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Lit Mag Spotlight: The First Line

The First LineMeet The First Line, the self-proclaimed “writer’s journal for readers”! The First Line is an awesome, original journal that publishes entire issues of works that begin with the same line. We love the idea of giving writers a prompt to invigorate their creativity! Don’t you want to pick up an issue to see all the different places that the curious minds of writers can go even though they’ve started in the same way?

CONTEST! Leave a comment by March 1 to enter to win a free one-year print subscription to The First Line! This contest is now closed. Congratulations to Topher, our winner. Thank you to all who participated!

Special Discount for Friends of WR! If you buy a one-year print subscription between now and March 31, you can get another one-year subscription for a friend for free!

1.  Give us the lowdown on your journal’s mission.

The purpose of The First Line is to jump-start the imagination—to help writers break through the block that is the blank page. Each issue contains short stories that stem from a common first line; it also provides a forum for discussing favorite first lines in literature. The First Line is an exercise in creativity for writers and a chance for readers to see how many different directions we can take when we start from the same place.

2.  Describe your ideal submission in 15 words or less.

An engaging story that takes us in a direction we hadn’t anticipated.

3.  Tell us about a piece you recently published that got the staff really excited. Why did you love it? Why did it strike a chord?

All of the stories we publish excite us in one way or another (that’s like asking us which child we like best—it’s our daughter, by the way). Sometimes we are moved by a character or the way a writer weaves the perfect plot or how the language of a piece is simply inspiring. Other times, we get excited by something that just makes us laugh.

4.  Regarding submissions: What’s the most common turn-off that you encounter (in terms of craft)?

Someone who doesn’t take us or their writing seriously.

Submit to Review Board

5.  What’s the most common oversight (in terms of submission guidelines)?

Altering the first line. Call me Ishmael. is not the same as “Call me Ishmael.” is not the same as “Call me, Ishmael.”

6.  Why is your journal awesome?

We encourage writers to write what they want to read. If you are too busy writing what you think editors want to read, then your work will feel forced. We like to think of TFL as a writer’s journal for readers.

7.  Where can readers find your submission guidelines?

Our guidelines can be found here.

8.  Is it true that The First Line is the longest-running, continually published independent print quarterly journal (based in Texas) in the world?

Yes; in fact, it is.
Writer QuestionsLeave a comment by March 1st and enter to win a free one-year print subscription to The First Line. This contest is now closed.

25 Responses to Lit Mag Spotlight: The First Line

  1. I think this is a great idea. I would love to participate in your first-liners and my 20-year old son who is an English major at UAB would be great for your magazine as he’s already had several flash stories published in on-line magazines. I’d love to win this contest.

  2. My writing has taken a back seat for several years, with health and other issues consuming most of my wits and energy. I am just getting motivated again, and I appreciate any resources that get me excited about the power of words.

  3. I have written a whole novel from scenes I wrote using prompts during my writing group sessions. And yes, the opening scene is the result of a writing prompt.

  4. First lines fascinate me! I would love to read a magazine where all the stories start with the same first line.

  5. In the past year I have made serious strides toward realizing writing dreams which have been alive within my heart since I was a young child. I would love to win this contest.

  6. This is a great idea! I’d like to get in on some of the first-liners, and my son who is a 20-year-old English major at UAB would especially be a good candidate for submissions; he has already had several flash-stories published in on-line magazines.

  7. When (if) I open the mailbox to find my first copy of The First Line, I will drop the phone and utility bills, hurdle my Schnauzer, grab my booklight from the end table and burrow into the couch to read. Or maybe I’ll open it slowly to inhale the aroma of fresh print and ideas as I walk into the house. Or maybe… well, you get the idea. However the stories unfold, I’d be honored to enjoy and learn from The First Line. Thanks for considering me.

  8. Our Writer’s group had fun using the First Line prompt to see how differently each member chose to use the first line. Great fun!

  9. Found this on my twitter feed. I’ve seen magazines and books do this idea, but never a regularly pointing magazine. A very nice spin on an old concept! I’ll have to look for it in the future!

  10. This reminds me of an exercise my seventh grade English teacher had us do, called “Short Story Starters” where he’d write one line on the board and we all had to write short stories about it…It really was crazy to see how different the stories were. I’d love to read even just one issue of TFL for that same reason! I’m crossing my fingers!

  11. I am so excited to have this chance along with other aspiring writers to win an issue from TFL. This magazine is quite unique in what it offers to all writers, especially the opportunity to read a varied number of directions taken from the same beginning. I also welcome this challenge to stir the pot of imagination I haven’t yet explored. I can’t wait!

  12. TFL published one of my short stories in Spring 2011–great people, great publication, fabulous to work with, and so interesting to read the different directions the stories move after sharing an origin.

  13. As an aspiring writer, it’s such a great help to have magazines like this around. I look forward to submitting and reading some great stuff, here.

  14. Rarely do I need– let alone use– a writing prompt, but this publication has stimulated me enough to use it and submit from it. What a kewl diversity of material it inspires and accepts. Plus, the fact it pays its accepted writers makes this a stupendous lit mag.

    Thanks for the links to previous material. Reading the content makes me feel like I’m at the threshold of a maze designed by Virginia Woolf.

    In D.E. Fredd’s “The Old-Fashioned Sunday Dinner Gambit”, my favorite line was “when the Republicans did away with home delivery altogether.” It came out of nowhere! On another note, seeing the Jewish tradition of match-making from this perspective, from a character-driven point of view, adds to the ethos, and therefore we readers invest in the story more. The occasional humor and deft use of pacing also help us get from The First Line to the last, plot-twisting line.

    I’d love to win the subscription to TFL!

    Nichole L. Reber


  15. I love magazines like this with writing prompts. I know if I’m told I can write “anything” that it usually takes me much longer than if I have to write about a specific something. I’ve been away from writing fiction for awhile. This would be a good way to jump back in!

  16. Hello!

    I follow you on Facebook and would love to win a free subscription to your literary magazine. It would be a quarterly inspiration for me to be able to read the varied works of other authors – all of which happen to begin with the same line.

    This would be epecially gratifying since we, as writers, all start from the same place: the blank screen/page.

  17. I LOVE this idea!!! And am jazzed about looking at this mag because it seems like it could be really insightful into how the creative mind works…all the different associations and meanings and directions that the same starting point can yield.

    What is the current first line? Can you give us a hint?

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