Recently, Flyway blogger Lydia Melby had the chance to ask Ms. Fraser a few questions about Ecotone.
Lydia Melby: What is the story behind Ecotone? When and how did it come to be?
Meredith Fraser: Ecotone was founded in 2005 and is published at UNC Wilmington. It is a semiannual journal that seeks to reimagine place. Each issue brings together the literary and the scientific, the personal and the biological, the urban and the rural. David Gessner originally began the magazine, then passed the editorship onto Ben George in 2008, I believe. From the start Ecotone has been run mostly by students at UNCW, along with a minimal (myself and Ben) paid staff.
LM: Your magazine is published through UNC-Wilmington– does Ecotone receive support and/or funding from the university? As you don’t charge a reading fee for submissions, where does most of your funding come from? (if that’s polite to ask).
MF: The university is generous to us, and fronts most of our bills, although we do bring in a significant amount of money through subscriptions and the selling of individual issues. We operate on a very tight budget (hence our tiny staff), but we’ve been lucky enough to receive several grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which have helped ease the costs tremendously. (On another note, we’re about to launch our online submission service, so writers can submit without the extra trip to the post office—our reading fee for online submissions will be $3.)
LM: Your website defines the title of your journal as “a transition zone between two adjacent ecological communities, containing the characteristic species of each.” From one place-themed journal to another, how do you feel inhabiting the ‘grey man’s land’ between literary and scientific has helped distinguish your journal?
MF: I think we get more science-related articles than your average lit journal, that’s for sure, but not as many as you may expect. In recent years, we’ve loosened our specific guidelines and focus on simply publishing the best writing we can find. If it fits our journal’s overarching theme, that’s just a cherry on top, so to say.
LM: Your submissions page mentions Ecotone is “always looking for dynamic, original artwork which reflects the inherent themes of the journal, such as borders and boundaries between the natural world and the human world.” How does your staff generally interpret how visual art submissions interact with these themes? What genres of art (traditional, graphic, sequential) do you generally accept?
MF: In general, we leave the art selections up to our publishing laboratory experts, as they have more of an eye for good art than Ben or I. We actually rarely receive art submissions; usually we solicit our art from specific artists. We accept all forms of art, and there have been many inclusions of art that reflect our journal’s theme, but again, we’ve become less concerned with our content interpreting the theme than with finding the best art we can find.
LM: Similarly, do you feel Ecotone‘s over-arcing theme gives writers some tangible parameters, or does it actually grant submitters more freedom in exploring?
MF: It depends. I would say there are groups of writers who look at the theme in both ways; some stick to it very closely, while it clearly opens doors for others to think about new ways of looking at things and their work.
LM: In the field of literary publications today, it’s really unusual to find a publication that does not accept submissions online– how has this affected your general submission pool, especially your ‘slush pile’?
MF: There’s no way to know how it affects our slush pile, but we’re very aware that we’ll probably begin to receive more submissions once our online system is available. Submittable (the company we are working with for online submissions) should be available to contributors within the next week or so, so if you’d like, you can check back in with me in a few weeks and I’ll let you now how it’s going or what a difference it has made!