To Whom it May Concern,
I am writing in support of Timothy Michaels in his pursuit of an MFA in Creative Writing at your esteemed institution. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching Timothy in my undergraduate writing classes, where his confidence and assurance were immediately evident. His considerable self-certainty — and the boldness of his commentary in class — has never wavered, even when he clearly had not engaged with the assigned readings at even a superficial level. His dexterity in steering every conversation in the direction of David Foster Wallace has allowed him to skate through many such instances. What rare tenacity!
I would describe Timothy’s creative process as idiosyncratic and volatile, comprising long incubation periods punctuated, if all the stars align, by frenzied output. When submitting work for discussion, he often leaves the class in a state of heady anticipation until the final hour, and yet his expectation of his classmates’ deep and attentive analysis is never in doubt. It’s such a special process to witness.
Timothy is an obsessive reader of what he terms “the serious novels,” and his strict adherence to this self-imposed exclusivity gives his participation in class a unique perspective. For inspiration and techniques, he mines a range of sources, from Don Delillo all the way to Jonathan Franzen, from Pynchon back to Franzen. The breadth of his interest definitely shows in his writing, and in his ability to engage with other students’ writing. In your program, he will approach research opportunities with specificity and focus, and an inexhaustible desire to enrich his work with ever more Franzen references.
During the time I have known Timothy, I have seen him challenge himself intellectually and emotionally; a particularly brave project comes to mind, in which he assumes the POV of a fraternity member who has been the unfortunate victim of a sexual misconduct allegation. This difficult piece is remarkably well imagined, and the resulting short story is forthcoming in the New Yorker.
From his hot takes on Get Out to his refreshing skepticism of the Bechdel test, Timothy certainly keeps the class from ever forgetting to consider his point of view. I well remember an incident in which Timothy, when asked why so many of his female characters lack agency, simply curled into a fetal position on the floor and remained there for the duration of class. I believe we all learned a vital lesson that day!
You may hear from other referees that Timothy reacts to feedback in a fractious and defensive manner, but the explanation for this is simple: he believes himself to be of unquestionably superior intelligence and, at the same time, is extremely sensitive to real and imagined criticism. Keeping those two things in mind during group sessions will produce highly receptive and graceful responses from Timothy. It’s also important to remember Timothy’s deep suspicion of “blanket praise,” and striking that perfect balance will be a worthwhile exercise for his cohort, since many students will work with people like Timothy for the rest of their lives.
Timothy shows a keen interest in perspectives and identities outside of his own, and his curiosity is a clear benefit to his writing. From “poetic man dealing with a simple girlfriend” to “sensitive man processing a breakup” to “sensitive and poetic man living abroad” — his subject matter has really plumbed the depths of human experience.
I have no doubt that Timothy will be a top contender for your program, and that even you may learn something from him about Franzen. I am confident that he will be well received and honored no matter where he goes, and that I will be seeing his career unfold whether I want to or not.