Our History

Before we can give you a proper history of TBL, we should give you some context:

Thirty-five thousand years ago, Trog wanted to tell a story of the great hunt. Night after night, he would stare at a blank cave wall, his story untold. 23,542 years from now, HAAL24263, a sentient super computer, will delete a file labeled BINARY POEMS ABOUT FEELINGS, having been unable to find a publisher.

Writing has always been, and will always be, difficult.

Somewhere in between those two events, in 2007, our founder decided that writers could use a little help. Powered by the belief that telling stories is one of the most important things one can do, she formed a non-profit organization dedicated to helping writers succeed. TBL was created to give writers the professional coaching they need to take their work to the next level and an outlet to start building their publishing platforms. More importantly, TBL is also a community, where writers come together to support each other and discuss their craft.

Writing might never be an easy act, but with TBL, writers don’t have to go at it alone. We’ll be here to help you paint your cave walls and help publish your BINARY POEMS…or whatever the present-day equivalent is.

The In-Depth History for the Over-Achievers

The Beginning, 2005

Like most babies, TBL was born in the back of a mustang convertible. Stop those inappropriate thoughts! We meant in the trunk, with a bunch of files. Files full of everything the driver knew about the writing industry: grammar books, publishing guides, agents’ numbers scribbled on sticky notes.

And who was driving this beat-up mustang? None other than our lovely founder, Miss D.M. (Dani) Hedlund. You see, Hedlund had recently gone through the publishing wringer. At the ripe age of sixteen, she’d written a novel…and then struggled through the next two years to get it published.

It was not an easy two years. In fact, it was very confusing and emotionally crushing and there was barely enough coffee, chocolate, and comics to get her through it.

In hopes of helping other writers with the process, Hedlund started what would become TBL. She pounced on aspiring writers in coffee shops, her trusty red pen at the ready. She became the community’s writing coach. She started creating articles about the importance of publishing platforms, an enormous list of things she wished she’d known when she started out.

Because insanity is contagious, other editors and writers started to join the mission, and in 2007, TBL was officially formed. With the power of the pen, TBL vowed to guide the next generation of writers.

The Next Phrase: the Literary Journal, 2010

Great. TBL has writing resources. TBL has publishing gurus. TBL has a stellar Free Editing Program. But still, many of our writers were finding it impossible to publish. Coffee shop tables were covered in rejection letters. Agents were simply discarding query letters the moment they saw our writers’ vacant “previous publishing history.” But it wasn’t just the agents. Countless magazines and journals wouldn’t even accept submissions unless the author had an agent already.

What a terrible Catch-22! Writers need published work to get an agent…but they need an agent to publish work?!

It was heartbreaking. It was confusing. And it had to stop.

So we did what any newly twenty-one-year-olds do. We got a beer. We got another. And then we got the stupidest idea we’ve ever had: “Screw it. Let’s start a literary journal. One that specializes in unsolicited works.”

We should tell you, the first year or two, TBL’s “Literary Journal” was a glorified blog, one filled with works we badgered our friends into submitting.

But it was a start, and it started to grow.

By 2013, we were publishing monthly collections of short stories, reviews, interviews, flash fictions, and group-writing projects. And what’s more, the work was getting good—really good.

In 2014, we decided to take another big step: moving into print. Bringing on a stellar art team, we started publishing the Tethered by Letters Quarterly Literary Journal, lovely full-color books brimming with all things literary.

That journal has since evolved into F(r)iction, the nationally-distributed and critically-acclaimed collection of literature and art. Under the F(r)iction banner, TBL publishes works that push the boundaries of convention, featuring bestselling authors beside brand-new voices. Through this imprint, we’ve been able to do exactly what we always dreamed of almost a decade ago—launch the careers of brilliant new authors and artists and energize the literature community.

In short, we couldn’t be prouder of that little beast of a book.

More (Seriously? There can’t be more?!)

Yeah. That’s how we feel too. But there is:

We love our publications. Seriously, our heart races every time we see those sexy journals in bookstores. But we’ve never forgotten about how we started, in the trunk of that old mustang.

TBL was born out of the desire to educate and guide new writers, and that mission has always been at the heart of what we do. Every year, we run a ludicrous number of education programs (including our flagship Free Editing Program), expanding our reach to underserved communities around the world.

We partner with stellar organizations and universities. We lecture to hundreds of doe-eyed high-schoolers. We publish stellar outreach works like the Afghan Women’s Writing Project. We bring in celebrity authors to mentor our new writers. We run seasonal internships through our University Partnership Program. We host the best darn group of literary geeks in the multiverse, uniting them on our forums, publishing their wonderful works, laughing until we snort at their pithy comments. We’re going into the Denver Prison system to teach an awesome graphic memoir curriculum.

With every program, we foster a love of literature, of stories. We make the writing profession a little less lonely, a little easier to navigate. And we love it.

Conclusion (Finally!)

We know, we know: TBL is an insane idea.

“Literary Journals are dying.”

“The print industry is crumbling.”

“People don’t read anymore.”

Yeah, we’ve heard it all before. But we won’t accept it. Stories are worth fighting for. And that’s exactly what we are going to do.

Sure, TBL is a crazy idea. But sometimes the world needs a little crazy.


…we also have Blots…but that’s a whole other story.