It’s no secret that to succeed in business, politics, or art, you need to be able to tell a great story. But what are the ingredients of exceptional stories, and why are some better than others?

To help answer this question, IVY sat down with master storyteller Sam Freedman: six-time author, journalist, and beloved professor at Columbia Journalism School. His celebrated novel-writing class is famous for the large percentage of his students who end up publishing books.

In the interview below, Sam shares powerful advice for new writers: to write lasting, universal stories, do not try to write something that appeals to everyone. Instead, focus on the specificity of the story you’re telling. Ground your story in a particular time, place, and cultural moment, and you will end up creating something universal. According to Sam, writing connects to a broad audience when it’s “true to the specifics of what you write.”

Learn his insights below, and for further inspiration check out one of his books, Letters to a Young Journalist.

IVY is the world’s first Social University. Our mission is to educate and inspire future leaders. To learn more, check out our video and visit