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Only in Manhattan: Funny Stories about Parents, Private school, Power couples and Privilege
How far would you go to get your child into a top-notch kindergarten? For New Yorkers, the answer could well be: ‘I hired an actor to pretend to be my husband, so we’d look like a traditional family for the interviews. Then when my daughter got into the school, I arranged a fake divorce.’
Welcome to elite Manhattan schools, where four-year-olds have resumes, attempts to buy your way in (in the guise of donations) are the norm and at least ten children vie for every single spot. In this talk, Karen shares some of the craziest experiences she had as owner of Smart City Kids, a New York City consulting firm that helped parents get their children into the city’s top schools.
Quinn will tell the unlikely story how her first book, The Ivy Chronicles, was published and the movie rights sold with the help of the most powerful force in New York City – the nanny network. She’ll take you inside the ultra-rich world of the Manhattan Power Wife, the privileged world that inspired her second book, Wife in the Fast Lane. Hint: it’s not as pretty as it looks in the society pages.
You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be glad you don’t live in Manhattan.
Reinventing Yourself – How to Make Your Dream Life Real
In just five years, Karen Quinn went from being a marketing executive to an educational advisor to a bestselling author who sold the movie rights to her story to Catherine Zeta Jones. In this talk, she shares the funny and motivating story of how she did it and about the 10 Laws of personal reinvention she discovered in the process. Prepare to be inspired!
The 10 Laws of Reinvention
1. You must decide to move on.
2. Do what makes your heart sing.
3. Don’t scale back your dream.
4. Not knowing what you’re doing is no excuse.
5. Get off your butt and make it happen.
6. Setbacks open the door for something better.
7. Fake your way to success.
8. Help will come from where you least expect it.
9. Failure is an option.
10. You get what you believe is possible.
Confessions from the Fast Lane
After recording how she spent her time each week, wife mother, author, and person-in-her-own-right Karen Quinn realized she was fully booked with obligations for 170 hours a week. Unfortunately, there are only 168 hours in a week and Quinn had forgotten to write down time to sleep. Soon, she penned Wife in the Fast Lane, a hilarious novel about the misadventures of a successful career woman who learns that “having it all” and “having to do it all” are two entirely different things. In this talk, Karen pokes fun at herself as she shares her struggles to keep up with her life in the fast lane, as well as the struggles of thousands of women who entered her Wife in the Fast Lane Contest where they expressed their own truth about doing it all and living to tell the tale.
You’re Lucky Your Life is Funny
For years, author Karen Quinn sent out one of those annual Christmas letter lamenting the travails of raising a family in Manhattan. There were tales of a daughter killing the class guinea pig, a cat jumping out a high rise window, a son who broke up a Broadway show – Friends and family insisted it was the funniest thing they’d ever read. Perhaps everyone was just being polite, but Karen believed them and decided, “If I can write a holiday letter, I can write a novel.” That’s just what she did. Not only was her first book a bestseller, it is being turned into a movie by Warner Brothers.
In this talk, Karen tells the real life stories behind the fictional world about which she writes. She talks about what it was like to own a private school admissions business, working with the ultra-demanding clients that inspired The Ivy Chronicles. She’ll take you inside the uber-rich life of the Manhattan Power Wife, the privileged world that inspired her second book, Wife in the Fast Lane. She’ll share stories of hanky panky and rich people behaving badly on the world’s most luxurious cruise ships, the inspiration for Holly Would Dream.
Karen will help you see that humor is everywhere – in her life and in your life. After this, you may find yourself writing your own life inspired comedy.
“You delighted our audience with your humor, and I believe you gained quite a few fans on Friday afternoon. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Morristown, NJ Junior League
“In the many years speakers have addressed our forum of top executive women, very few have come up to your speaking level…Your speaking talents are rare. It takes great skill to be so relaxed, inclusive and articulate.”
The Leadership Forum
“Your presentation was both comprehensive, hysterical, and highly informative…Your ideas on personal reinvention is something many of us are dealing with right now. Your anecdotes to illustrate each idea were so interesting for us – everyone came away with great ideas on what to do and how to do it…Of course, all of your stories are presented so wittily, so honestly, and so forthrightly that you totally engaged your audience.”
Denver Woman’s Press Club
“Thanks to you, the program was well attended and received and we believe helped inspire our volunteers to be future entrepreneurs.”
NYC Junior League
“Karen was very highly regarded at American Express and held a very visible position in the organization. When it was announced that she had written a book about her experiences as a private school consultant, everyone wanted to know how and why she decided to take such a turn in her career. There were over 120 people who attended the event and Karen did a terrific job. Her presentation was entertaining, informative, and very funny. She is great at adapting her talk to the audience and handling Q’s and A’s. I highly recommend Karen as a keynote speaker.”
American Express Alumni Association
“Your humor, honesty, and enthusiasm was captivating and we were all very impressed by the style of your presentation. It was a delightful evening”
Brandeis University National Women’s Committee
“As a speaker, I would describe Karen as both humorous and motivational. Even though the room was packed (over 250 people!), Karen captured everyone’s full attention as well as their hearts. She told the funniest stories about her experiences as a school admissions advisor. The audience was in stitches. Afterwards, people were buzzing about Karen’s wonderful sense of humor. She is a real inspiration…I would go see her again and I would recommend her to any group with no hesitation.”
Event Organizer, The Fourth Story, The Tattered Cover Bookstore
More about Karen Quinn
A securities lawyer for brokerage firms, an advertising executive for American Express, a kindergarten admissions consultant for New York City’s wealthiest families, and now an author with a movie deal, Karen Quinn had a few false starts before figuring out what she wanted to be when she grew up.
In 2000, Karen was downsized from an executive job at American Express after fifteen years. Her ego shattered, she had no idea what to do next. So, she went to the bookstore looking for inspiration in the business section. There, she found an Entrepreneur’s Handbook that said “if you can think of something people hate doing, and you can make it better for them, there’s a business.” Karen immediately focused on the nightmare she had recently survived – getting her children into private school in Manhattan – a blood sport on the best of days. With no experience, she started Smart City Kids, a company devoted to helping New York parents get their children into the best private nursery schools, kindergartens, and public schools. Her services were in great demand and she soon appeared on 20/20, in the New York Times and Forbes Magazine as an expert in school admissions. Then one day, a client in Pull-ups insisted that Karen stop making her cram for her kindergarten admissions test. “Can’t you see I’m only four?” The child implored. Karen quit the business soon after.
Unemployed again, Ms. Quinn decided to try to write that novel she had always secretly dreamed about. There was just one problem. She had no experience writing anything besides the annual holiday letter. Karen decided that if she didn’t try to make her fantasy come true now, she probably never would, so she went for it. In three months, she had the first draft of The Ivy Chronicles. It is the story of Ivy Ames, a woman who loses her job, her husband, and her fabulous uptown lifestyle. To get back on her feet and support her two daughters, she decides to become an advisor to rich Manhattanites, helping their little darlings get into the crème de la crème of private school. It is a hilarious and heartbreaking story of how Ivy picks herself up after bitter loss, dusts herself off, and creates a new and better life. Like Ivy, Karen Quinn lost her job, her home (but not her husband – whew!) and was forced to start over and reinvent herself, which she did by first starting a school admissions business and then by writing The Ivy Chronicles.
After completing her manuscript, Karen’s road to getting published was serendipitous. Her babysitter knew an agent, and even though the agent wasn’t taking new clients, she fell in love with the book and took it on. Soon after, the woman sitting next to Karen at the World Track and Field Championships in Paris, France turned out to be the editor of The Devil Wears Prada. Karen’s husband gave the editor the manuscript. She loved it and wanted to publish it, starting a bidding war between four major publishers. Soon there was a two-book international deal and a movie sale to Warner Brothers with Catherine Zeta Jones set to play Ivy. It’s the stuff dreams are made of.
At the podium, Karen will have you laughing out loud when she describes the craziness she witnessed advising rich and powerful Uptown warriors who would stop at nothing to have their well-heeled spawn land a coveted spot at the city’s fanciest schools. You will be inspired by Karen’s own story as she shares insights about reinvention and her belief that now, more than ever, we must all learn how to find new identities for ourselves as we experience the inevitable changes life delivers. She reveals what she learned when creating her own new life and offers practical advice on how you can turn own dreams into reality.
Ms. Quinn grew up in San Antonio and Austin, Texas. Then she moved to Colorado where she lived for several years before landing in Manhattan. She and her husband have two children. She recently sold her second novel, Wife in the Fast Lane, and completed her third, India Fudge and the Time Travel Tunnel.