Ellis Lincoln was born on February 21, 2003 at about 8:30 PM.

Amy Pongil, his mother, a few friends, and myself were seated in a semicircle, pads of paper in hand, scribbling furiously. After a few minutes, the professor told us to put our pencils down and share what we’d come up with.

My turn came first: “Frank Bossini, called ‘Boss’ by his friends and family. About 6′ tall, 49, with hair graying and thinning at the temples and a beer gut. He loved reading mystery stories, and frustrated his wife by telling her the culprits. He nursed a drinking problem that threatened to spiral out of control, and occasionally took the rage he felt over his menial and low-paying job out on the kids.”

Dr. Pon Gamily, writer and sage, nodded as I read. “Very good,” she said with a faint singsong accent. “A bit stock, perhaps, but that just means there are more possibilities. I especially like the fact that he’s a reader of mysteries; perhaps you can work him into a mystery of his own?”

There were murmurs of approval throughout the class. Gil Mopany was next, with a blind guitar player named Carlo, followed by Lia Pogmyn with steroid-abusing track star Erika With A “K”. Amy was sill writing when her turn came; Dr. Gamily hat to gently remind her that time was up.

“Okay,” she said, sounding out of breath and shaking her chubby hand to ease the writer’s cramp she no doubt felt. “My character is called Ellis Lincoln. He’s about 5’9” tall, with brown hair and green eyes. He’s farsighted, but sometimes takes out his contact lenses so he can see the world in a different way. 20 years old, from Rosemont Village upstate, studying to become an engineer. He loves to walk around looking straight up at night, counting the stars, and sometimes takes stargazing hikes out where there aren’t any lights to interfere. The only child of a single mother, he’s really devoted to her and wants to be able to take care of her when she’s old. That’s why he chose engineering, rather than creative writing, which he would have preferred. He…”

“Okay, okay,” Dr. Gamily said, chuckling. “You don’t need to read us the entire sheet, Amy. But it’s nice that you were inspired to write so much, to put so much detail into him. I think he would be good in a slice of life story, no?”

“I just couldn’t stop,” Amy gushed. “It just kept coming and coming and coming, and I think I might even have more than what I wrote down. Like…”

“Excellent,” Dr. Gamily interrupted. “Feel free to keep writing while the others share their characters, okay?”

“Okay,” said Amy. She wrote furiously while the others talked, filling up three sheets of notebook paper, front and back, and didn’t say a word for the remainder of the class.