love 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 three
to four 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.
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. And, just to be clear, we do not accept
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 sense.
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 website, as well as
in the prior issue. Note: We are open to all genres.
We try to make TFL as eclectic as possible.
We do accept poetry, though rarely. We have no restrictions
on form or line count, but all poems must begin with
the first line provided. The line cannot be altered
in any way.
500-800 word critical essays about your favorite first
line from a literary work.
Submissions: Writers should include a two- to
three-sentence biography of themselves that we can
use in the journal should your story, poem, or essay
Submissions: We don't mind if you want to submit
multiple submissions for the same issue. However,
it is unlikely we will use more than one of your stories
or poems 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 (five parts, if
you are brave enough to include the last
line). However, all 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 email 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 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
Darryl slid three quarters into the vending machine
and weighed his options.
Due date: February 1, 2021
Lena was raised on violin lessons and minimal parental
Due date: May 1, 2021
"What should we do with the body?"
Due date: August 1, 2021
Later that evening, they sat alone in their apartment,
wondering if they had made the right decision.
Due date: November 1, 2021
We don't make decisions about submissions until after
each issue closes. We typically send notices out within
three to four weeks after the issue's deadline to
everyone who submitted. You can also check the website's
home page for each issue's production status.