The Home of Open Literature



Editor Sean Preston catches up with Martin Appleby, the man behind Paper and Ink magazine.

Look out for more features on zines and journals throughout March on the Open Pen website.

badges pai



Dust Cover

Take a look at Paul Ostwald’s interview with Kenyan author Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, who discusses her new book and how it reflects a changing culture.

All You Read Is

All You Read Is

Open Pen Magazine will be running a series of free events this year, with out favourite up-and-coming writers performing in our favourite bookshops. This Thursday we’ve got writers previous published by Open Pen reading short fiction at All You Read Is Love, a pop-up bookshop in Leytonstone, East London. Drinks (hard and soft) will be available all night, as well as free copies of the most recent edition of Open Pen Magazine, Issue Thirteen. Get there by 7pm this Thursday, February 26th to make sure you get a good spot.


Here’s the Facebook event page, for those that want to let us know they’re coming.

Venue: All You Read is Love, 877 High Road Leytonstone, London

We’ve also got Tadhg Muller in attendance and reading from his story, The Reprieve, published recently in short story book Transportation: Islands and Cities. Here’s an excerpt from that short story:

- I think I’ve got you worked out, he remarked. I admire you, yes. Though I have you worked out, and I see you’ve drunk your coffee. That was fast. How was it?
- A little thin, I said.
- You son of a bitch, he replied. If you wanted something different you should have askedfor it. A ristretto!
This time I paused. He was an interesting man. Old and spindly, and still a long, long way from giving in, from rolling over and dying. Death would have to take him by siege. Death would have to dig under his towers and bomb his walls. Death would need to starve him of supply. Death would have to hunt him day and night, until this man was finally submerged by the sea. He neither deserved nor required my pity, good manners or false gratitude. The sooner I left the room, the sooner I could get on with life. I would be pleased to go. I would be pleased to return to my own painting. I would be pleased to leave him alone, and journey across the city, and return to my own skerry.

Transportation: Islands and Cities will be available for purchase at £9.00.



"My Body Became an Art Piece"

Madeleine Swann writes about the body, objectification and art. Read her article, “My Body Became an Art Piece”, here.

Friday The Thirteenth

Friday The Thirteenth

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 14.10.50Open Pen Issue Thirteen is out in an in depend bookstore near you today! In its pages you will find short fiction by:

  • Max Sydney Smith
  • Mat Woolfenden
  • Benjamin Wolfe
  • David Turner
  • Leighton Critchley
  • Tomoe Hill

Plus a guest editorial from Pigeonhole founder Anna Jean Hughes, whilst N Quentin Woolf returns to tell us, in a roundabout way, a little Christmas tale. You’ll also find Open Penner Piers Pereira popped into a new bookshop in Leytonstone a few weeks back, providing the basis of our bookshop focus. Luckily, we’ll have a few of the above writers on hand at the bookshop, All You Read Is Love, on Thursday, Feb 26th. Do come and support new writing with something to say.

As usual, if you find that your bookshop is all out of Open Pens, or didn’t have them stocked in the first place, let u snow about it and we’l endeavour to get some more out.

Open Pen Issue Thirteen is grass green in colour, with cover illustration by Josh Neal.

Here’s just some of our stockists that you can pick up a copy from













Max Sydney-Smith – Cover author of Issue Thirteen of Open Pen

Max Sydney-Smith – Cover author of Issue Thirteen of Open Pen

Advance copies of the latest edition of Open Pen can be found at this Sunday’s LIVE event at the Jamboree at Cable Street Studio, London. On the cover of Open Pen you’ll find the Max Sydney-Smith’s short ‘The Boy Who Bit His Nails’. We spoke to Max yesterday to get to know him and his writing a little better.

I think I write fiction to dramatise ideas. Writing is a way for me to order my thoughts, to try and make sense of stuff. I look for connections between things, for little symmetries and rhymes. At its best, I think fiction can change the way we see the world, even if only in some small way. At its worst, it simply draws attention to random coincidences, as meaningless as a bad pun.
I’m writing a short novel about the life and opinions of a Greek communist. This man is from a small town in the Peloponnese. He fought in the Civil War and was tortured by the police under the right wing military junta. The framework of the story is completely real: my friend is Greek and this all happened to someone she knows. But it is also only a vehicle for me to obsess around the question: is political idealism noble, or is it a form of narcissism?
OP: What are you reading at the moment?
A short story collection by Joy Williams called Taking Care. It’s brilliant, so caustic and funny and sad. Describing a big, loving dog leaping into the arms of a girl, she writes: “And he was so light, so light, containing his great weight deep within himself, like a dream of weight.” I mean, wow.
OK, Max. If you had one book in you to write, what would it be?
Well, it would probably be a first person narrative about a boy with a stammer. I have a stammer, and it radically changes the way you think about and use words. Some words start sounding like other words, some words have to be stuck onto other words to be said and some words can’t be said at all. None of this is fixed – its pinned to a number of things like tiredness, confidence, etc, many of which can fluctuate suddenly and for no apparent reason. In a way, your brain gets smart to this: you start anticipating problems, finding other ways to say what you want to say. But there are parts of it you can’t predict – you don’t know if you can say a word until you’re saying it. Anyway, all of this is to say that if I could only write one book, I would try and capture this idiosyncratic language, with its mispronounced and substituted words, its endlessly generated neurotic parallel routes through meaning and, of course, its silences (which is the only part of all this most people actually think of as a stammer).


Your FREE copy of Issue Thirteen is out on Friday 13th in all good bookshops, or as mentioned, can be snatched a full five days earlier at Open Pen Live this Sunday, February 8th. If nothing else, the trip to Limehouse provides an excellent opportunity to ride the Docklands Light Railway.

Outré Angst

Outré Angst

OP12_1Issue Thirteen is out Friday 13th February. No coincidence, we’re sure. The stories inside are hopefully some of the more surreal and arresting we’ve published.

The cover story The Boy Who Bit His Nails is penned by the succinct and stirring writer that is Max Sydney Smith. His piece is one of those glistening solitaires that leapt out of the submissions pile and into the cover spot with unbridled ease. Max writes with a brevity and immediacy that is as rare as it is a gratifying read. He’s already read for us at an Open Pen event. But we’ve got him again for those that missed out the first time. You can check him out and pick yourself up an advance copy of Issue Thirteen by coming down to Open Pen LIVE this Sunday in Limehouse, London. More details at the bottom of this page.

Also in Issue Thirteen, which we’ve tried to make as weird and thirteeny as possible, you’ll find new writers in the form of Leighton Critchley, Benjamin Wolfe, Tomoe Hill, David Turner, Mat Woolfenden. It’s a particular joy that over half of the writers we’ve got in Issue Thirteen hadn’t submitted to us before, and a couple of them have only started writing seriously recently. Enjoy their rum tales of misfortune. New pens often make for new perspectives. N Quentin Woolf weaves a tale of his own in his regular feature, it’s as uniquely piquant as always, and our resident and barren donkey Piers Pereira checks into a new bookshop in E11 and gives us the inside scoop on the changing face of bookshops.

The Pigeonhole was one of the most exciting things to happen in the word of fiction and publishing last year, we thought, throwing it’s weight behind its belief in sincere, fun and intellectual fiction writing, with a modern platform that turned more than a few heads. Anna Jean Hughes is the founder and editorial director, and her guest editorial in this edition of Open Pen is as blunt and appropriate in 2015 as the whys of how Pigeonhole came to be in the first place (of which you’ll read when you pick up a copy).

This issue feels like we’re taking a new direction. That’s fairly deliberate, sure, but we’ve alway felt that this is the magazine we’d end up making whether we liked it or not. Don’t take our word for it. Come and see us at our launch and take in these new writers. Support new writers! Support Open Pen. Check here for tickets.

Open Pen LIVE takes place at the Jamboree, Cable Street, Limehouse, East London, next Sunday at 7pm. We’ve got a short play, literary comedy, Beat jazz, poetry, fiction readings, and an open mic spot for anyone wishing  to lend us their prose/verse (more details here). But do feel free to contact us at with any questions.

Here’s some more about the fiction writers you’ll find in Open Pen:

max sydney smith bio pic

Max Sydney Smith was born in 1986 in London. He is studying for an MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths University. His work has appeared in the literary magazine Structo , the inter-disciplinary art project Hereafter and will appear in the flash fiction app Quick Fictions . He is currently working on a short novel detailing the life and opinions of a Greek communist.

His website address is



mat woolfenden pic-for-Open Pen

Son of a computer technician, Mat was raised in the Netherlands, Iran, North Devon, married in Walthamstow and retired to Brighton at the age of 42. He may be an acquired taste, an eccentric voice, yet Matthew perseveres in prose. He seeks to establish himself a network for the narrations with which he made his debut back at the Brighton Arts Club. This Fringe festival event 2014 explored female sexuality, and that night and spotlit, Mat read them his ‘Red Hot, The Lady Electric, a Midnight Collection.’ Much encouraged by his survival, he hopes to continue in a similar vein and is completely excited by his discovery of a vibrant writing scene here at the Open Pen. To date, Mat is published in Hobo Pancakes, USA and Wasafiri. He drafts, larks about at where invitations for storytelling and chat are always welcome.

David Turner Open PenDavid Turner (pictured, left) is a GP working in West London. He enjoys fiction writing in his spare time and has previously written a regular opinion column for Doctor magazine and other weekly medical publications.

Leighton Critchley (unpictured) has been published previously in Smoke a London Peculiar and The Copperfield Review. She won one of three prizes in her University’s annual creative writing competition last year, judged by novelist Bethan Roberts.

Tomoe Hill (unpictured) lives and writes in a converted lunatic asylum near London. Her most recent short stories have featured in The Stockholm Review of Literature and Minor Literature(s).

Open Pen Live – February 8th

Open Pen Live – February 8th

Open Pen Magazine has but one big show a year. This is it. And it’s at the historic Cable Street Studios (more venue information here) On Sunday, February 8th, within the space of just a few hours, we’ve got:

• A short play by actress and director Harriet Green.
• Poetry from acclaimed novelist and poet Sophia Blackwell, Writer and Performer, of Limehouse Books
• Live readings of short stories from new and exciting writers.
• Literary Comedy in the form of the juvenile ‘Filthy Fiction’
• Beat Jazz, live piano and spoken word accompaniment
• Booze! Great range of drinks available from the bar – open till 11pm.

We’re even holding an open mic for flash/micro-fiction. If you’re a writer and interested in reading something as part of this, contact us at

More details of the open mic here.

Tickets are £5 and available through the ticket link, or on the door.

Let us know you’re coming by joining the event on our Facebook event page.


Thanks to:


I’ve had a few

I’ve had a few

Check out Phillip Clement’s review of Highlights of My Last Regret (Limehouse Books, 2014), a cutting satire of modern relationships, and the second novel from California-based author North Morgan.

Highlights last regret open pen

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