I was so nervous submitting poems to the Carolina Quarterly in 1982 that I composed four slightly different versions of a cover letter and—overcome by brilliant anxieties and wanting to be done with the whole affair—I hastily included all of them with my poems. Mercifully they were rejected, but the editor replied with four slightly different rejection letters. It was my first lesson in irony.
Since then, I have tried to bolster my natural shyness with unnecessary formalities or excessive personal details—anything—to scatter an editor’s eye from the real purpose of the submission. In 1986, I wrote cover letters which included phrases like “Perhaps you saw the review of my short story in the Los Angeles Times” or “Let me tell you about my Uncle Turner…” But no one liked the bobcat story as much as I did.
Each experience writing a cover letter came with its customary discomfort…
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