Firewords Quarterly Issue 4 is hot off the press!

Firewords Quarterly Issue 4

Issue 4 of Firewords Quarterly is here.

Hi ShortStops! Like a mother bird proudly and hesitantly nudging its baby from the nest, we are thrilled to release Issue 4 of Firewords into the world. As always, it features a smorgasbord of short fiction, flash fiction and poetry, all enhanced by an esteemed line-up of talented artists. Take a closer look!

Firewords Quarterly Issue 4

In other Firewords news:

Firewords About Us
Want to meet the people behind Firewords? Our website finally has an About page – it’s only taken us a year!
Want to know more about us? We’ve got a series of Meet the Team interviews coming to the blog. First up, a chat with our editor, Dan.
Our hugely popular back issue bundles are back in the online shop with limited stock. Don’t miss your chance to catch up on Issues 1, 2 and 3.

Firewords Issue 4 - Pluggin Leaks
Firewords Issue 4 - Apocalypse

The Writing Maps February Writing Contest: Bicycles

Patti Smith and her bicycle in the Meatpacking District, New York City, 1999. Photograph by Steven Sebring.This is the last contest to qualify for Issue 2 of The A3 Review, due out next month (March 2015).

The prompt for February’s Writing Contest is: Bicycles. The story of your favourite bike; a memorable bike ride; teaching someone to ride a bike; a road trip; bicycles in strange places; bicycle accidents; fixing a bike; a meditation on parts of a bike (frame, brakes, chains, etc); bicycles and suffragists; bike, bicycle, cycle, racing bikes, mountain bikes, Choppers, tandems, portable scooter quarter pipes. Write about bikes as a poem, or in the form of a short story, a graphic story or a snippet of memoir. Fiction or autobiography, SF or mis mem, erotic or academic. Think bike shops, hectic cities, cycle paths, and the open road! Maximum 150 words.

For cycle-writing inspiration, visit us on Twitter throughout the week. Check out some writers and their bikes here.

Please make sure to view our full guidelines here. In brief, the main rules are:

Entry is free. One entry per person.
All genres welcome. All writers welcome.
150 words max.
Deadline is 28 February 2015, which is just a few days from now.
The two winning entries will be published next month (March) in The A3 Review, the Writing Maps Journal. Winners will also receive copies of the 3 City Writing Maps: City of Inspiration, Writing People, and Writing the Love.
Submit your writing through Submittable, here.Good luck and good writing!

image: Patti Smith and her bicycle in the Meatpacking District, New York City, 1999. Photograph by Steven Sebring.

Octavius relaunches

Octavius has relaunched with a new look and a new ethos – you no longer have to be a student in Scotland to submit.

We now invite submissions of up to 1000 words of fiction or 30 lines of poetry.

Submissions should be attached to an email and sent to
In the subject line please include your name and the genre of writing (eg, John Rackham – poetry / Anne Bonny – prose).

We like to support our writers and while we are unable to pay for published work we like to share websites, social media profiles, and any other bits of jetsam you float our way.

Happy sailing.

Shooter Literary Magazine Issue #2: Union

While we’re preparing to distribute Issue #1 of Shooter Literary Magazine, we thought we’d get the ball rolling on submissions for Issue #2 and announce the theme, which will be Union.

After fielding stories and poetry that focused heavily on violent actions, death, destruction and difficult dilemmas in response to the first issue’s theme, we wanted to go in the opposite direction for Issue #2 and invite work that contemplates forces and situations that bring people together.

Short fiction, non-fiction and poetry should concern relationships, sex, marriage, romance, connection, bonding, forging disparate elements into a whole, bringing together different political/religious/social groups, and anything else that relates to the theme of Union. The theme can be interpreted either literally or metaphorically, and work that goes beyond the literal connotations of the theme to explore abstract concepts is very welcome. We are open to all genres, but writing should be of a literary standard, with an engaging story and distinctive style. Poetry that inclines to the observational, rather than experimental, end of the spectrum is preferred.

We seek relevant illustrations for cover art as well as the literary content. The deadline is April 1st. For guidelines and information on how to submit, please visit Shooter’s submissions page.

Firewords is now accepting submissions for Issue 4…

Issue 4 is coming…

As things begin to wind down for Christmas (yeah right!), now might be the perfect time to spend some time on yourself and your writing. Submissions for Issue 4 of Firewords are open until January 9th for short stories (under 2000 words) and poetry. So, if your New Year’s resolution is ‘to get published in 2015’, here is your chance!

Our flash fiction challenge is also back and the best ones will be published in Issue 4. All the flash fiction stories must be under 400 words, and must include / be inspired by the following prompt: “When the snow finally stopped falling…”

Check out our submission guidelines for more details. We can’t wait to read (and hopefully publish) your work!

Still looking for the perfect gift for the short story fan in your life?

It may be Christmas day, but our Christmas bundles still make a lovely late gift or treat for yourself over the festive period. The bundles include all three Firewords issues, a hand-stamped bookmark and a blank gift tag. They come all wrapped up in festive ribbon and only cost £11 (with free UK delivery.) This is your last chance to get one of these, so don’t miss out!

Firewords Bundle

Have a great Christmas ShortStoppers and we will see you in early 2015 with Issue 4.

Firewords Issue 3 is here!

Firewords Issue 3

Hi there ShortStops! Hot off the press, the newest issue of Firewords features stories about life, love and letting go, as well as the usual striking visuals created by an array of talented illustrators, photographers and designers.

The new look of Issue 2 gained a wonderful reaction and this has encouraged us to retain the perfect-bound format which really does maximize the impact of the artistry inside. We are learning alongside the growth of the magazine, and are sure that Issue 3 is our best one yet! Get yourself a copy and let us know if you agree.

Also available in our brand new shop: The much requested subscriptions are back and we have special Christmas bundles for sale – only £11 with free UK delivery! Stocking filler anyone?

P.S. Submissions for Issue 4 will be opening in early December, so keep your eyes peeled!

Firewords Christmas Bundles

Firewords Issue 3

Firewords Issue 3

Firewords Quarterly Issue 3 – Submissions open until 3rd Oct

Would you love to see your writing shine among the pages of Firewords Quarterly? Submissions for our Autumn edition are open until the start of October – so don’t delay if you want to get your short story or poem in for consideration.

Remember, we work with the best artists, illustrators, photographers, hand-letterers and designers to bring each piece of writing we publish to life – so what are you waiting for?

  • Deadline: 3rd October
  • Word Count: Under 2000
  • Theme: Autumn / Fall (this is optional and we would recommend not taking the theme too literally)
  • How to submit: Click here!

We’re also running our flash fiction challenge again and the best ones will  be published in Issue 3. All the  flash fiction stories must be under 400 words, and must include / be inspired by the following prompt: “She regretted it instantly,
but it was too late.”

Check out our submission guidelines for more details. We can’t wait to read (and hopefully publish) your work!

Writing Maps Launches New Lit Mag and September Contest

This month’s Writing Maps Writing Contest coincides with the official launch of the new Writing Maps lit mag, The A3 Review. Read more about the lit mag and order a copy by clicking here.

The prompt for September’s Writing Contest is: Write about something happening for the first time. Tasting something for the first time, doing something for the first time, going somewhere for the first time. Start with the words “The first time…” You can write this as a short story, a graphic story, a snippet of memoir, a poem, or a prose poem. Fiction or autobiography, SF or mis mem, erotic or academic. In 150 words.

NOTE: You must start with the words “The first time…” Be creative, outrageous, think small and intimate (“The first time we…”), think intergalactic (“The first time they landed on…”), think biography (“The first time Virginia Woolf…”), think beyond the expected (“The first time before the first time…”).

Please make sure to view our full guidelines here or on the Writing Maps website by clicking here. In brief, the main rules are:

Entry is free. One entry per person. All genres welcome. All writers welcome. 150 words max.

Deadline is 27 September 2014.
The two winning entries will be published in The A3 Review, Issue #2. Winners will also receive a copy of The A3 Review, Issue #1 and the new Write Around JW3 Writing Map.
Good luck and good writing!

Firewords Quarterly Issue 2 – Out now!

Firewords Issue 2

Like the long-awaited first rays of summer sun, the ‘Summer’ themed edition of Firewords Quarterly has arrived with a bang and, if we do say so ourselves, it’s a real literary and visual treat.

The call for submissions for Issue 2 was hugely successful, in both quantity and quality. In fact, we have increased the page count from 32 to 48 to accommodate as much exceptional writing as possible. As well as having much more content, we have moved away from the newsprint and embraced a perfect-bound, paperback format. This is to ensure the amazing writing and stunning artwork inside are shown to their full potential.

While implementing these changes, we have worked hard to ensure that the essence of Firewords Quarterly has remained unaltered. We pride ourselves in creating a publication that is full of powerful short fiction and poetry that is enhanced by artwork and illustrations by some amazing artistic talent. So slap on some sun cream, grab your sunglasses and feast your eyes on Issue 2.

Firewords Issue 2 - Marbles

Submissions for Firewords Quarterly Issue 2 open until July 11th!

We’re thrilled to again open our doors for submissions of short stories (under 2000 words) and poetry for the second edition of Firewords Quarterly.

Issue One received a great response (you can see a few photos on our ShortStops page or on our website) and we’re eager to make Issue Two even better. We work with the best artists, illustrators, photographers, hand-letterers and designers to bring each piece of writing we publish to life. So, if you’d like your work to get the Firewords treatment, what are you waiting for?

  • Deadline: 11th July
  • Word Count: Under 2000
  • Theme: Summer (this is optional and we would recommend not taking the theme too literally)
  • How to submit: Click here!

We’re also running a flash fiction challenge and the best ones will  be published in Issue 2. All the  flash fiction stories must be under 400 words, and must include / be inspired by the following prompt: “As the lights went out, everything changed.”

Check out our submission guidelines for more details. We can’t wait to read (and hopefully publish) your work!

Firewords Issue 1

Call for submissions – Here Comes Everyone BOY/GIRL Issue


The BOY/GIRL Issue

Deadline 15/7/14

It’s submissions time again and for the next issue HCE has a real gem: gender, sex and identity in the Here Comes Everyone Boy/Girl Issue. We’re interested in anything that challenges or questions the nature of gender norms, sexual identity, cultural expectations of gender, and sexism.

As ever, we encourage inventive, explorative and original articles, artwork, fiction and poetry that wrestle with the theme.

Here are a few avenues of thought to get you started:

– What’s more important for gender identification, the mind or biology?
– How relevant is gender in today’s society?
– Will there ever be an age where people stop identifying themselves with their sexuality? A ‘post-sexuality’ age where identities and preferences are fluid and dynamic?
– What is it like to be between the supposedly binary gender states?
– Are femininity and masculinity mutually exclusive?
– Is art more interested in women than men?

See for full submission guidelines.

Please send your submissions to and any enquiries or pitches to


The Short Anthology – The First Issue


The Short Anthology‘s First Issue has launched.

Each issue of The Short Anthology will be a collection of short stories based on photography. The first issue used 8 photographs of the sea by Joe Coleman and had 6 writers create short stories based on one or a few of the photos. The stories are a very eclectic mixture, ranging from dystopian African sci-fi to a story about immigration and loneliness set in Dover, UK.

The writers are:

  • Dilman Dila, who was shortlisted for the 2013 Commonwealth Short Story Prize and is based in Uganda
  • Jonathan Kearnes, an MA graduate in Creative Writing based in London
  • Scott Morris, who was shortlisted for the 2013 White Review Short Story Prize and is Fiction Editor of The Literateur
  • Katherine Proctor, non-fiction editor of Should Does from North Carolina
  • Michael Salu, former artistic director of Granta Publications who has had his work published in various magazines
  • Matthew Sperling, a writer of poetry, fiction and criticism and a Leverhulme Trust research fellow at Reading University

The First Issue is available to buy here:


Manchester Review, Issue 12: Call for Submissions



Dear writers,

The Manchester Review is currently reading submissions for Issue 12. We’re seeking previously unpublished high-quality literary fiction with an upper word-limit of 6,000 and no restrictions on theme. Novel extracts are welcome, but they must function as stand-alone pieces. We’ll be reading through until mid-May. Have a look at our archives for inspiration: in the past we’ve featured Kevin Barry, Jennifer Egan and Martin Amis – maybe next time we’ll feature you!

The Editors

(Ian, John and Valerie)



Holdfast Print Anthology Call For Submissions



We are excited to announce our call for submissions for our first ever print anthology!

Deadline 15th June 2014


Holdfast is a free online speculative fiction magazine that explores all things fantastic.

Each issue of Holdfast is centred around a specific theme. For the anthology we are looking for fiction and non-fiction on all four themes from our first year:

Speculating on Speculative Women

Animals, Beasts and Creatures

Objects, Artefacts and Talismans

Diverse Reflections: Seeing Yourself in Speculative Fiction.

It has been an incredibly exciting six months for us at Holdfast. Issues 1&2 are out, and we have been overwhelmed by the support and encouragement that we have received from the speculative community, especially when it comes to our amazing contributors. One thing that has become increasingly clear is that if we want to offer even a small payment, (which, please believe me, is a major priority) we cannot rely on donations and advertising alone; we are going to have to rack our brains and actively make some money.

And so, we will be launching a Kickstarter over the summer, with the aim of producing an anthology compiling all the year’s themes. This will include some of the best fiction and non-fiction we have already published, but also a whole bunch of new stuff. And this is where you come in! We are now accepting submissions for short stories and articles from all four themes. These are listed above.

If you are submitting specifically for the anthology, please put ‘Anthology’ specifying the theme and submission type. For example: ‘Anthology, Animals Beasts and Creatures, Fiction.’ Send to

The deadline for submissions is June 15 2014.

The online issue deadlines still apply, so if you want to get your story into issue#3, Objects, Artefacts and Talismans, please still submit by the 31 May 2014 (all submissions will also be considered for the Anthology). However if you miss the issue#3 deadline, you will still have 15 days to submit to the Anthology deadline on the 15 June 2014. Additionally, if you miss the Anthology deadline, you will have until September 21 2014 to submit to Issue#4, Diverse Reflections: Seeing yourself in Speculative Fiction, for the online version.

And if we don’t make our Kickstarter target, we are determined to produce it as an ebook. So, either way, we will be showcasing your wonderful contributions.


(Stinging Fly) Editorial Statement: A Tingling Pleasure

by new editor of the Stinging Fly Thomas Morris

My attitude towards manifestos is the same as it is towards birthday parties: I like attending other people’s, but I’m not that keen on organising my own.

To carry the birthday metaphor a yard further (and a yard too far) I’ll say this: for a magazine editor, the submissions period is a bit like one long curious birthday. All the stories come tumbling in on a certain date(s), and so long as they remain unopened, each gift remains full of promise.

But this is where the metaphor comes a cropper: your stories shouldn’t be gifts especially designed for a particular editor. Your stories are something you’re giving the world (or at least the small part of the world that still reads short fiction). And while I enjoy receiving what I have asked for (a CD, a bear clad in a tweed jacket, a 2,500-word neat and tidy short story about love and loss), it’s always so much better to be blown away by a gift—some strange but perfect object—I never knew existed, but now, gleaming there in my hands, already seems utterly essential, appears to have always existed, and makes me wonder how I ever got by without it.

Of course, though, some gifts are double-edged: we give them to others because we want them for ourselves. And we need this initial excuse of the other person, the recipient, because we think to give a gift to one’s self is selfish and indulgent.

And this brings us to one of the big questions: for whom are we writing?

Which Brings Me To Two Points:

1. You have to be aware of how you’re being received (without getting hung up on it).

2. But you also have to trust your own taste. (And always be striving to broaden, improve, and surprise those tastes.)


Know Your Weapons

George Saunders compares writing a short story to trying to persuade a friend to stay, to not leave town. When you’re writing a story, Saunders asks, what weapons of persuasion do you have to keep the reader from turning away? For Saunders himself, it’s his humour and self-consciousness—he says he tries to keep his imaginary friend from boarding that train by firing out jokes and second-guessing all the reasons she might have for taking leave. For a story-writer like Mary Costello, meanwhile, the weapon of choice might be a startling insight, some stab that gets to the heart of how we all behave, of what it is her almost-departing friend really wants. For Colin Barrett, it might be a concession that, ‘Yes, friend, we’re all lonely—I’m lonely too, come back and be lonely with me…’

The artillery, then, can be as varied as the people wielding them. But as a writer, the trick is to get to know what your strengths are—and then harness them. Push them and hone them, get them working full tilt. But likewise, it’s important to know the effect of particular strategies: through emotional manipulation or melodrama, for example, you might persuade the friend to stay a while, but they’ll eventually grow tired and see your game for what it is. So, don’t talk down to them, don’t give them a half-hearted reason for staying around, and don’t spent time talking about the things that don’t matter—but likewise, suss out the mood, see what needs doing, what needs saying. Each friend and each train-station-chat requires a different approach.

Which Brings Me To Editing

Editing isn’t just cutting out a few words, or changing a few details, or re-aligning all the colours in your story for symbolic resonance. It’s about being really fucking harsh and asking if what you have on the page is the best you can do.

  • Is the way you’ve told this story the best (most meaningful, most fertile, most troubling) way to tell it?
  • Might it work better in the past tense?
  • Do you need that first paragraph?
  • What’s the latest point this story can begin?
  • Is the story actually interesting? (I can’t stress this one enough.)
  • Are you writing in a particular tone because you think it will afford you a certain ‘literary respect’? A tone that—were it a shirt—would be a little too tight or too baggy for you?
  • Is your writing true? (Not in the sense of ‘not a lie’, but is it, as Grace Paley said, ‘acutely felt’?)
  • Are the stakes high enough?
  • Is this a story you really need to tell?
  • And what about that ending? Are you giving the reader too much? Too little? (Every writer will at some point struggle with the problem of getting the volume of a story right—is it too loud, too obvious? Too subtle, too quiet? This is where the agonising of the words, details and the colours-as-symbolic-resonance bit is so important.)

Of course, what I’m talking about here is craft—technique, form—and the molding of form and content and theme, of having these things work in sync to carry the story’s concerns.

There are other things I could talk about, too, like stereotype and bad writing:

Men: look at your female characters—are they there merely to annoy or titillate your male characters?


Women: are your men unsympathetic voids concerned with work conferences and groping their tired partners in bed?


Everyone: are you older characters de-sexed, useless things that don’t understand technology or the world they live in?


—Is your protagonist a writer who deserves more acclaim?


— Does your character lie in bed not knowing what to do?


—Have you avoided or skipped over some detail in the narrative because it’s too fidgety and complicated? (Hint: complication is where you find verisimilitude.)

As a reader and writer of short stories, I have been to all these above towns and I can tell you they’re no good. (But, also, that there are at least twenty brilliant stories that start or situate themselves amongst the problems that rise in these locales. e.g. Kakfa’s ‘Metamorphosis’ is the best example of what to do with a character lying in bed. So, if you’re going to do any of these things, you’d better make sure the story is brilliant, that you de-trope the trope.)

But again, these problems of techniques and tropes aren’t the reason we, as readers, come to fiction. (Or are they? What do you come to fiction for? Do you want your writing to be doing the same things as the fiction you love reading? Do you even have control over what you write?) Consider why you come to stories—to read them and write them—and then hold yourself to the highest standards of those concerns. (I personally don’t care if they happen to be political, transcendental, spiritual, intellectual, aesthetic, comic, cosmic, cryptic or anything else ending in c or l — I just want (cliché alert) to read great stories.)

Some Points That Might Seem Obvious But Still Need To Be Made

  1. If you get bored by ‘plots’, don’t write ‘plots’.
  2. If you don’t like description, don’t write description.
  3. If you find third person annoying, don’t write in the third person.
  4. Don’t feel as if you have to tailor your work to fit the mould of what’s gone before.
  5. If your view of the world isn’t represented in fiction, it’s not because it isn’t valid—every view is valid (providing the writing is good)—so give it to us, and give it to us as best as you can make it.
  6. Etc

I’m not an art historian, and I haven’t read the literature on how and why Picasso went from painting these:

7aB0mad.jpg                  wJg9Zin.png

to painting these:

Mirm40D.jpg     Idxegtb.jpg

(there’s that bed again)

But I’m sure that part of Picasso’s development as an artist consisted in finding a way to convey what he wanted/needed to convey (I happen to think all four paintings are rather nice). And for anyone trying to write, that search for ideal form involves taking risks, and moving into territories that may be unfamiliar, or trying out approaches you didn’t know you had, or approaches you did know you had but didn’t know you were allowed to use—and letting yourself enter the state that Donald Barthelme described as ‘Not-Knowing’.

Do The Defining Yourself, Then Share It With Us (Please)

There are as many definitions of the short story as there are writers and critics of the short story. For example:

it’s a glimpse

it’s a photograph

it’s a form devoted to loneliness

it’s a weekend break

it’s best suited to explorations of Self

it’s about moments of change

it’s character-driven

it’s about paring everything down to its element

it’s about language

it’s concerned with moments of realisation

But while there are some loads—solely because of its length—that the form might struggle to bear, a short story can be whatever the fuck you want it to be. And it can do whatever the hell you can make it do. And you shouldn’t let anyone’s definition, least of all a magazine editor’s, stop you from making of it what you want—and need—to make of it.

So please, this March and beyond, be generous and send me a present. Be thoughtful, and make it as best as you can. But be as bloody selfish as you—and most importantly, the story—demands. You owe it to yourself and you owe it to the well from which we all draw such odd and tingling pleasure.

P.S. If you care about your presents, please don’t fold them four times and stuff them into a tiny envelope. A non-fancy A4 envelope will suffice. (And yes, at present, we’re still not accepting online submissions — but please be assured that we recycle all material that doesn’t get published. You can read the submission guidelines here.)