What we want

We want fiction and poetry that is both literary and speculative. Realist work sensitive to the magical and strange. The fantastical. Slipstream. Fabulist. Gothic. Weird tales. Work that unlocks. Work that restocks. We love writers who see familiar things in unexpected ways, and writers who revel in playing with language.

Update 8-02-18:

The Golden Key is pleased to announce our third flash fiction contest, judged by Amber Sparks. The winner will receive $200 and publication in Issue 9 (Winter/Spring 2019).

We will be accepting submissions of flash fiction (up to 500 words) via Submittable through October 31. The fee for entry is $4 for one piece, or $6 for two pieces, or $8 for three pieces. Please submit your stories as a single document without any identifying information. You may submit as many entries as you like; each submission should be accompanied by its own entry fee. Simultaneous submissions are acceptable, provided you let us know immediately if a piece is accepted elsewhere—unfortunately, we are unable to refund the entry fee for submissions that are withdrawn. Close friends, relatives, students, and former students of the judge are not eligible to enter this contest. Entry fees go directly into the fund we are raising to pay writers. The winner will be announced in December.


Amber Sparks is the author of two short story collections, including the recent The Unfinished World and Other Stories. Her fiction and essays appear widely online at places like Tin House, Granta, and American Short Fiction. She lives in Washington, DC and can be found on Twitter @ambernoelle

Please check back once our contest closes for updates on Issue 9’s object!



If you’re interested in illustrating an issue of The Golden Key, please feel free to query us with an email—we’d love to hear from you!

— Guidelines updated as of September 6, 2016. —

To submit for regular reading periods (excluding contests)

Length: We prefer fiction submissions under 3,000 words and poems that are under 100 lines. We especially love flash fiction and prose poems.

Revisions: Please do not send us a revision unless we specifically request one. Please also do not send us the same story for different issue themes, unless we specifically request it.

Multiple submissions: We accept up to three poems in a single document. For fiction, please send only one story submission at a time. We ask you to wait until you hear back from us before you submit more, and we ask that writers submit only twice per reading period.

Simultaneous submissions: We gladly accept simultaneous submissions. Please withdraw your work as soon as your story or poem has found a home elsewhere.

Submissions will be accepted via Submittable. Your work should be previously unpublished. We also ask that previous contributors please wait one year (two issues) after being published with us to submit again.

Response Times: Our usual turn-around time is 6 weeks, though we often respond sooner. However, if you haven’t heard from us after 6 weeks, it means your work has been held over for further consideration, in which case a response may take as long as 12 weeks. If you have not heard back from us after 12 weeks, please query about the status of your submission. You can also follow us on Twitter @GoldenKeyLit, where we do our best to keep followers informed on the state of submissions. Please make sure our submissions email will be clear of your spam filter.

Pay: The Golden Key currently pays all contributors a flat fee of $15.

Rights: The Golden Key acquires first North American serial rights and first Worldwide Electronic rights for six months. After six months, rights revert to the author; however, we do request the right to archive your work in our cabinet of curiosities. If you would like to remove your work from our archive, send us an email.

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