Guidelines - Winter 2019
submissions must begin with one first line from
Volume 16, Issue 1 to Volume 20, Issue 4:
Vol. 16, Iss. 1: Carlos discovered _______
[fill in the blank] under a pile of shoes in the back
of his grandmother's closet.
Vol. 16, Iss. 2: "Please, Sylvia, give me a moment
Vol. 16, Iss. 3: Fifty miles west of Bloomington lies
Hillsboro, a monument to middle-class malaise.
Vol. 16, Iss. 4: We went as far as the car would take
Vol. 17, Iss. 1: Fairy tales hardly ever come true for
Vol. 17, Iss. 2: Laura liked to think she was honest with
herself; it was everyone else she lied to.
Vol. 17, Iss. 3: The old neighborhood was nearly unrecognizable.
Vol. 17, Iss. 4: George pressed the call button and said,
"Mrs. Whitfield, you have a visitor.
Vol. 18, Iss. 1: "Unfortunately, there is no mistake,"
she said, closing the file.
Vol. 18, Iss. 2: By the fifteenth month of the drought,
the lake no longer held her secrets.
Vol. 18, Iss. 3: Mrs. Morrison was too busy to die.
Vol. 18, Iss. 4: In the six years I spent tracking David
Addley, it never occurred to me that he didn't exist.
Vol. 19, Iss. 1: Eddie tended to drift into whatever jobs
were available that would pay the rent.
Vol. 19, Iss. 2: The plan suddenly made sense.
Vol. 19, Iss. 3: Frank Rooney had been the manager of
the Shop & Save for thirty-eight years, and he wasn't
retiring anytime soon.
Vol. 19, Iss. 4: "I'm tired of trying to see the
good in people."
Vol. 20, Iss. 1: Leo massaged the back of his neck, thankful
the meeting was finally over.
Vol. 20, Iss. 2: "I wanted you to be the first to
know," Rowan tentatively confided in me.
Vol. 20, Iss. 3: The window was open just enough to let
in the cool night air.
Vol. 20, Iss. 4: As she trudged down the alley, Cenessa
saw a small _________________. [Fill in the blank.]
just resubmit a story we've already rejected. We
will know. We have every story submitted to us on
file and why we rejected it.
we understand that writers may add our first line
to a story they are currently working on or have
already completed, and that's cool. But please do
not add our first line to a previously published
story and submit it to us. We do not accept previously
published stories, even if they have been repurposed
for our first lines.
if you used one of our past first lines for a story
that was published in another journal or magazine,
write and tell us about it.
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
All poems must be written with the first line provided.
The sentence can be broken across lines, but the punctuation
cannot be altered or dropped. Poem length is up to the
Submissions: 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 or poems for the same 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 or links to Google
docs. Make sure you tell us what issue you are submitting
to in the email Subject Line. 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
We don't make decisions about stories until after each
issue closes. We typically send notices out within three
to four 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