I guess it's fair to say I've been feeling a little frustrated lately. I've been struggling to settle into a new writing project. For once, I'm actually happy with my day job, but I don't derive much satisfaction from it. I've gotten to a point in life where I've achieved a measure of contentedness but lack direction. I guess you could say I don't have a real sense of purpose at the moment. Anytime I start feeling this way--it comes at least once a year, generally--I start flailing about and trying to figure out how to completely change everything. Once, that resulted in my joining the Peace Corps. Another time, it resulted in me going to grad school. And for about three years in a row, it meant that I applied to a bunch of writing fellowships and residencies and was summarily rejected from all of them. Somewhere, in the midst of all the application-filling-out and cover-letter-writing, I felt the need to blow off a little steam. Here's the result.
Dear Selection Committee:
I am not writing to apply for the 2014-2016 Big Deal Fellowship. I mean, honestly? I know what you're thinking. You’re thinking, Ah, perfect, cover letter number 13,472 telling me why some schmuck is an ideal candidate for this fellowship, remind me again why I volunteered to be on this selection committee when I could be mainlining the last season of Scandal? But good news: This isn’t a cover letter, and I’m not going to brag about my short story publications (there are only three, anyway; like that’s impressive?) or tell you about the residencies I’ve landed (zero) or detail my teaching experience (almost nonexistent!). I’m not going to convince you that you should choose me over every other, probably more qualified, applicant.
Because let’s face it: You could do better. It’s not like I’ve written over half a novel by consistently dragging my ass out of bed every morning between 5:30 and 6 a.m. just so I can squeeze in a couple hours of writing time before I shuffle off, bleary-eyed, to my full-time job. And even if that were the case, I certainly don’t stay at my desk, chipping away at paragraphs for eighty-nine minutes until, in that ninetieth minute, I finally, finally feel like I’ve hit my stride—only to look at the clock and realize, as usual, that the moment I have become fully submerged in the world I’ve created, oh look, time to get in the shower so I’m not late for work. Certainly not. So why on earth would I try to make you understand how valuable the simple gift of time would be to me? It wouldn’t. I’ve got all the time in the world! Seriously, besides my job, I’ve got no obligations. No second job as a freelance writer, no family or friends to attend to, no bills to pay. It’s a free and easy lifestyle for this slacker.
What’s more, I hate kids. I say this only because of the whole teaching component of the fellowship. I guess college students don’t really count as “kids,” but they’re close enough to give me the creeps. All that idealism and interest and enthusiasm—ugh. I got saddled with a teaching internship as a graduate student, and let me tell you: Having to twist myself into a knot to come up with ways to allow the students to build from what they knew to what they didn’t? That was no walk in the park. That class was an Intro to Literature class, full of non-majors; can you think of anything worse? Because it’s not like I believe that helping students develop an aptitude for creative writing could possibly engage them more deeply in their other studies.
And like I even have a project to work on during this fellowship. It’s not like I have a plan to finish a full draft of my first novel by February, send it to a handful of trusted readers, and be ready to revise, equipped with feedback, by the time this fellowship rolls around, aiming to complete a polished manuscript during my stay at Big Deal College. Like I’m that forward-thinking. Please, I’ve barely written two pages of a novel that borrows devices from horror fiction to tell a story set in rural Alaska about a fourteen-year-old girl who ############* while struggling to find her place in the male-dominated world of dog sled racing. You’re on crack, Selection Committee.
I’ve taken up enough of your time, trust me. I’m not even going to get into how my happiest and most productive time was the year I served as the fiction editor for The Greensboro Review, how working with emerging writers to revise and prepare their stories for publication was maybe the most fulfilling job I’ve ever had, or how thrilled I was to find out that this fellowship includes an opportunity to work on creative and editorial projects for The Big Deal Review. You don’t need me to kiss your ass, and I don’t need your fellowship. So we’re good.
Sincerely, Jamey Bradbury
*Plot spoiler has been redacted