Pif Magazine is but one of many online literary journals. In February, we were flattered to be recognized as “prominent” and approached for advice and counsel by SUNY Geneseo students preparing to launch their own collegiate online journal. As part of their research, Christina Mortellaro contacted us to inquire about Pif’s process of pairing art and literature, how we select artwork, where we find the artwork we include with literary submissions, advice on how-to maintain a consistent aesthetic throughout, etc.
Out of this exchange grew a presentation for their journalism class, giving a concise and informative overview of Pif which helped inspire development of Gandy Dancer (www.gandydancer.org), their own recently launched online literary journal. We appreciated the opportunity to observe our work as seen through their eyes, and wish to share it with our readership. Read on for the full presentation:
Presentation by: Christina Mortellaro & Gabrielle Campanella
Pif Magazine, subtitled “The Arts and Technology Magazine,” was founded in 1995. In addition to running the monthly online magazine, Pif came out with one issue of a print journal in 2000 called The Best of Pif Magazine Off-line. The magazine runs out of Seattle, Washington and is run by four editors. Typically they publish fiction, poetry, and interviews. In the past they have also published works of creative non-fiction, drama, critical essays, and other genres. On their submissions page they say they “pride [themselves] on working with new and emerging writers and artists” and they “prefer individual creative vision over commercially accessible sameness.”
Pif does a remarkable job matching their content with the visual aspect of the magazine, both of which are sensibly eccentric and clean. Emily Frankoski writes that they maintain such a cohesive image by having “one person [manage] the aesthetics that is capable of incorporating as many staff ideas as possible into one, synthesized quality ‘look.’” Although one person is responsible for implementing these ideas the “overall aesthetic [...] is a group decision.” Red accents are in their logo, headers, and links; the background behind the content is textured and colored but neutral to add some interest while avoiding distraction. Some of the writing is accompanied by photographs which enhance rather than distract from or influence the reading of the literature.
Like Gandy Dancer, Pif is powered by WordPress. The magazine utilizes the WordPress technology well and makes it unique. Fitting with the ‘sensibly eccentric’ aesthetic, the layout of the website is fairly simple and clean, but not as minimalist as a black and white journal like McSweeney’s. The homepage is well-organized and easy to navigate. The proportions of the different sections on the page are well thought out. The header is the smallest and therefore the least distracting; the sidebar is larger and highlights interesting technological aspects of the magazine, but leaves the majority of the page for content, keeping the focus on the writers and the literature, rather than on the magazine itself.
In addition to being very aesthetically minded, Pif is very technologically savvy to fit the second part of its subtitle. They focus on technology in two ways–in the traditional electronic sense and in terms of technique and craft in writing. Focusing on the typical technological aspects, the user-friendly layout allows the reader to connect virtually to the work. Pif utilizes different social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, RSS, Reddit, and even Pinterest. In addition, the magazine allows for an online subscription for only 99 cents a month for one’s Kindle through Amazon.com. There is even a virtual bookshelf feature with book recommendations.
Pif does an exemplary job of publishing pieces that compliment and display the ideas of an artist’s craft. An eye-grabbing interview with author CW Moss for his illustrated book, Why Unicorn Drinks, is a particularly good example of this. The interview focuses on his concept, character, the craft of illustration, and plans for the future. The interview described in detail particular aspects of Moss’s craft. He describes laying out each panel for his book next to each other and painting a single color on each panel before cycling through the panels again with the next color. This quirky interview illustrates Pif‘s emphasis on the combination of art and craft.
The submission page of the magazine says that Pif publishes people based on “individual creative vision.” Practically, this seems to refer to works that are fresh and quirky, but not ‘experimental.’ The poems found in the latest issue are all distinct in subject, style and voice, but in their creative vision isn’t entirely distinct. They share an underlying tone of something dark, distressing, or just not altogether ‘right.’ The fiction pieces follow a pattern similar. The characters, plot, and themes in the both the macro- and the micro- fiction are varied, but there is just a tinge of something unsettling about them. The characters in the macro-fiction are slightly quirky or twisted. The micro-fiction is curious and more ominous. Also, the work tends to focus on emotion or individuals rather than the socio-economic-political problems or injustices. Overall, the vision of the each writer is “individual,” but the editors at Pif seem to be drawn to work that has underlying dark or unsettling tones and doesn’t cross too many literary lines.
If you would consider yourself a ‘sensibly eccentric’ writer whose work has some off characters or emotional undertones, Pif might be the right place to submit your writing. According to their Facebook page, the magazine is always looking for new voices to submit to them. Even though some writers accepted to Pif are already established through print mediums, their success is not overwhelming unlike other big-name writers. The magazine asks for previously unpublished work but sometimes will accept previously published pieces if the editors deem them particularly thought-provoking or unique. Pif uses HeyPublisher to manage submissions and has clear instructions on the magazine’s website. In addition to accepting fiction, poetry, and other genres of literature, Emily Frankoski writes that Pif will soon be implementing a new system to accept art submissions from the public “any day now.” With monthly publication and unique, but thought-provoking work, writers and readers have much to intellectually gain with Pif.
Left: Gandy Dancer’s official logo. Click here to visit their site: www.gandydancer.org