How's this for a cover letter:
The following is a cover letter sent to The New Yorker by a young Eudora Welty, recently
moved to New York and looking for work. She wasn't hired. Of course, she went on to literally acclaim, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1973 and a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980.
I choose to share this because I think it's a great example of how creative people need to embrace their creative identity and not shirk away from it. This is a very unconventional letter -- and we note that Miss Welty wasn't hired, either -- but in today's world I'm pretty sure it would get noticed. And getting noticed is an increasingly serious challenge in our content-saturated world. And that's really my point here. I'm not advocating out-of-the-box cover letters so much as I'm wanting to encourage artists to think long and hard about what makes them unique and special. So you're a great violinist...well, the world is full of them! What makes your music unique? What sorts of creative activities can you engage in that fill a unique need or niche in your community or field? What aspects of your art are particularly meaningful to you, and how can you communicate those things to your audience? Pondering these kinds of questions will unlock your unique artistic voice -- the most important thing to unlock if you hope for a sustainable career in the arts.
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I suppose you'd be more interested in even a sleight-o'-hand trick than you'd be in an application for a position with your magazine, but as usual you can't have the thing you want most.
I am 23 years old, six weeks on the loose in N.Y. However, I was a New Yorker for a whole year in 1930-31 while attending advertising classes in Columbia's School of Business. Actually I am a southerner, from Mississippi, the nation's most backward state. Ramifications include Walter H. Page, who, unluckily for me, is no longer connected with Doubleday-Page, which is no longer Doubleday-Page, even. I have a B.A. ('29) from the University of Wisconsin, where I majored in English without a care in the world. For the last eighteen months I was languishing in my own office in a radio station in Jackson, Miss., writing continuities, dramas, mule feed advertisements, santa claus talks, and life insurance playlets; now I have given that up.
As to what I might do for you ˜ I have seen an untoward amount of picture galleries and 15¢ movies lately, and could review them with my old prosperous detachment, I think; in fact, I recently coined a general word for Matisse's pictures after seeing his latest at the Marie Harriman: concubineapple. That shows you how my mind works ˜ quick, and away from the point. I read simply voraciously, and can drum up an opinion afterwards.
Since I have bought an India print, and a large number of phonograph records from a Mr. Nussbaum who picks them up, and a Cezanne Bathers one inch long (that shows you I read e. e. cummings I hope), I am anxious to have an apartment, not to mention a small portable phonograph. How I would like to work for you! A little paragraph each morning ˜ a little paragraph each night, if you can't hire me from daylight to dark, although I would work like a slave. I can also draw like Mr. Thurber, in case he goes off the deep end. I have studied flower painting.
There is no telling where I may apply, if you turn me down; I realize this will not phase you, but consider my other alternative: the U of N.C. offers for $12.00 to let me dance in Vachel Lindsay's Congo. I congo on. I rest my case, repeating that I am a hard worker.
Very Truly Yours, Eudora Welty