What Questions would You ask the Editor of a Literary Magazine? #writing #fiction

Call for submissions First Line Magazine
The First Line Magazine

As part of my ongoing guest post series in this blog, Elaine Chiew recently answered questions on writing.  Today I’m pleased to welcome David LaBounty from The First Line Magazine.

The First Line Magazine’s motto is as simple as it is commendable:

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.

Feel free to leave your questions for David LaBounty in the comments section, and he might stop by to answer them.


1. What drives The First Line Magazine? What are your plans for its future?

I used to say we started TFL to stave off middle-class malaise, but now I’ve come to look at it as a source of cheap entertainment. I want to create an enjoyable collection of stories, so that when I go back and look at an issue in the future (be it five months or five years), I’ll still be proud to have paid for those stories.

Our plans for the future are simply to keep on keepin’ on.

  2. What do you look for in a story you accept for publication?

Something that makes me forget I am an editor reading a submission. Stories that can do that almost always find their way into TFL. However, I am also on the lookout for diamonds in the rough – stories that sparkle, but need a little polish to make perfect.

  3. What would you like to see more of in the submissions to your magazine, and what would you like to see less?

I completely understand when editors spell out types of submissions they don’t like to see, but it seems so limiting. (How do you really know what you want until you read it?) I’ll give an example: I can usually tell when someone has tacked our first line onto one of their existing stories, which, in the early days, annoyed me. But then I read a wonderful story that was in no way inspired by our first line. I called the writer on it, and he sheepishly admitted to the crime. Then I took his story and started a new literary journal with it.

We only have two rules: start your story with our first line and don’t change it in any way. Beyond that I am open to anything. Even stories I would never publish can be entertaining for me to read for other reasons.

A Character's Writer's Block?
Publishing Stories in a Literary Magazine

4. What tips would you give unpublished writers who are trying to get their first story published in a magazine?

Edit twice, submit once. Repeat (if rejected).

5.    Name 5 short stories that are your absolute favorite.

Stories I liked years ago, may or may not hold the same place in my heart today, and some I hated in my youth, speak to me now. Someone once asked me what my favorite song was of a band I love, and I answered: “The next one I hear.” My favorite short story is the one I read next that moves me.

6.    What was the last book/s you read? Would you recommend it to Daily (w)rite’s readers? Why or why not?

My book reading is just as eccentric as my short story tastes: plays, old Star Trek novels, baseball biographies, working-class mysteries – I also review books, so I am always receiving potential bestsellers to pass judgement on. I’ve recently, returned to my zining roots. There’s an unpolished passion in zining that still speaks to me, and I spend too much time swimming in hand-copied, saddle-stitched ephemera. I hesitate to make reading recommendations, unless I really know the person.

7.    What is your comment on the future of literary short stories and novels?

As long as people have the itch to write, and I don’t think that will ever go away, we’ll have plenty of short stories and novels to read. Who will read them? I have no idea.


David published my story in the last issue, and we spent a few emails back and forth discussing changes. It was one of the best editorial collaborations I’ve ever had– David’s suggestions were insightful, and he was very open to new changes I made, always able to see the vision of the story. I’ve read the other stories in the issue, all beginning with the same line. It was fascinating to see the directions in which various authors have taken the prompt: get yourself a copy to enjoy the different journeys.


The First Line Magazine submissions
David LaBounty

David LaBounty‘s name is attached to bad poetry, micro fiction, children’s stories and plays, and general interest articles for newspapers and magazines. He’s written stories for literary journals and essays for scholarly journals, and his book reviews have appeared in daily and weekly newspapers. When he isn’t filling zines with self-centered tripe, he edits and publishes Workers Write! and The First Line.

Dear readers, do you read literary magazines? Like short stories? Have you heard of The First Line Magazine? If you write, do you submit to literary magazines? Been published? Do you have questions for David LaBounty?
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I love comments, and I always visit back. Blogging is all about being a part of a community, and communities are about communication! Tweet me up @damyantig !


Add Yours
  1. JL0073

    Thanks so much. I definitely plan to check out TFL, read some short fiction, and perhaps try my hand at submitting a story. This was a very insightful interview. The toughest thing to deal with submissions are the rejections but it relieving to know that an editor can be flexible and even look to help authors who may be “diamonds in the rough.” For those of us who are still learning and honing our craft this is encouraging.

  2. Susan Scott

    Thanks Damyanti and David! I found it inspring! You (one) can always tell from the first sentence or paragraph whether there is a jewel hidden .. As I did with Damyanti’s book, a collection of short stories.

  3. cleemckenzie

    Good idea not to rule out any kind of submission, but only give general guidelines. Who knows when the next brilliant piece will be created in the very category you’re not interested in. It might be the one to pique your interest.

  4. Shom

    First-time poster.
    I think the questions were better than the answers. David did not reveal much about what works and does not work for him (even within the confines of ‘make me forget that I am editing this’) – but this is probably because he has, as he mentions, an eclectic taste. Which is a good thing. Which is a great thing. Does not translate well to interview answers, though.
    I will, though, take back these lines – “Edit twice, submit once. Repeat (if rejected).”
    Wise, wise words.

    • Damyanti

      Yes, and it includes sci-fi, Alex. The last issue, which included my story, had a delightful little scifi piece.

      The idea for TFL is to see how many directions a single prompt can go, which is why I suppose David is open to any genre at all.

  5. Archana Kapoor

    Loved the questions D, and enjoyed reading the post. Thanks for sharing…
    Do make time to read my latest post… to say thank you for your support 🙂 Cheers!

  6. Gargi Mehra

    Loving this series, Damyanti! Great interview. I am a big fan of TFL and have submitted to it. Though I didn’t get published David did provide me useful feedback.

  7. Avinash Gupta

    Thank you for sharing this. It is very informative. I also shared this article with few of my friends who are actively looking to get published in literary magazines.

  8. estyree

    Great interview! i know you (David) said that your reading is very eclectic, do you feel that a personal enjoyment of many different types of writing helps you when making selections for your magazine?

    If you HAD to choose a favorite genre for your personal enjoyment, something you naturally gravitate towards first, what would that be?

    • David LaBounty

      Hi, estryee – I do think liking many different types of writing helps with the mission of the journal. We want to see how many different directions writers take with our first lines, which is why we may reject a perfectly good story if there is an even better one that is similar. Or we may reject them both if there are too many just like them. I’m not a huge fan of horror (they are so hard to write well), but if the writing is great and pulls me through to the end, it’s probably got a spot in the issue.

      Water pistol to my head, I’d pick comic novels, crime in particular, as my go-to “make-me-happy” reads. (Westlake, McDonald, Moore, Pratchett . . . )

      • estyree

        I love reading those as well, though I can never seem to write them! (that’s probably the draw for reading them, now that I think about it.)
        I imagine the lines can go all over the place and really surprise a person. with the diversity.
        Thank you for answering. May the inspiration be ever in your favor.

  9. Russell J. Fellows

    I don’t read them as much as I should. The first story I had published was an online lit magazine called The Bohemian Alien. The care and help the editor extended to all of the writers was amazing. Sad to say it’s no longer running. Ran an online mag myself for a year, but I was trying to do too many things at the same time. Couldn’t keep up with the submissions and had to stop. Still enjoy reading a magazine now and then.