Sunday, April 06, 2008

Purring is Personal

When teaching Technical Communication classes, I've found them tedious but usually pragmatic for students. Some things are basic: how to craft a résumé or a curriculum vitae, how to apply for jobs with cover letters and follow through notes, how to prepare for interviews, etc. It's rewarding when students actually follow the basics in "real life" and land jobs along the way, even before the end of a semester.

Which reminds me of how blind letters of inquiry are sometimes (mis)handled. The writer will want to grab the reader's attention, right? Well, here's the text of an actual manually typed letter (excerpted) I opened in the mid-1980s when working at a publishing house in North Carolina. I thought it was awesome, even though the publisher did not take the bait:

Dear Sir:

I have just completed a photo story (B & W) of the personality development of a cat. I have entitled this, tentatively, as PURRING IS PERSONAL. Yes -- it is another cat book, but with a different approach, and good clean photos.

I have had five books published in the past (Wonderful World of Insects . . . Wonderful World of the Seashore . . . Complete Book of Space Travel, etc.), also written hundreds of trade and slick magazine articles, the most recent being We March in Paris, a history of the U.S. Victory Stamp . . . Also responsible for a number of articles in scientific journals in the U.S., Canada, and Gt. Britain.

The problem is that my books are older, out of print, and the present NY editors do not remember me. I had no time to continue writing books of any kind when I was working in industrial chemical research, and later in management. Now I have retired and am hoping to resume the production of a book a year for a while. I have several in the works -- as it were.

I have already seen my name in print, I am therefore not a prima donna about making or agreeing to editorial changes. I am not greedy, but with this retirement business, I find there is nothing there when payday comes around!

If you would like to examine this cat book for possible publication . . . I should be happy to send you the ms. It has been seen once, briefly, by a Rinehart editor who happened not to like cats. 'Nough said.

With best wishes,


Albro T. Gaul

p.s. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I checked out the published titles. They're all there.

Today's Rune: Harvest.

Illus: Eartha Kitt as Catwoman; poster for Cat People (1942), starring Simone Simon (Simone Thérèse Fernande Simon) and remade in 1982 with Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm McDowell, and John Heard. Purring is personal, indeed. . . . .


Sidney said...

Nice letter and nice "Cat People" poster. Loved Val Lewton!

Lana Gramlich said...

I never saw the original "Cat People," but I loved McDowell in the remake. This post is ironic, as we recently almost ended up w/a cat, ourselves (it would've been dropped off today, actually, but other plans were made.)

the walking man said...

Once in a cover letter I used humorously the word "shit" in reference to my work about 20 times.

The rejection slip came back with a remark something like. "Almost took one of the six shorts but couldn't fit it in; but loved the cover letter. Had the whole staff laughing."

In my reply of course I asked why they didn't just print the god damn cover letter then?

Never did hear back from that journal.



Charles Gramlich said...

That is a cool letter. Such openeness and honesty should be rewarded. Too bad it's not.

Pythia3 said...

Yes, I agree with Charles, why do we have to play the game - I hate games with a passion! I can play with the very best of them but I hate them anyway.
I am an honest, open book - so many times I have my foot in my mouth, my heart bleeding on my sleeve or my cheeks as red as a pomegranate.
I avoid letters of inquiry...not wise, I know.
Thanks for sharing this :)
Enjoy the day!
Tiger's game was very unsuccessful last night :(
I had excellent seats though - 7 rows behind the visitor's dugout.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Putting out fire with gasoline.