Application to be the Oldest Student in The Iowa Writers’ Workshop

Saturday, November 18th, 2017

Published 4 months ago -

To: Admission Director, Iowa Writers’ Workshop

From: Cookie Chan

Subject: Program Application

Dear Admissions Director,

I recently read that that a gentleman of the spry age of 68 is suing The Iowa Writers’ Workshop for not accepting his application based solely on his advanced years. I see you have an ageism problem.

My condolences.

But not to worry—I am here to help your illustrious institution gain its shining reputation once again.

Therefore, please accept my application to your sterling writing program.

It doesn’t matter which department you need me for—poetry, fiction, non-fiction, or hybrid genre—I am game for any or all of them. In fact, if you would like me to be a floater, that would be the best of all possible worlds. Wouldn’t every department (and your plethora of students under the age of 35) benefit from the wisdom I have gained over the years, thus improving the maximum number of aspiring writers possible?

What are my qualifications you may be wondering?

While I am not quite as old as the gentleman who filed the discrimination suit, I am a woman of a “certain age,” (ahem, 54) which should be plenty old enough, as we all know women become invisible to society much earlier than men do. Once our locks begin to gray, we don’t have the luxury of becoming “silver foxes.” Based on the attention that I do not garner on my daily trips to the grocery store, post office and other errands, I’m sure that I fit perfectly into the wheelhouse of writers who would not be given the time of day by your program.

This means that when you accept me, your percentages regarding age equality will increase dramatically. Of course, I’m a writer, not a math whiz, so I’ll let your computers take care of that part.

Furthermore, I am a woman and an Asian American woman at that, so I tick two more “underrepresented” boxes than my fellow applicant, which is another plus for your program.

Also, I am getting a tattoo next week. Does the gentleman in question have a tattoo?

And unlike the applicant who is accusing you of this ageist crime, I am not, and have never been, a lawyer. I would not be able to fill out a complaint against you.

But I would be able to write you a smashing grant proposal, if you were ever in need of one.

I’m sure all of the above factors will more than make up for the quality of the writing samples I have attached. And let me just say how much I admire your stringent application requirements—two writing samples! That is quite a lot of writing!

To show my versatility and creativity, my first sample is an erasure poem based on a year’s worth of grocery lists compiled when my children were in grade school. I am sure you will immediately see the genius of the work, with its alliterative action and rhythmic onomatopoeia.

The second sample is an excerpt from my 1,000 page memoir (still working on the ending), which chronicles my childhood as a chess prodigy and badminton champion while living in a backwoods suburb of Los Angeles where my father started a dairy he christened “China Acres.” It was a lot like the television show, “Green Acres,” except with Chinese people.

I’m sure you will be riveted!

And should you not accept my application to your program, you will certainly rue the day.

For I am perfectly ready to self-publish both my poem and memoir without your blessing. And when my books are shooting up the Amazon Bestseller lists, you will be sorry that you callously rejected my application based on something as meaningless as age.

Because age is just a number.

And you’re going to be old someday too. Maybe.

Your Hopeful Applicant,


Cookie Chan

PS: Please respond quickly as I’m currently working on my memoir chapters, “The Iowa Years.”


Candy Shue holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of San Francisco. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Washington Square, Drunken Boat,sparkle + blink, Works & Days Quarterly, Versal, Flock, Storyscape, Paragraph and other journals. A Kundiman Fellow, she has received support from the Provincetown Fine Arts Workshop and the Vermont Studio Center. Her photography and poetry were featured in the 92nd Street Y’s #wordswelivein project and she has also collaborated with the composer Jerry Gerber on a musical poem,  “Lucid:  Dream For” for his recent CD release, Virtual Harmonics. Candy has read at LitCrawl, Quiet Lightning, Naropa, Under the Influence, Beast Crawl, and other venues, and has performed her poetry at Beyond Words:  Jazz and Poetry.

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