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.

Submissions now open

While still spreading the word about Issue 6, we are also looking to the future – Submissions for Issue 7 are open now! Here are the facts you need if you want to get involved:

WHEN: Sunday 29th May until Saturday 11th June

WHAT: Short stories (under 2000 words) and flash fiction


The loose theme for this issue is ‘Dark/Light’. There will also be our usual flash fiction challenge, with a maximum 400 words based on this visual prompt by illustrator Rondie Li:

We are only open for two weeks this time so don’t hang around. Submissions will open until 11th June and we are only accepting short stories and flash fiction; we received so much great poetry for Issue 6, we felt that some had to be carried forward to this issue.

If you haven’t already done so, check out the newly published ‘Secrets’ edition. Not only a great read, it will also show you the kind of writing that captures our interest for the next submission round.

We can’t wait to see what Issue 7 will hold.

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?

Announcing our Pushcart Prize nominations


Last year, we just missed the nomination window for the Pushcart Prize and we were kicking ourselves for weeks! This year, we managed to submit our nominations just before the deadline.

In case you haven’t heard of the Pushcart Prize before, it celebrates the work published by small presses and independent magazines in the current year (so for us that means Issue 4 & 5) and prints the winners in a yearly anthology. We wanted to take part because it gives a few of our authors the chance for the acclaim and recognition we think they deserve.

Each publisher is permitted six nominations and we found it extremely challenging to narrow ours down, especially because we have the honour of publishing work of such a high standard. We tried to select a mixture of styles and favourites from different team members. So, without further ado, our nominations for the next Pushcart Prize are:

  • Marie Peach-Geraghty – ‘The Pigeon Problem’ (Issue 4)
  • Christopher Swiedler – ‘Orion, the Hunter’ (Issue 4)
  • Damon King – ‘Eight Across’ (Issue 4)
  • Robert Ford – ‘Heart-shaped’ (Issue 5)
  • Die Booth – ‘Things the sea brings us’ (Issue 5)
  • Sue Wilsea – ‘View from the Top’ (Issue 5)

Psst… If you want the chance to be published in our next issue and perhaps be nominated next year, our submissions open on Dec 17th!

Firewords 2015 Survey

Have an opinion? Of course you do! We would love to hear your thoughts about our magazine. If you own a copy or have ever submitted writing (or both!), have your say and shape the future of Firewords in our survey. Every participant will receive a complimentary digital copy of the magazine as a thanks and a chance to win a free print copy.

 Update: the survey is now closed. Thank you for all the responses!




Firewords is nominated for a Stack Award!


If you’re a fan of magazines yet haven’t heard of Stack, you should really check it out. Stack selects the best independent magazines and delivers a surprise mag to its subscribers every month. Earlier this year, the news that Stack was starting an awards scheme aimed purely at independent magazines was very exciting… and even more exciting was finding out that Firewords had been shortlisted in the ‘Best Original Fiction’ category. Yay!

Here are the awards explained by Stack founder, Steve Watson…

Independent publishers make some of the world’s most exciting and inspiring magazines, but come awards time they’re virtually invisible. The Stack Awards 2015 is our attempt to put that right; an awards scheme made specifically for independent magazines, recognising the best work done by independent publishers and their contributors between October 2014 and September 2015.

The big awards ceremony is on Monday 30th November in London, so wish us luck! To be honest, we aren’t expecting a win because the competition is so strong but just being shortlisted is a huge honour. The other five shortlisted magazines in the ‘Best Original Fiction’ (as well as those in all the other categories) are fantastic, so whichever mag picks up the award will be a worthy winner.

Long live indie mags!

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.

Inspired by Frozen? Back Away From Your Computer Slowly.

Do you have a wee girl or boy at home who likes to fling their arms around wildly while singing about letting go? Did you get cabin fever over the festive period, stuck in a house with little sisters or grandchildren playing the movie on repeat?

Ok, perhaps we set ourselves up for this one when we introduced a Winter theme for Issue 4, but still, we were amazed by the number of submissions received (of all genres) that touched on the plot of Frozen. Perhaps Disney has punctuated this movie with subliminal messages encouraging its audience to go away and write, although all we noticed was a rather perturbed looking reindeer.

Let’s face it, with such an array of writers out there, it is almost impossible to come up an idea that is original in the truest sense of the word. It can be a great writing tool to use the world around us as inspiration, and often the created world will sneak in. The problem comes when the idea being coined in fact comes from a source that is both memorable and iconic. Touching-things-that-turn-to-ice is right up there with vampires-that-shimmer-in-the-sun. We can borrow and tweak within reason, but some things are off limits.

Ironically, Frozen itself took inspiration from the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Snow Queen. Could you spot the resemblances in the finished movie? Probably not. The professionals went in, pulled the plot apart and left us with something markedly different. So next time you are inspired and feel creativity fluttering in your belly like a bluebottle against a window, stop and think. What makes your piece different to others that come before it? And is this difference enough?

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.)