Dear Annie Dillard,
My name is Alexander Chee, and I'm a senior English major. I've taken Fiction 1 with Phyllis Rose and Advanced Fiction with Kit Reed, and last summer, I studied with Mary Robison and Toby Olson at the Bennington Writers Workshop. The stories here are from a creative writing thesis I'm currently writing with Professor Bill Stowe as my adviser. But the real reason I'm applying to this class is that whenever I tell people I go to Wesleyan, they ask me if I've studied with you, and I'd like to have something better to say than no.
Thanks for your time and consideration,
* * *
In 1989, this was the letter I sent with my application to Annie Dillard's Literary Nonfiction class at Wesleyan University. I was a last-semester senior, an English major who had failed at being a studio art major and thus became an English major by default.
As I waited for what I was sure was going to be rejection, I went to the mall to shop for Christmas presents and walked through bookstores full of copies of the Annie Dillard boxed edition-Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, American Childhood, Holy The Firm-and the Best American Essays of 1988, edited, yes, by Annie Dillard. I walked around them as if they were her somehow and not her books, and left empty-handed.
I didn't buy them because if she rejected me, they would be unbearable to own.