1. Like all writers, we love animals, but after a while we get a little tired of hearing about your pets. If you have three turtles, we don’t think, oh but those three turtles probably need some fancy flies that could be bought with the money from publishing this story. We’re happy you have things in your life that you love—but this is a cover letter. Let’s get to your story!
2. It’s usually best to keep the letter brief. Sure, we want to know that you’ve been published by the Paris Review, the New Yorker, and Agni—Hooray!—but then you’re fine with the phrase “and many other journals.” Listing another twenty places feels unnecessary. Plus the block of text makes our eyes glaze. Pick the top three or four—maybe five—and keep some mystery in this relationship.
3. That being said, give us a little more than a two-word cover letter reading “story attached.” If you could write a salutation, the genre of your piece and a brief “thanks for reading,” we really would appreciate it. We want to be drawn in to your work and, let’s be honest, everyone likes a little charm.
4. Avoid all caps if possible. It’s unfortunate for all of us that Submittable won’t let you use italics. BUT PLEASE DON’T SHOUT THE TITLE OF YOUR STORY.
5. Many journals, including ours, are partially staffed by students, so we know it’s confusing that our genre editors turn over every two or so years. But as fiction editor, I’d rather you address me as “editor” than someone who hasn’t been involved in the magazine in eight years. It makes us think you haven’t read (or, come on, Googled) the magazine in eight years either. We want to invest time in you; invest a little time in us. Let us know you read and know us as a magazine.
Ecotone’s overwhelmed fiction editor. Ahh!
— Nicola DeRobertis-Theye, Lookout Intern, Fiction Editor of Ecotone
“Cornelia had had her eye on it for years. It reminded her of the cottage of a gnome. “Guhnome,” Aunt Shelley used to miscorrect. The other houses in the loose settlement by the pond were darkly weathered wood, but Cornelia’s was made of the local pale gray granite, sparkling here and there with tiny golden specks. It had green shutters. There was one room downstairs and one up, an outdoor toilet, a small generator. Aquatic vines climbed the stones. Frogs and newts inhabited the moist garden.
She spent more and more time there. At the bottom of the pond, turtles inched their way to wherever they were going. Minnows traveled together, the whole congregation turning this way and then that, an underwater flag flapping in an underwater wind. Birches, lightly clothed in leaves, leaned toward the pond.
“I worry about you in the middle of nowhere,” her daughter, Julie, said. But the glinting stones of the house, its whitewashed interior, summer’s greenness and winter’s pale blueness seen through its deep windows, the mysterious endless brown of the peaked space above her bed … and pond and trees and loons and chipmunks … not nowhere. Somewhere. Herewhere.”
- Edith Pearlman, “Self-Reliance,” Binocular Vision, 2011