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 What tips would you give unpublished writers who are trying to get their first story published in a magazine?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