open pen anthology


saboteur awards 2016

It’s been our biggest year in the five years our free short fiction magazine has been in print. We’ve got more stockists than ever, more readers than ever, you can now subscribe to Open Pen, and we’ve published The Open Pen Anthology. So we’re left pinching ourselves that on top of all that, we’ve been nominated in two categories in the 2016 Saboteur Awards. ‘Best Magazine‘ and ‘Best Anthology‘. If you nominated us in these two categories, we heartily thank you. Back up those nominations with two votes and our hearts will swell thrice over.


You’ll notice a few other categories too. Personally, we fancy Liars’ League for ‘Best Regular Spoken Word’ night and Nothing here is wild, everything is open by Tania Hershman for ‘Best Poetry Pamphlet’. Check both of those out if you get a chance.

The Open Pen Anthology – Out March 10th

Published by Limehouse Books, The Open Pen Anthology is out March 10th. You can pre-order here:

A celebration of five years of Open Pen, the book contains the fiction of thirteen Open Pen authors, and micro-fiction from twelve more, meaning that we’ve got a whopping twenty-five authors in its pages.

The Open Pen Anthology packshot front cover colour2

Edited and compiled by Sean Preston, the Anthology takes much the same shape as the fifteen issues of Open Pen. It feels like Open Pen. It looks like Open Pen (thanks to Josh Neal for that much). But we wanted our Anthology to be more than just a “Best Of”. So the exciting thing about this sizeable paperback is that it sets out to give the reader a unique insight into the creative minds of its contributors. It’s more than just an anthology. We’ve got a new piece of fiction from each of the Open Pen authors selected. In doing so, we’re able to present a story of the authors themselves. Where they’ve come from, where they are. How they’ve grown as writers and people is clear to see in each read. It’s the progression of these writers that provides the motivation for each issue of Open Pen. We’ll be releasing extracts from this rewarding collection of fiction in the lead up to publication.

Introduced by N Quentin Woolf, and with a foreword by Paul Ewen’s Francis Plug, The Open Pen Anthology feels like a worthy testament to Open Pen Magazine’s first five years of putting out short stories with something to say, giving it to you for free, and doing our best to support independent bookshops.

Stay tuned for launch nights around the country.


If you are a bookshop looking to stock The Open Pen Anthology, please contact our distributor, Turnaround.

For press enquires and reviews, please contact us at the normal address,


Briefly, my own experience of Open Pen, FYI

My wife wrapped ham sandwiches in grease-proof paper.  Later, we walked to the station hand in hand.  She passed my hat and the cane through the window, and we embraced as the guard blew his whistle. Brighton train station became enveloped in a delicious cloud of smoke, and alone, I reclined in my chair, watched the wildlife through the same window.


Woolfenden’s Brighton Station, presumably.

My narration was scheduled with the hep chaps of Open Pen Magazine, a crazy East London outfit of writers, and of editors.  Cats of literature, the chief editor, a nice young man by the name of Sean Preston, had invited me to read my guide, Timetables of the Orient Express to a select audience at his Limehouse loft-house apartment.

What kind of man was Sean, and what kind of people, what is the scene, so-called at an Open Pen event?  I shall tell you my experience.  All I carried in my possession [cane, script and sandwich aside] was the embossed name card and address of the fellow.  Indeed I was directed by an officer of the law towards a low Victorian block of apartments, and even as I stepped the cobbled street, heady scent of joss filled my nostrils.  I pressed the buzzer, and a giant Indian manservant opened the wide door, took my cane, directed me up the stairwell.

Preston sat in his high chair, wore a gown and slippers only.  I resisted the temptation to gag at the sight of hairless kneecaps, and the ginger pubic hair that curled along his thighs.  He stood, shook my hand, placed the cigarette-holder in his teeth.

‘Dear boy,’ he said, ‘Why, you must read to me.’  He clapped his hands together.  A series of candles were extinguished by an invisible bellows.  With a sweep of his palm in direction, I ascended the low stage in this, the lounge arena.

You understand my knowledge in my field of expertise is top-class, my powers of recollection, outstanding and precise.  However, it was difficult to see through the darkness. Yet I sensed audience.  Preston, of course, the focus of my story-telling, emitted squeals, moans, clapped his hands again, but now in rapid bursts of physical expression.  I sensed a ball on his nose.  Not that I was distracted from my oratory, but I heard, quite clearly:

‘Mammy, mammy,’

Clearly this was Preston’s voice, but when she stepped from the shadows, this creature of the afternoon, wrapped in only the most extensive feather boa and stiletto heels, well she danced, writhed in tune to my menu items – listed as available on the transport devices of Bratislava.

‘Stop, stop,’ he cried.  ‘Anna,’ he said, we must take this gentleman to our club.  You have passed the initiation, Matthew,’ he said, ‘welcome to my circle of authors.’

The rest of my story is humdrum almost, I accompanied the literary pair to the Jamboree Club, E1 and repeated my speech, word for word.  The story is of course not included in this present anthology, some of you shall recall my disappointment, the script and locomotive window, such is the power of gin.  All the best, my ducklings.

Matthew Woolfenden BA(hons), TEFL

Mat’s fiction [not to say the above story isn’t factual!] will appear in The Open Pen Anthology. You can pledge (and essentially pre-order your copy) here.




The Open Pen Anthology will provide a real backbone to Open Pen Magazine for the next few years. You can help us by pledging your support over at our Kickstarter campaign and picking up one of our rewards (priced from £3 to £50, with copies of the Anthology itself priced at £8). We’ve put out Open Pen for coming up to five years, and we’ve kept it free for all. This magazine has always been about supporting new, exciting writers and distributing their writing as far and wide as possible, whilst keeping the magazine itself free so that anyone can pick up a copy. 
It’s been a joy to edit Open Pen, and of course it’s been a struggle. A delightful struggle. I’m not moaning (currently). A delightful struggle. Like eating a cheesecake in one sitting. A struggle, but one that is noble and achievable, so long as you have a sturdy cafetière (and, yeah, sure, an excellent team of Anna Harveys/minions/friends/fans who basically keep the magazine upright whilst I eat cheesecake). The point is, in order to keep doing what we’re doing with Open Pen, we need your support. We haven’t asked for it before, but we’re definitely asking for it now. We want to invest in these writers we’re putting out. Are you a writer with something to say? Willing to take a risk? Help us keep that alive. Buy our paperback. Many of the wonderful writers of the twentieth century would never have even made it to print with publishing in its current state, obsessed with marketing potential and gimmickry. But there’s little point in me indulging my frustrations with book publishing here. We just need to keep on publishing “open” literary fiction; short stories willing to take a risk; writing that is a delightful struggle.
Help us hit our Kickstarter campaign target and we’ll get this anthology out – with its collection of authors that have been an utter privilege to publish – so that we can find more new talent and continue to put their words into print and stocked in your independent bookshop. 
In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera wrote of the mutual understanding and the silent bond between readers. Though I forget the exact passage (and can’t find it now), that has always struck me as an absolute truth – and I’m not usually so keen on absolutes. That feeling of absorption in books, a shared love, a shared understanding. It’s that common bond that I appeal to now.

Sean Preston