behind the scenes

Artist interview: The secrets behind the cover of Issue 10

Artist interview: The secrets behind the cover of Issue 10

We wanted something special for the cover of our 10th issue (copies still available here) and with the theme of ‘Curiosity’ we know Guillermo Ortego was the man for the job. We’ve worked with Guillermo on several illustrations for Firewords in the past and we were always impressed by the care he puts into his conceptual thinking as well as his craft. The amazing wraparound cover he created for Issue 10 is below and in this guest post he shares some of the details you may have missed…

Double figure milestones

With Issue 10 being a big milestone for us, we took the opportunity to look back at the Firewords story so far. We've done the maths and totalled up a few fun stats of our 10 issues...

  • We've collaborated with 129 artists, illustrators, photographers and hand-letterers. All have been unique, talented and a joy to work with.

  • We've had the huge pleasure of being able to publish 200 writers over the years (and some multiple times!) It means so much that they all chose Firewords as a home for their work and the magazine wouldn't exist without them.

  • Working out the exact number of submissions is hard as many include several pieces (especially with poetry) but 5500+ submissions is a close estimate! It's hard to believe we've read so many stories and poems over the years. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to send some work our way.

  • We read submissions blind so gender isn't a consideration when choosing what to publish but we were happy to calculate that we've published a fairly balanced split so far with 55% female and 45% male. (These stats don’t include those who identify as neither male or female or those who didn’t state their gender when submitting) Publishing a diverse mix of voices is so important to us.

  • We love the global nature of this project and feel very honoured to have received submissions from 89 countries around the world 🌎

Thank you to everyone who has helped us reach this milestone and here’s to many more to come.

We will soon be opening submissions for Issue 11 (Wednesday 19th December), so if you’d like to be part of the story going forwards, why not send something our way?

The Design of Firewords – Case Study #3

The Design of Firewords – Case Study #3

Guillermo Ortego & his artwork in Issue 6

In this feature, we look at the design of Firewords more closely. This series of blogs will allow us to meet some of the creative talent we’ve worked with and find out why they made the design decisions that they did.

Meet Guillermo Ortego, an illustrator originally from Madrid, who took on the challenge of illustrating the short story 'Fuel' by Shirley Golden in Issue 6. The thought that went into his artwork and how well it represented the story made him the ideal candidate to answer some of our questions about his process.

The Mystery of the Missing Poem

If you were an eagle-eyed reader of Issue 6, you may have noticed an error on page 8: A poem has been attributed to Cody A. Conklin but the poem fails to appear in the magazine!

Well done if you were one of the few who recognised the printing mistake. We would love to blame the ‘Secrets’ theme of Issue 6 for the mysterious omission but, in fact, it is our fault and should have been picked up during the proofing stage. That said, we are happy and excited to report that the poem will be published in Issue 7. It will join many other strong poems that have been carried forward from the last submission round, thanks to the numerous high-calibre pieces which were received.

Cody has been most gracious in accepting our apologies. We cannot wait to share his poem with all our readers and are thrilled to be currently looking for the short stories that will accompany it.

This calls for a blog post on not beating yourself up after making a mistake - watch this space!

The artwork above is by Linda Yan, which was created to accompany Cody's poem as well as one by Steven E. Gonzales.

The artwork above is by Linda Yan, which was created to accompany Cody's poem as well as one by Steven E. Gonzales.

The Design of Firewords – Case Study #2

The Design of Firewords – Case Study #2

Christina Chung & the cover artwork for Issue 5

In this feature, we look at the design of Firewords more closely. This series of blogs will allow us to meet some of the creative talent we’ve worked with and find out why they made the design decisions that they did.

All the visuals and illustrations in the magazine are important to us, but one element has the most prominence and comes with extra responsibility: the cover artwork. This is the first thing people see on the shelves. Despite the famous saying, many people do judge a book by its cover! We aim for our covers to be eye-catching, hint at the theme of the issue and provide an enticing promise of what is to be found within the pages. 

Meet the Team: Jen Scott, Associate Editor

Meet the Team: Jen Scott, Associate Editor

In this series of blogs we meet the team who bring you Firewords. Next up is our second in command, Jen. (Interview by Dan Burgess, Editor.)

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Well, I’m an editor and English teacher, but I find my life outside of work is far more important. This involves many distinct areas of Firewords, as well as travelling regularly and writing; all the things that truly make me who I am. On that note, I am an aunt now and am absolutely loving it! Family, friendship and creativity mean the most to me, that’s for sure.

You’ve had a pretty life-changing year (which people can read about in your previous blog post). How are you feeling now?

Meet the Team: Mike Wolfson, Assistant Editor

Meet the Team: Mike Wolfson, Assistant Editor

In this series of blogs we meet the team who bring you Firewords. Next up is our Assistant Editor, Mike. (Interview by Dan Burgess, Editor.)

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Eek, did I say I wanted to do this interview? Ha ha - I’m one of those private individuals that hates talking about themselves. That’s partly why I hide behind the pen name M. J. Wolfson. Very few people know that the real me leads a double life and I write fiction.

M. J. Wolfson came into being circa 2008. Before 2008 I was an occasional scribbler. I’d write down ideas for stories, and sometimes I’d start writing them but I’d never finish them. Confidence was always the killer. I used to go through months where I’d supress the urge to write. Why was I thinking about writing? Me, a writer, who was I kidding? Each time I gave up I’d start to get a little bit down, a little bit grumpy, and a little bit moody. I realised that the only way to shift those blues was to write. So M. J. Wolfson was born along with a conviction to not give up and to take writing seriously.

What happened to Firewords?

An explanation by Jen Scott, Associate Editor

Our regular readers will have noticed a sizeable gap between Issue 4 and what is now the beginning of Issue 5. A small break in our publishing schedule was already planned because half of the editorial team was relocating to Toronto. However, a particular event has turned our world upside down and it is one we feel is important to share.

During my first few weeks in this stunning new country I was involved in an accident that was extremely severe and life-threatening, and which I may never have fully recovered from; I was hit by a 4x4 truck (at a set of traffic lights where I was following the ‘walking man’ to cross the road). Unfortunately, the driver turned the corner when he shouldn’t have and didn’t see me crossing.

Sitting now, writing this, it is impossible to capture the feeling of missing three weeks of my life completely. My family have told me about these weeks in an intensive care unit at an extremely efficient and caring hospital. However, I do remember the weeks when I was moved to a two-person ward and slowly came to realise what had happened. My parents had arrived quickly from Scotland and, each night, either they or my fiance would stay at the hospital to keep an eye on me - something which I believe has greatly contributed to the speed and extent of my recovery. A bonus was certainly when my brother also managed to fly over and stay for a few nights!

Whatever the reasons for my progress, or incredible luck, I am now an outpatient receiving rehabilitation treatment and, while I await a further operation, myself and all the Firewords team are eager to get Issue 5 moving again. Therefore, it is with great excitement that we are announcing that submissions will open on August 1st and close on August 28th. The theme of this issue is Change, something that we were interested in before but, post-accident, has acquired even more significance for us.

So, if your creative juices are flowing, we look forward to hearing from you in a couple of weeks. I cannot wait for the absolute joy of reading original and inspirational creative writing from around the world. Thank you all again for your patience and understanding during this difficult time.

Meet the Team: Dan Burgess, Editor

Meet the Team: Dan Burgess, Editor

In this series of blogs we meet the team who bring you Firewords, starting with our Editor-in-Chief, Dan Burgess. (Interview by Jen Scott, Associate Editor.)

Dan Burgess is a name many of you will be familiar with. Although I work with him daily, he can be a fairly reticent character (sorry, Dan). Now this is my chance to interrogate question him – bearing in mind that he’ll get his own back later when it’s my turn to be interviewed!

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hello! I’m originally from Yorkshire but have lived all over the place. I find it hard to stay still. Currently I’m in Newcastle but will be moving to Toronto, Canada, next month. My day job is as a graphic designer, which means I solve problems visually, whether that be branding for a company, print design or even some screen based stuff. It’s a fun job that is different every single day, which is why I love it. Firewords fits in at all other times: before work in the early hours, after work and at weekends. It’s pretty all consuming but is definitely worth it.

The Design of Firewords – Case Study #1

The Design of Firewords – Case Study #1

Sarah Dayan & The Old Garden of the Alcazar

At the heart of Firewords is our commitment to design. Once the frenzy of a submission period is over, in come our illustrators and artists to do their magic and ensure the whole publication is instantaneously attention-grabbing.

In a new feature, we are going to start looking at design more closely. This series of blogs will allow us to meet some of the creative talent we’ve worked with and find out why they made the design decisions that they (thankfully) did, and how they felt they enhanced the piece of writing they were given.

First up is Sarah Dayan, a hand-letterer from France who has so far contributed to Issue 1 and Issue 3 with her amazing lettering skills. In her own words, Sarah takes us through her decision making process as she worked on a lettering piece for the short story ‘The Old Garden of the Alcazar’, by Rachael de Moravia, which can be seen in Issue 3 (you can grab a digital copy from our store.)