) – Amy Winehouse
“Carry On” – Fun.
“Another Saturday Night” – Sam Cooke
“Daylight” – Maroon 5
“Best for Last” – Adele

“Stronger” – Kelly Clarkson
“We Are The Champions” – Queen
“Pictures of You” – The Cure
“Just Like Heaven” – The Cure
“Friday I’m in Love” – The Cure
“Parents Just Don’t Understand” – Will Smith
“Don’t You” – Simple Minds
“If You Leave” – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
A Chorus Line – Original Cast Album
“Vienna” – Billy Joel
“You Learn” – Alanis Morissette
“Linger” – The Cranberries
“Cannonball” – The Breeders
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” (cover) – Tori Amos
“These Are Days” – 10,000 Maniacs
“Sweet Jane” – The Cowboy Junkies
“Whatever” – Oasis
“Silent in the Morning” – Phish
“The World Has Turned and Left Me Here” – Weezer

Liz Phair – Exile in Guyville (full album)

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Chapter Excerpt

There are over 100 high school kids here and every last one of them (myself included) is after something. Not one is in Cawdor out of the goodness of their heart. These are highly motivated and successful students (like Emily Kim) with perfect SAT scores and 5’s on their AP exams – exams in obscure and esoteric subjects like Mandarin, Macroeconomics, and Comparative Government & Politics. These kids are the leads in their school plays, speak three languages, play nine instruments and still, still, they come here looking for a leg up – that extra edge that will guarantee a top-tier acceptance letter in the spring. When did it get to be so crazy?

As if he can read my mind, that 15 year old Latino hipster, Duncan Rodriguez, saunters by and says, “Gonna be a lot more heartbreak than triumph after all is said and done.”

“Hunh?” I ask, seriously worried he has mind-reading capabilities.

“Well,” Duncan says, pulling off his thick frames and polishing the lenses with his skinny black tie, “not only are most of these sex-starved teens gonna go home with nothing more to hook up with than their hand, but they all think being here is like some golden Wonka Bar ticket, like it’s gonna seal the deal with their top choice school. But there’s no way you can all get in to your top choices.”

“Why not?” asks Mac innocently.

“Cuz,” Duncan replies, putting on his glasses again. “Numbers don’t add up. Harvard had an acceptance rate last year of 5.9% – the lowest rate in in the history of the school. That means out of the 34K and change applications, just north of two thousand were accepted. There’s like a hundred or so rising seniors here, yeah? And I bet 30 or 40 of them have Harvard as their top choice, right?”

“I know Emily does,” I blurt out without meaning to.  “There ya go. So that means of the, let’s say… 35 that are applying to Harvard, only 2 will get in. Two! That’s 33 disappointed sets of parents back home. And yet all of these posers are positively salivating at the prospect of another Katrina or Sandy hitting their home state and the opportunities they think will come with that – opportunities to pad the resume, give weight to their personal statements, add gravitas to their entrance interview. ‘Oh you were there when Hurricane Calliope hit… what was that like for you?’ It’s the new blood sport, gentleman. Competitive volunteering.”

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About the Author Jason Odell Williams

Originally from Columbia, Maryland, and a graduate of The University of Virginia, Jason is an award-winning playwright whose work has been produced at regional theatres across the country (and in Canada, eh!) Jason currently works as a writer and producer on the TV series “Brain Games” which airs on National Geographic. He lives in New York City with his actress-singer-director-producer wife, Charlotte Cohn, and their daughter, Imogen who is working on her hyphenates as we speak. For more please visit jasonodellwilliams.com.

  • Anonymous
    August 17, 2013

    Best book of the summer. Emily Kim kicks ass!

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