Archive for the ‘USNA’ Category


Chat With the Author of Building a Midshipman

July 14, 2010

Brandi Drury is the propprietor of a lovely blog, BK Walker’s Muse. She wanted to interview me about my career in writing and two of my books that are aimed at kids. We have a wonderful chat, which you can read at Tech Talk with Author Jacqui Murray. While you’re there, spend some time wandering through her other posts. You won’t regret it.

I want to thank Brandi for taking the time to chat with me and post my work on her blog. Here’s an excerpt:

Tech Talk with Author Jacqui Murray

Today my guest is Jacqui Murray.  Thank you for stopping in Jacqui.  Please tell us a little about yourself……

I was born in Berkley California to Irish-German parents. After receiving a BA in Economics, another in Russian and an MBA, I spent twenty years in a variety of industries while raising two children and teaching evening classes at community colleges. Now, I live with my husband, adult son and two beautiful Labradors and I write. I write how-books, five blogs on everything from the USNA to tech to science, and a column for the Examiner on tech tips.

Oh. I also write books.

What inspired you to pen your first title?

My non-fictions books are all inspired by similar circumstances. When my daughter wanted a book on how to get into the Naval Academy, all she could find were books that told her how hard it was, how selective they were, how very few could achieve it. My daughter brushed them off, but I wondered how many kids would be discouraged by that approach and decided to write a book explaining how to achieve the goal, not why kids couldn’t. I stressed how teens can solve the problems that stood in their way rather than why they couldn’t, how they could get where they wanted to go rather than why they couldn’t get there. That worked for my daughter and I had no doubt it would work for others. From what I hear from readers, it’s true.
My tech workbooks are the same. When I went back to teaching, I could find no workbooks for teaching technology to K-5. There were how-tos, but not geared for students of that age group. So I decided to write them. I geared the books for parents with nominal computer skills, homeschoolers and lab specialists. It outlines the method I use in my classes that gets kids from the most basics of computer skills in kindergarten to Photoshop by fifth grade. I’m not surprised that the method works, and is now being used in school districts all over the country.

How long have you been writing?

About twelve years.

What was the hardest part about writing this particular novel?

Marketing it. I love everything about writing, even when I hate it. But selling my stuff—that’s difficult. Publishers don’t do that much any more, so it’s up to me to get the word out. The internet’s great for that, as well as social networks, blogs, websites, and Virtual Tours, of course.

Have any dreams been realized as a result of your writing?

A big part of writing my tech workbooks was to organize my thoughts so I could teach the material better. That has worked so very well. I find that having a plan, like a map, never fails to get my students to the finish line. I hear this over and over from parents, that they can’t believe how much their kids have accomplished in my classes. Well, that’s because we know where we’re going and we know how to get there. It sounds simple, but how often does it not happen in tech classes.

Where do you hope to take your writing in the future?

I am working on a fiction series. I love science and want to pass that passion on to students, so my fiction endeavors have that goal in mind. My first fiction novel, To Hunt a Sub, is a techno-thriller about nefarious characters using brainy science to steal America’s Trident submarines and how an equally-brainy female grad student stops them. It won the Southern California Writers Conference Outstanding Fiction Award last year and is in the final stages of rewrite. I have an excerpt available on

What advice do you have for writer’s just starting out?

My advice is to write to your passion. That’s a little different from write what you know, but in my experience, research fills in the knowledge gaps and gives the author so much more in the writing experience. So, I love finding topics that fascinates me, researching them and weaving them into an inspiring story. If you can do that, you’ll never worry about getting rejected by agents or not getting published because you’ll already have gotten so much more than you gave out of your writing.

Anything else you would like to share with us today?……

Please feel free to send me any questions, ideas, your own tips, at my tech blog (AskATechTeacher) or my Naval Academy blog(USNAorBust). My books are available at: and the publisher’s The ebooks are available on



Military Academy Induction Day

June 3, 2010




June 7, 2009


Workbook or Ebook

You don’t have to be a miracle-worker to be the 10% of applicants accepted to a military academy, but you do need a plan. For the thousands of students who apply every year–and slog through the numbing concatenation of decisions preceding a nomination–there is no greater discouragement than the likely event that they will fail. This, though, is the Board’s peek into an applicant’s moral fiber and an important ingredient to the go/no go decision. In the words of James Stockdale, USNA ’46 and Medal of Honor Winner: “The test of character is not ‘hanging in there’ when you expect a light at the end of the tunnel, but performance of duty and persistence of example when you know that no light is coming.” This is the true story of Maggie Schmidt, an All-American kid who dreamt of attending the Naval Academy when her research into the typical Midshipman uncovered a profile alarmingly like herself. This book describes her background and academic interests, her focus, as well as her struggle to put together a winning admissions package. Along the way, you gain insight into the moral fiber that grounds everything she does and the decisions she must make that some consider impossible for an adolescent, but are achievable for thousands of like-minded teens. This workbook walks you through the long process, provides check lists of everything required, decision making matrices, goal-setting exercises to determine if USNA is a good fit for you, and a mix of motivation and academic advice to balance a decision that rightfully might be the biggest one most teens have ever made.

Available at:

Amazon–Kindle edition

Publisher’s Website–the ebook



What are the three most intimidating failures of your life?  Taking your driving test? Scoring the winning goal—for the other team?  Or, have you failed over and over again, and still believed success lives just ahead, just out of reach but waiting for you?

For the thousands of students who apply every year for one of the four military academies, slogging through the numbing concatenation of decisions preceding a nomination, there is no greater intimidation than the statistically likely event that they will apply and fail.  That’s an examination into the pithiness of moral fiber important to the USNA, and eulogized by James Stockdale, USNA ’46 and Medal of Honor Winner:

“The test of character is not ‘hanging in there’ when you expect a light at the end of the tunnel, but performance of duty and persistence of example when you know that no light is coming.”

For those just beginning the process of applying to the United States Naval Academy, propelled into harms way by the fervor to serve your country and blend your life into “the military family”, the desire for an engineer’s blueprint to articulate the steps, or a mathematical formula that quantifies the process is overwhelming.  Anything that will increase those unlikely odds.

Luckily, the tunnel you wander down pursuing your dream not only has a light, but footprints to follow. You stumble forward toward the murky pin-prick bobbing up ahead, far down the dark passageway. Its barely there, only just showing through the dimness called ‘growing up’ and the back-light of contradictions between where you are and where you want to be.  But, the closer you step toward it, the sharper and clearer the image.  And the clarity reveals the detail like the layers of a digital picture until, finally, you can make out that goal just past senior year.

This true story is for you.

The United States Naval Academy provides one of the most prestigious educations available. The caliber of classes, professors, and your fellow students are unmatched anywhere in the country. But it comes with strings attached. You must use that top-notch training in the service of your country for at least five years following graduation, defending our shores and values from enemies, whether the aggressive military type, computer hackers, or benign fellows wearing the face of a neighbor.

Every year, over 56,000 students—and 112,000 parents—apply to a military academy, in excess of 14,000 to the United States Naval Academy.  How does a normal kid, with a good GPA, a well-rounded life, and a passion to serve his country overcome the mystique of the Naval Academy?  The first thought when adults hear ‘USNA’ and ‘college acceptance’ in the same sentence is ‘Wow, you must be smart!’ To all but about 1200 lucky appointees, candidacy resembles Fermat’s Theorem—impossible unless you’re a precocious genius (like Andrew Wiles).  The application process puts the chaos in Chaos Theory.

Surprisingly, there are no classes in “How to Crack the United States Naval Academy Application” and no books chronicle an effective effort. Surprising, because a methodical, well-organized series of steps taken in a systematic order will get you there. It may feel like climbing Herndon at the end of Plebe year, but it works.

This is the true story of how one All-American kid—like those many that apply—did it. She had no idea she could aim so high and succeed so succinctly.  She began by tagging along after her brother’s USNA dream and found herself intrigued by the quality of education, depth of opportunity, and eminence of applicants selected for admittance.  Her research into the typical Midshipman uncovered a profile alarmingly like herself. If she dreamt of attending a college where she fit in and attracted kindred souls, this qualified.

She took that first step, signing the attendance roster at a local Academy Night, with ninety-seven other students.  And with a clear-eyed faith in herself, she began the Academy Application Experience.  I’ve catalogued those steps from her first nascent thought through the unreal days of Summer Seminar.  I’ve crystallized when the dream became an obsession—something she knew she had to try or never forgive herself—and most important, how she translated vision to reality.

And I’ve revealed her strategy to success. Exactly the same as the great Olympian, Carmen Boyle, described the strategy behind Luge:

“Lie flat and try not to die.”

Maggie Schmidt, the heroine, is Everygirl. Like your neighbor or your daughter’s best friend. The story’s drama lies in her conversion to a successful candidate.  The reader is left with the feeling, If Maggie can do it, so can (I)/(my daughter).

When you first meet Maggie, you may wonder, why does she think an Ivy League school will accept her?  She doesn’t earn straight A’s or play quarterback on the football team—or center on the volleyball squad.  I describe in detail her background, her academic interests, her focus, as well as her struggle to put together a winning admissions package.  Along the way, you gain insight into the moral fiber that grounds everything she does and allows her to fight the good fight. The support from family and friends, and decisions she must make that superficially appear impossible for an adolescent, but are in fact achievable for thousands of like-minded teens.

This is a true story. The only changes I’ve made are Maggie’s name and those of friends and acquaintances.

More of a preview?

View this document on Scribd

…or go to’s Look Inside feature.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

%d bloggers like this: