The following is an example of an editorial letter, with the name of the author and story title removed, as well as our personal introduction.
EDITORIAL LETTER EXAMPLE:
Of the many strengths here, what I found most compelling was the depth to Emily’s life that you convey as the story unfolds in front of us, like her caring for her mother, her time at church with Ian, and the accident which permanently injured her. You also rendered her thoughts in a way that made her feel like a real (and complicated) person, fighting through the complications of her life. There were some great stretches of writing here that pulled me through the story with ease. I found the reveal about Catherine and Ian (moreso Ian’s letters to Catherine after Emily’s injury) to be such an interesting turn too, which gave the story a sense of finality (as did the really interesting and contemplative closing moment).
In revision, there are a few things to consider to make this piece even better. First, I’m wondering about starting the story in the particular moment where you start it. We do see some slight advancement with her and Ian meeting at church and agreeing to make plans for the future, but I think the first few pages are a bit too reliant on establishing the characters and situations, rather than telling the story and letting those things happen naturally. I would consider where you think the story truly begins. Does it begin with her and Ian meeting up again for the first time? Does it begin with her mother staying with Catherine (opening up space in Emily’s life for her to see Ian)? Does it begin with the trip to Florida where she has the realization about Ian/Catherine/the letters? Depending on where you feel the active story begins, you may take those first few pages and reintegrate them into the story proper. I love what you have here in terms of writing, but I think the story in its present version begins before it needs to.
I’m conflicted on the use of present tense here. It does give the story a certain vitality, but at the same time, I feel like a lot of this story is about Emily being stuck in the past, or trying to reconcile with the past. She has this traumatic accident where she loses her father, her previous failed relationship with Luca, and everything with Ian. If this story were in past tense, you might be able to move into the past more naturally, and get even more contemplative with this piece. Emily’s interior is the most successful aspect part of the story in my view, and switching into past tense would give you even more to work with.
As a random thematic aside, I think the story could do even more by paralleling Emily’s injury and her mother’s declining state. That somewhat happens in the beginning, but I think there’s something to be mined there, particularly with the idea of a fractured swan. What does it mean for Emily that she’s still so young (relatively) and her body shares so many similarities with her mother? Does she feel like her life is behind her? Does she feel trapped in this body/life? What might she miss once her mother is gone? How can she and her mother relate because of her injury?
In general, I think you handle the infidelity aspect with Ian pretty well, but I do want more contemplation on Emily’s part about the fact that Ian has a family. Does Emily feel okay with this because of what has happened to her? I don’t think we need a ton on this front, but having Emily wrestle with the idea of sleeping with a married man could help here.
Overall, this is a really interesting and moving story that kept me invested from beginning to end. By starting the story later in the timeline, potentially switching into past tense, and having Emily grapple with her choices in a more forceful way, this piece may be even better. There’s already a lot to like about this piece.
Again, thank you so much for your submission. I hope these comments help you understand your writing for the better and that this was a valuable process for you.
Upon revision, you may look into places to submit your short story. Four journals you might consider are Story Magazine, Bellevue Literary Review, Ploughshares, and The Colorado Review. It was a pleasure reading your work, and I hope you keep submitting!
Masters Review Editor