The First Line

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The First Line (ISSN: 1525-9382) is an American literary magazine founded in 1999 by David LaBounty, Robin LaBounty, and Jeff Adams. It is a quarterly journal based in Plano, Texas. The premise of the magazine is simple: each story begins with the same first line.


When The First Line debuted, the lit-zine was more zine than mag. It was six to eight sheets of 8 ½ by 14 paper folded in half and stapled with a color cover (10 pt stock). The six-times-a-year publication accepted stories that were no longer than one page (about 600 words). Typical issues were 20 pages and carried 14-16 stories. The First Line stayed zinish for the first three years, and contributors were paid two issues for their stories.

In 2002, the magazine became more standard: 8 ¼ by 5 ½ size and perfect bound. Published quarterly, it averages 64 pages an issue. The logo was also changed, as were the cover (classic typewriter) and submission word count (up to 3,000 words). TFL also instituted a pay scale for its contributors.

In 2003, David debuted a new press (Blue Cubicle Press) and released their first anthology: The Best of The First Line: The First Three Years, a collection of favorite stories published during the zine years.

In 2006, Jeff left The First Line to concentrate on his writing and other ventures. And in 2008, Blue Cubicle Press released the second TFL anthology to commemorate Jeff’s departure, The Best of The First Line: Editors’ Picks: 2002 – 2006.


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 the best short stories stemming from a common first line, with no restrictions on genre, style, or school of thought. It’s an exercise in creativity for writers, and a chance for readers to see how many different directions writers can go when they start from the same place. The First Line also provides a forum for discussing favorite lines in literature through academic or personal essays.

Most of the first lines are created by the editors. Every two or three years TFL holds a contest where readers submit possible first lines, and a few are chosen for publication.

Although the majority of authors are from the United States, TFL has published authors from Australia, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, India, Italy, and South Africa, as well as Canada and the UK.

External Links

The First Line

Blue Cubicle Press