Failed Fellowship Essays

Dear Fellowship Committee:
Please, please, please let me in. I’ll owe you forever. Plus, I’ll bring chocolate.

I’ve had stories published here, here, here, here, and here.
I was a fellow here.
I have an MFA from here.
I had a residency at this writers colony.
I edited this literary journal.
I organized this reading.
My left leg falls asleep often, and I cannot wink my right eye.
I can crack my neck like a shotgun.
I cannot whistle.
I am shy, and being in a room full of people gives me a blazing headache.
I type with two fingers and my thumbs, but I am very quick about it.
I do not know why I eat eggs: They are gross.
I also do not know why I am telling you these things.
Maybe because I ran out of literary credits?
I don’t like boats—is that of some significance? Or that I can’t use ballpoint pens? Do you want to know that I love reading my stories aloud in front of a room full of people even though I can’t mingle with them afterward? Do you want to know that I loved the writers colony and produced many pages, but am nervous to ever go back because I discovered I am deathly afraid of the dark? Do you want to know that I regret getting my MFA too soon? That I love rainstorms? I’m five feet tall? I’m in terrible debt? I am tone deaf? I don’t like the number 8? I believe in ghosts even though I’ve never seen one? I have a birthmark shaped like a UFO on my leg? I would rather drown than be burned alive, even though I have been told it lasts longer and is more painful? I like stripes? I love to write? Maybe that’s all you need to know.
My stories are attached. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Hi. You don’t read these essays, do you? I could write whatever the hell I want and spit on the paper, or have a crying fit and let my mascara run in long gooey globs all over this paragraph here (the one listing my so-called accomplishments), because really you’re not going to let me in unless you know me. Isn’t that right? All the slots have already been filled by so-and-so’s former students’ cousins and some kid the prof slept with at a writers conference, right? So this is futile. So why am I bothering? Can I have my $50 back? Thx.

I want this. There are no words to explain how badly I want this. I could write an entire page on why I want this, and maybe it would mean something to you, or maybe it would sound like all the other pages about how badly everyone else wants this, and what you want to know is why do I want this more than they do, and why, if I am supposed to be a writer, can I not describe in perfect pitch and tone the detailed increments of my longing for your fellowship and how I believe it will forever change my life? Sometimes I think simplicity is better. I want this. Isn’t that enough?

Hey, you.

Yeah you.

Give me a shot.

What could it hurt?

Call me.

Here I am…


9 responses to “Failed Fellowship Essays”

  1. noirbettie says:

    I like 2. It is honest, and it made me laugh.

  2. jadepark says:

    I wonder if the post in its entirety could BE a fellowship application essay piece! Like noirbettie: i too agree that so much of this is honest AND funny.

  3. […] ‘Tis the season for application essays! For those of you writing MFA, Fellowship, and Residency application essays, I direct you to distraction no. 99, where nova has posted some honest comic relief in a post titled, “Failed Fellowship Essays.” […]

  4. mel says:

    This is awesome.

    I have to say I agree about drowning vs. being burned alive, although who would be able to attest to duration and pain levels? (Um, how long does it take to drown? I can’t swim, so that freaks me out.)

    ditto jadepark, this would be a great essay piece.

  5. e says:

    it (or something much better) will happen, very soon.

    i love your winking attempts with your right eye!

    burning: you’d most likely pass out from the smoke/fumes first.

    drowning: we all know how bad it hurts to inhale just a little bit of liquid.

    drowning = much worse.

  6. yojo says:


  7. yo nova! you are insane. I love it. keep at it. there is a place for you. you are gifted and you communicate so authentically. don’t lose faith. thanks so much for sharing your journey.

  8. Susan says:

    nova, this is fantastic. Utterly. I really, really, really hope you get it.

  9. […] I won’t post it here, but today I completed the actual fellowship essay that I’ll be sending off next week. It’s honest but not as sappy as previous drafts. I have tried to remove all trace of desperation, but the fellowship committee may still be able to sniff it out when they open the envelope. I might need to add perfume. […]

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