Cover Letter Writing

Mark was a content-creation machine. Just look at all the fucking stuff he’s posted on the feeds since 2006!! He puts most of us who call ourselves creatives (and writers) to shame.

I wrote about our last in-person visit with him. The week following that visit, we had this exchange via email about blogging and a post about creepy clowns that he liked.

I’m glad you are enjoying the Jeff Buckley book.

I liked your blogpost today. Have you ever thought of returning to the blog daily? I know you have a lot going on, but I really like what you wrote today. Especially the paragraph linking the governor to a creepy clown. I think sometimes you put pressure on yourself to create these fully formed blogposts of a certain length. If you were to do a daily blog again I think maybe you should abandon the notion of word count and focus on observing/saying one thing once a day. When you feel inspired to go long then definitely still go long. Maybe keep the same schedule of Tuesday and Friday to go long, but fill the other days with smaller things. Anyway, it’s just a thought.

 I hope the repairs are going well. 

Oh and here’s a neat tweak on cooking sweet potatoes that looks good

I’m not committing to any kind of schedule for blogging or anything else for that matter (at least remaining somewhat in charge, as is humanly possible in money-driven America), but I think I can blog more often, even if it’s following Mark’s prescription to riff on something observed or some other element of living.

Today, in addition to blogging, I’m intent on finishing a lengthy package for a freelance writing gig that matches much of what I’ve been doing for the past 10 years. No matter what kind of skills you have, however, there’s no guarantee you’ll get noticed.

I was thinking about that along with something that a Brown MFA colleague of Mark’s, Darren Angle, shared via Quora. Darren who I’d describe as a life coach for people who think life coaching is a crock of shit, uses this tagline describing what he does—I help people quit their jobs (and do work they love). Sign me up!!

Darren offered the most unique response to the Quora question, “What is important to include on [sic] a cover letter? Please read it now—do not pass Go until you do!

It was Darren’s reality-based advice that made me decide to change my own approach to cover letter writing. Why the hell not? What do I have to lose at this point—grief and loss, if anything is freeing and it helps you to feel like Teflon.

I’ve included my “new” cover letter that I plan to continue using. Key details like employer name and contact person have been redacted. My approach is the “getting real” method. Your own cover letter may likely contain something slightly different.

While preparing to post this, I was also reminded of Mark’s calls to agents. Oh Mark, you were a one-of-a-kind soul and I miss you each and every day (and all the moments in-between).

A real, live draft of my cover letter, with edits.

July 7, 2017

Monique Xxxx, Director of Xxxxxxxxx 
The Axxxx Fxxxxx
One Dxxxxx Cxxxxx, NW
Suite XXX
Washington, DC 20036-1133

Dear Monique,

Let me first dispense with the perfunctory types of things that most people include in any type of personal statement or introduction.

I have been a freelance writer/consultant for the past four years. I’ve supplemented my writing through a host of part-time endeavors; some of them have included project management, baseball umpiring (still doing this), and most recently, serving as a financial coordinator for a credit union.

Prior to this period of freelancing, I held several key, public-outfacing leadership positions requiring the kinds of communications skills you have detailed in your posting. Appropriate messaging and targeting specific audiences are thing I have considerable experience doing, as well as an intimacy with the nonprofit landscape.

My track record demonstrates success building partnerships and intentionally cultivating relationships with key stakeholders in a number of Maine communities. My statewide work as a community collaborator was recognized by Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) with one of their Annual Partnership Awards in 2011.

Here’s where this letter gets real:

On January 21, my 33-year-old son was killed while walking along Highway 90 in Florida’s Panhandle region. Mark was on a cross-country trek, mainly to raise awareness about climate change. He was an award-winning poet, a graduate of Brown’s MFA in Literary Arts program, and worked as a web content specialist for the university’s Science Library. His goal was to walk to the west coast while taking a six-month unpaid sabbatical from Brown. You may have read about his death as it was a national and international story. Just Google, “Mark Baumer.” This was Mark’s second walk across America. He completed his first one in 2010, in 81 days!

As you can imagine, this has been devastating for both my wife and I. But life doesn’t stop and let you off. Work and paying bills continues—we’re certainly not immune to that even in the midst of dealing with our grief and loss.

Mark was also a committed activist. I was proud of his commitment to the causes he believed in. This included putting himself at personal and financial risk when he was arrested protesting the manufacture of cluster bombs at Textron in Providence, RI. The company no longer manufactures these devastating weapons in the U.S.

In many ways, his death helps me refocus on what’s important and that’s another reason why your position is attractive—the Axxxx Fxxxx is engaged in work that matters and is making a difference. In fact, if Mark was still alive and I told him I was applying for this position, he’d say, “sounds like a good fit for you, dad.”

The role’s part-time nature fits well with the freelance assignments I currently have with two trade magazines each month. The commitment of 20 hours a week is an ideal commitment.

I am a storyteller at heart. I think that I understand the role of story and narrative and how to integrate these into the framework of an organization like yours, especially given my nonprofit background.

This role actually parallels one that I was contracted to fulfill back in 2012, working with Procter & Gamble (P&G), supporting their efforts in capturing the particulars of a unique pilot program they’d launched at their Auburn, Maine manufacturing facility. At the time, I was serving as the director of a statewide initiative called the Maine Business Leadership (Maine BLN) Network. This was a partnership with the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and affiliated with the USBLN, a national nonprofit that helps business drive performance by leveraging disability inclusion in the workplace.

P&G had arranged to have a team from Cornell University’s Institute on Employment and Disability compile a report capturing their efforts with a pilot project they’d initiated, documenting what worked and what didn’t. For some reason, this didn’t happen. Because of my role with Maine’s BLN and P&G being one of our partner employers—plus, they were aware that I was a writer—they convened a meeting to gauge my interest in developing a proposal to take over the project.

I developed and created A Report on Key Learnings, along with a toolkit for them. I also subcontracted with a filmmaker and delivered a video of their efforts. This was all part of a six-month project, one that demonstrates my ability to capture information and then, turn it into a narrative targeting a specific audience.

Not to be too maudlin, but Mark—who was immensely talented as a designer, handled the report’s layout. He often worked with me on various projects, including doing the layout and design for my publishing endeavors (I am also a small press publisher).

If I haven’t freaked you out or scared you off, I’d welcome the opportunity to discuss what I can bring to this position as a talented writer who has been able to produce specific outcomes and I’m confident that I can do the same for the Axxxx Fxxxx in developing messaging that promotes your community-wide solutions to specific issues.

In closing, may I direct you to my website? I have posted representative samples of my writing and there is a portfolio page, also, which provides a bit more narrative context for these selections.

James P. Baumer

All I can say is thank you, Mark, with gratitude to you, too, Darren!