Dear Search Committee:
Please consider my application for the position of Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Far-Fetched Chances. I have ten years of college-level teaching experience and have spent 1,452 evenings bleeding a black roller ball onto my bed’s comforter as I search for the right word. I believe you will find that I’m an above average, nay, pretty decent candidate for this position.
I am the author of a long book with mixed reviews and a very short book with no reviews, like every other candidate whose cover letter you are skimming. (You are tired, I suspect, oh Search Committee. I would like to offer you a spark of caffeine, a pressed poppy, a Linotype greeting card, but these letters demand a one-sided brag. I’m sorry.) I am also the author of five currently opened Word docs on my computer, 60% of which are sure to fail, one of which attempts to weave the 99-million-year long evolution of ants with the irreconcilable fact that my parents voted for Donald Trump.
In evaluations, my poems have described me as “loyal but scattered,” “prudish but big-hearted,” “overly narrative but at least attentive to sound.” My essays have called me “the kind of writer you would rely on for recommendations about hairdressers. You know, knowledgeable about somewhat important matters.” I would tell you what my mother thinks of me, but I suspect you want me belly-button-less, emerging from a cabbage patch of autonomy and strength. I don’t floss daily.
I have planned and executed literally hundreds of lessons, many of which probably slipped without memory into the smoke-tail of the time-space continuum. I have experience teaching students named Olivia, Tiana, Jester, and Dave. I have experience teaching the student who writes better than I do. I have experience teaching the student who fixes his gaze on my boobs, even though I have virtually no cleavage. Maybe that’s what he’s looking at — the absence of something. Maybe he’s considering my lesson about how the word not written is sometimes just as telling as the word on the page. I have experience teaching the first-year composition student who folds her arms against her chest, glares at me, and refuses to speak because she is furious and pregnant and has to drop out. I have experience teaching the student whose son discovered a gun in a drawer and shot himself. I gave the shitty condolence gifts of excused absences.
I am excellent at nodding during committee meetings whilst pushing down the small bubble of grief that sometimes arises in my esophagus when I remember that my dad died when I was twenty. I am excellent at working with self. I facilitate expression of the multiple competing needs between my ego and my inner-child, and I have had success arriving at productive compromises. I am not simultaneously a “detail-oriented person” and a “big-picture thinker” because no one is, not at the same time at least, although I can weep at the edge of the Grand Canyon and then, years later, obsess over the syllables in a line of blank verse about Paleozoic strata. I have had great enthusiasm for every university at which I have had the privilege to teach, and I will hereby demonstrate that enthusiasm by punctuating several more sentences with exclamation points!
Search committee, I’d love to know about the children you have or won’t have or don’t want! If you invite me to your campus for an interview, I will dig up my single tube of lipstick, which will be cakey and not quite the right color! I will sweat beneath my black suit, and I will somehow convince you I’m not terrified of you! Also, at the scheduled lunch I will struggle to listen to details about increasing enrollment because I am ravenous at meal times and love chef salads!
Deep down, dear Search Committee, I wish we could talk not at a round conference table about my love for digital pedagogy or your generous pension package, but on a wool blanket in a Vermont farmhouse, as I whisper to you what it’s like to see my three-year-old daughter float in the ocean for the first time, and you whisper to me what it’s like to be both in charge and very uncertain. Enclosed you will find a copy of my sixth grade report card and a break-up letter from my first boyfriend, in which he said I was pretty and funny but he just wasn’t ready. I look forward to hearing from you.
The Candidate You Will Never Meet