At Backdoor Review, we receive tens of thousands of submissions. We’ve collected a few cover letters and reprinted them now (without permission) with manuscript comments from our editors in italics.
Dear Fiction Editor:
Please consider the following short story, “Over the Moon and Out of My Mind.” It is a love story unlike any you have read before. My strong female narrator is carefully flawed. Love, lunacy, loss. A unique yarn.
I am an MFA candidate at Snowcap University, where I hold a Caroline Amby-Asherville Fellowship. My poems have appeared in Weepy Willow and Bluebruise Quarterly. This is a simultaneous submission, as my need for acceptance is immediate.
Best Regards,[Name Redacted]
EK – Some very thoughtful descriptions here. Take a look? –GS
There’s a lot to admire but not enough drive. Meanders. Show TC, maybe? I’d pass. –EK
Dear Editor Jee-Whan Lee,
Enclosed please find “Heart and Seoul,” about an aimless American graduate who finds love abroad, only to lose it to the cruel and winding ways of the East. I have a B.A. from Charles River College, where I was runner-up in the English Department’s “Looking Outward” writing contest. After graduation, I spent a year in South Korea teaching English and searching for the best bi bim bap this side of Singapore. My Travels in Asia fuel the incisive narrative which you are about to have the pleasure of reading.
If you do not find a use for this manuscript, please feel free to share it with a friend or fellow editor.
GS – Why’d you pass this on to me? Borderline racist, trust-fund porn. You know I’ve never been to Korea, right? –JWL
Dear Famous Author,
For your consideration, I am enclosing “TITLE OF A YEATS POEM.” I am a longtime admirer of your work, and I think you may find my writing to be of a similar style to your own. This story was a runner-up to be a finalist for the fiction prize at The Cornstalk Review.
I have recently completed my MFA in fiction at the University of Wheatfield, where I was a Dry-Erase Marker Fellow and the winner of the James Thomas Brackenthorpe Prize for Longer Short Fiction. My work has appeared in Pinecone, Dirty Knuckles, and Red Barn.
My unpublished novel, “CLEVERLY ALTERED TITLE OF A HEMINGWAY WORK,” is currently seeking representation.
Most sincerely,[Name Redacted]
GS – I’m really liking this one. Friend of mine from Wheatfield. Not sure about the ending. Would be better if he didn’t say why he was gluing the teapot back together? We can glean it from the dialogue… –EK
Not so sure about the teapot. Where does the title come in? Feels like the grandmother’s parakeet is filler. I’m open to discussion; show to TC or JWL? –GS
Can’t get into this one. Flashback at the beginning goes on for too long; what’s with the parakeet? Teapot feels heavy-handed, cliché. I’d pass. –JWL
Dear Fiction Editor:
I present to you “On the Corner of Hoyt & Wyckoff.”
I am in my first year at the North Southeast Coast Workshop Center, but I come from New York. My writing is based on the seventeen months I spent in that unparalleled city, living with my five roommates in a vibrant artist’s enclave. When my mother would come in on the train to give me my rent checks, she would employ trickery to persuade me to return to the hellish slice of suburbia she called home. But I resisted, and the result is this story, which includes references to no less than thirty-seven local street names. That’s at least twelve more street names than the winner of your Spring Fiction Contest, “Fire(Escape)” (which I loved).
My first published story, “Ann, Taylor, Loft,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. The link to my blog featuring soda pop cans photographed in compromising positions is below.
EK – What do you think? I like the dialogue, but I can’t tell why the tense keeps changing. –JWL
Same old. Sloppy imitation of “Fire(Escape).” Pretentious roof-deck story. Is the neighborhood yuppie or junkie? Just don’t get a good feel for the setting. –EK
Please consider my work of short fiction, “Chance,” about a terminally ill Bingo enthusiast. My title may appear simple and forthright, but I challenge you not to weep when you discover its complex double meaning in the penultimate paragraph.
This story was part of my manuscript for acceptance at Pecan State and became a part of my MFA thesis in 2005. Over the years it has received the nicest rejections from Deep Forest, Flaming Athena, The Big City Times, Bluebruise Quarterly, and epicurious.com, among others. This is my second time submitting this piece to your journal, but I’ve cut a few adverbs and am confident you’ll see a marked difference.
Thank you,[Name Redacted]
This woman submits all the time. Can we ask her to try other journals? Kindly, though? Afraid she might hurt herself. –EK
Dear Poetry Editor:
Do you know what it’s like to have your heart ripped out of your chest, whipped into a pâté, and served to you on a crisp wheat cracker? You will after you read “Mal du Coeur,” a lyrical account of the summer one girl loses her innocence, her first love, and her iPad on the French Riviera.
I’m Connecticut-born and educated, but due to the many vacations spent in our family’s home in Aubergine-sur-la-Mer, I have always felt French at heart. I am submitting this work to other journals and will be sure to withdraw it when it is accepted elsewhere.
You’re welcome,[Name Redacted]
JWL – Check out the sex scene on page 11: “Thighs unfolding like butterfly wings”? –EK
I don’t know; I see an appealing vulnerability here. The “butterfly’s wings” echo the fragility of the narrator’s familial bonds. I think I could work with the author to bring this piece to a worthy climax. Did the cover letter include a phone number? –JWL
Dear Fiction Editor:
I am enclosing the following short story, “What We’re Saying When We Speak About Passion.” It’s a story with great heart, a slice-of-life account through a lens of an astute social commentator. It also features a blow job.
Former teachers have called my work a medley of Ray Carver and John Updike with a peppering of Dybek and McCarthy. During a recent residency with ubiquitous writer of irreverent essays Jacob Monolith, Jake said of this piece, “It’s . . . really something. I can honestly say it’s a piece of writing.”
All best,[Name Redacted]
EK, TC – What do you think? It’s different. Not quite Carver or Updike, but the writing is edgy. –JWL
If by “edgy” you mean “egregiously offensive.” Classic male fantasy. Who gives a blowjob while waiting for a Blizzard at a Dairy Queen? –EK
Clearly not you. –JWL
Excuse me? –EK
I’m just saying it happens. TC, will you please weigh in on this? Do you like it? –JWL
I don’t know. I like some of the descriptions, but I can see how it might be considered offensive. What do you guys think? –TC
We just told you what we think. –EK
Whatever you all decide is fine. –TC
So two for, one against; I’ll fill out an acceptance form. –JWL
I don’t think TC is for. I am not signing off on this story. –EK
TC, can you just say “yes” or “no”? –JWL
It’s good, but I guess I don’t love it. –TC
Never mind. Got an email. It’s been withdrawn. –GS
Thanks for moving so fast on this one, guys. –JWL
Does this mean we can reopen discussion on the teapot? The line “Krazy Glue crept through the ceramic cracks” really made me shiver. I read the teapot as a metaphor for the family’s working-class background—civil, utilitarian, restrained. I really think I see something here. –EK
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