November 1, 2013
love the fact that writers around the world are inspired
by our first lines, and we know that not every story will
be sent to us. However, we ask that you do not submit
stories starting with our first lines to other journals
(or post them online on public sites) until we've notified
you as to our decision (usually two to three weeks after
the deadline). When the entire premise of the publication
revolves around one sentence, we don't want it to look
as if we stole that sentence from another writer. If you
have questions, feel free to drop us a line.
more thing while I've got you here: Writers compete against
one another for magazine space, so, technically, every
literary magazine is running a contest. There are, however,
literary magazines that run traditional contests, where
they charge entry fees and rank the winners. We do
not - nor will we ever - charge a submission fee,
nor do we rank our stories in order of importance. Occasionally,
we run contests to help come up with new first lines,
or we run fun, gimmicky competitions for free stuff, but
the actual journal is not a contest in the traditional
All stories must be written with the first line provided.
The line cannot be altered in any way, unless otherwise
noted by the editors. The story should be between 300
and 5,000 words (this is more like a guideline and not
a hard-and-fast rule; going over or under the word count
won't get your story tossed from the slush pile). The
sentences can be found on the home page of The First
Line's Web site, as well as in the prior issue. Note:
We are open to all genres. We try to make TFL as eclectic
500-800 word critical essays about your favorite first
line from a literary work.
Stories: Writers should include a two- to three-sentence
biography of themselves that will appear in the magazine
should their story run.
Submissions: We don't mind if you want to submit multiple
stories for the same issue. However, it is unlikely we
will use more than one of your stories in the same issue.
Stories: If you think you are up to the challenge,
you can write a four-part story that uses the spring,
summer, fall, and winter sentences. However, all the parts
must be submitted at once (a single e-mail or snail mail)
before the February 1st deadline. (If selected, each part
will be published in its respective issue.)
We prefer you send manuscripts via e-mail to submission
(@) thefirstline (dot) com. We accept stories in MS
Word or Word Perfect format (we prefer attachments). Please
do not send pdf versions of your story. Make sure your
name and contact information, as well as your bio, are
part of the attachment. Stories also can be sent to The
First Line's post office box. No manuscripts will
be returned without an accompanying SASE with sufficient
return postage. Here is the submission schedule for 2013:
Carlos discovered _____ [fill in the blank] under a pile
of shoes in the back of his grandmother's closet.
Due date: February 1, 2014
"Please, Sylvia, give me a moment to think."
Due date: May 1, 2014
Fifty miles west of Bloomington lies Hillsboro, a monument
to middle-class malaise.
Due date: August 1, 2014
We went as far as the car would take us.
Due date: November 1, 2014
We don't make decisions about stories until after each
issue closes. We typically send notices out within two
to three weeks after the issue's deadline to everyone
who submitted a story. You can also check the home page
of the Web site as we will indicate each issue's production