Hitting a handful of London bookshops way back in early 2011, Open Pen has just released its twentieth issue and can be found in bookshops around the country now. The free short fiction journal is stocked in over forty bookshops these days, as well as bars, pubs, cafes, universities and writers’ centres. It even has a stockist in Cuba.
Twenty issues of Open Pen has brought the magazine close to a hundred short stories from almost as many fiction writers. The red and black coloured issue sees Louisa Adjoa Parker, Dan Coxon, Jim Gibson, Jonnie McAloon, Katherine Orton, Simon Pinkerton, Elissa Soave, Dan Ayres, Gary W. Hartley, and Gerard McKeown join the fold. Their fiction is varied and yet bound together by their relevance, as has become a part of the identity of Open Pen. As always, regular contributor N Quentin Woolf is on hand to deliver the killer blow. that just leaves editor Sean Preston to deliver a nutshell report on the thrills and plentiful spills of the first twenty issues.
You can subscribe to Open Pen here, but why pay when you can get to a bookshop and get it for free? As has always been the mag’s hope, why not pick up a book whilst you’re there? Something different, something you wouldn’t usually go for. Something with bite. That’d make Open Pen happiest of all.
Three of the stories from Issue Twenty live online over on the mag’s website. Check out The Thursday Club by Elissa Soave, Handjob by Dan Ayres, and Of Course by Gary W. Hartley.
Here’s hoping there’s another twenty issues ahead.
To celebrate five years of Open Pen, and in association with publisher Limehouse Books, Open Pen magazine has released The Open Pen Anthology today, a lovely paperback collection of 26 short stories (that’s 13 stories from the Open Pen archive, alongside 13 new stories from each of those authors). As per every issue of Open Pen, the collection offers a real eclectic mix of fiction that is only ever similar in its menacing demeanour. Will Ashon, Peter Higgins, and Darren Lee, offer blackly comic tales that are in turns rich with flavour and anxiety inducing. Tasmania’s enfant terrible in Tadhg Muller returns with his maniacal prose. The foreword from How to Be a Public Author‘s Francis Plug (AKA Paul Ewen) describes the collection of stories as “like drinking absinthe over lager,” and that’s certainly true of Xanthi Barker’s stories old and new. They move at a nauseating pace, and do little to settle the stomach of the reader in their passing. That’s true too of the stories from Kate Ellis, Ben Byrne, Jo Gatford, and Max Sydney Smith. These young misfit writers care not for holding back, their stories are brutal, unflinching, honest, and absorbing. Open Pen is as known for the endemic humour of its published tales as much as anything else, so it’s great to see wit serve so prominently here. Mat Woolfenden writes with the earnest zeal of a tickle-obsessed uncle. His two pieces are an absolute riot, and should be heard live at an Open Pen launch if you get a chance to pop along. Ian Green is another such author with a grasp of the importance of humour to the short fiction form. Editor and founder of Open Pen Sean Preston once said that Green’s “Verve for humour is as apparent as any writer we’ve published, albeit understated and salted into narratives so poignant that you won’t believe how fresh-faced this Scotsman is.” Interestingly, you’ll also find Anna Harvey and James King in the pages of this anthology. Harvey and King are the first two cover authors of Open Pen. It’s testament to the affection Open Pen’s following carry for the magazine (that turns five years old this month) that Harvey and King are now permanent fixtures of the Open Pen team.
The paperback book, with its short stories segregated by microfiction from other Open Pen faces from the last five years, is more than just a collection of short fiction, it’s also a much larger story (a three-hundred plus page story): The story of Open Pen finding its feet, discovering itself, and growing in confidence as a purveyor of fiction that longtime contributor N Quentin Woolf called, “Unpretentious, edgy, and utterly readable.”
The Open Pen Anthology is available to buy for £9.99 at OpenPen.co.uk, or from an independent bookshop near you.
To celebrate five years of publishing up-and-coming writers, Open Pen are to publish an anthology of their favourite stories so far in a paperback collection befitting the style and splendour of their print magazine. Alongside those stories, the book will feature a new piece of fiction from each of the corresponding authors. There’s a kickstarter campaign launching soon to support the project. Those who pledge will receive the anthology (in paperback – you may have noticed they have a thing for paperbacks). Those who pledge higher amounts will be rewarded with various collections of impressive art and fiction from their writers and illustrators, including a one-off zine featuring 15 flash fiction stories (if you’re a writer you can submit to that here). The rewards include: the George Orwell Reward (£3), the Bronte Sisters Reward (£5), the Jane Austen Reward (£8), the E.M Foster Reward (£10), the Virginia Woolf Reward (£25), and the highest pledge of £50 will get you the Charles Dickens Reward: a foil-blocked box-set containing some very limited bits and bobs indeed.
The Open Pen Anthology – Paperback
Sean Preston, Editor of the magazine, said, “We’ve really enjoyed the last five years. It’s been such a privilege to work alongside some incredibly talented writers of fiction. It’s these writers that have made Open Pen what it is. It’s exciting to think we’ll have so many of them in one collection. It’s going to be a joy to read through, old stories and new.”
The Open Pen Anthology is scheduled for release in March 2015, and will be released simultaneously through Limehouse Books.
To pledge, visit: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/openpen/the-open-pen-anthology
Fully crowdfunded and landing in book form this Winter, the short story collection Islands and Cities is inviting writers to write about what they know when it comes to islands, and when it comes to cities. Over the last few months the Transportation website has seen London editor Sean Preston write about a coup in the Isle of Dogs (over two parts), Tasmanian editor Rachel Edwards on the first published Aussie book, a three-part love song to Tasmania by author John Bryson, Scott J Faulkner on arts consumership in Tasmania, a comment on the island that is Cuba, a short piece of fiction from American author Tom Badyna, as well as many others and more to come from authors selected for the short story collection itself.
N Quentin Woolf, Will Ashon, Ben Walter, Tadhg Muller, Susie Greenhill, and Adam Ouston are joined by new writers that were selected during a submission process. These writers include Ian Green, whose short story Audiophile was broadcast on BBC Radio 4. The story can be read here.
Transportation: Islands and Cities is set for release this Christmas and will be available to pre-order soon.
Transportation: A young ‘Islander’ and the boats of Tasmania.