perm_identity Letter from the Editor | January 2017

by Mariah Beckman

Published in Issue No. 236 ~ January, 2017

“So what does Pif stand for, anyway?”

Bringing new editors onto our team, this is a query I’ve heard a lot lately. It’s a fair question, and one that you might have as well. The simple answer is…(drumroll, please…)…that Pif began as a typo. The word it was supposed to be? That word has been lost to time, but Pif itself has proved to be wonderful, happy accident and an enduring voice in the literary community. We are one of the Kindle’s most read literary magazines, are fortunate enough to have many loyal subscribers (maybe you?), and are spoiled as a team in that we get to read some really incredible work by new, emerging and established writers alike.

Our etymology and history are a fun footnote in the history of Pif today, but it’s fun to look back and remember that our founder, Richard Luck, came across this typo while he was working on a poetic endeavor. He recalls that the mistake produced well visually on the page, among other things:

What does ‘Pif’ mean? This is a question I’m often asked. The answer is both simple and surreal. Pif is whatever you want it to be. For me, it was a typographical error on a poetry submission that reproduced well visually. That, and it had a nice ring to it. It was memorable. Some have told me that it reminds them of the word “pith” – a medical term used to describe the action of penetrating the brain with a foreign object. Given the content we continually present to our readers, I think this description to be wholly accurate. The definition our Fiction Editor gives to the snide is “it means masturbation in Czech.” Finally, one-time Pif writer Jeremy Worsham (Adventures of Pageboy) once commented that Pif might be an abbreviated pronunciation of the word “epiphany.

You can read more about our founder’s thoughts about Pif on the About page of our website. For me, Pif’s meaning feels associated with the adjective pith, which is cousin to slightly more common words like “terse” or “concise” or “succinct.” Synonyms like “the bottom line,” “the essence” or “crux” or “gist of” put it plainly, too: Pif is all about getting to the heart of what you’ve been trying to say, really. Two-thousand words or less worth of your grit and your artful way with words and your distinctly individual perspective.

I’ve always considered Pif a prime market to share art and writing that isn’t necessarily mainstream but is too striking to remain unpublished. If you’re like me and you’ve received a rejection letter that kindly states your work isn’t “right for” a particular market or publication, then you know what Pif is about. If you have a small body of work–not enough for a collection, not enough for a chapbook and not enough for a novel–but still hope to share your work with an audience, you know what Pif is about. And if you’ve ever stared at that impossibly long list of publishers, writing contests and agents in that freelancer Bible, The Writer’s Market, and wondered which one of these publishers was the frog you’d kiss that would transform into your literati prince, then you know what Pif is about.

As our literary magazine turns the page on its 21st anniversary (October 1, 1995, for anyone looking to send belated cards, gifts or Facebook wishes), I’m excited to continue this legacy and renew our call for submissions with a handful of contests. As a freelance writer, I’m always looking for my next pitch. I read columns from my favorite writers and editors, pour over the esteemed Mignon Fogarty’s Grammar Girl blog, and subscribe to newsletters that include writing prompts to keep my fiction game limber. We’re bringing a few of these home to Pif for our loyal and new readers.

Beginning in 2016, we’ll be offering writing prompts both on Facebook and Twitter, as well as in the monthly Kindle version of our magazine. In addition, we’ve begun to curate a list of writing contests and grants available to writers. We plan to keep this as up-to-date as possible to help connect writers with audiences and funding to help authors continue doing what they love. We are also excited to resume our annual anthology, which will consist of our favorite submissions of the year and also a handful of fresh picks and articles from our talented team of editors. There’s also a collaborative writing contest to look forward to this year, our first-ever Robin Round Writing Contest.

A few more areas of growth comes in the form of the types of submissions we welcome. We’re interested in humor writing, which holds a special place in my heart. We’re inviting graphic novel excerpts and comic submissions, as well, and have added a few editors to our staff that are accomplished artists and well-equipped to support these contributors. Pif is also soliciting articles from working writers and artists on the topic of the creative life: how to stay inspired, markets that sell, best practices for working with an agent or publisher, how to create a publisher query and the finer points of marketing your writing. This is in addition to the content we already publish and hold dear to our hearts: macro and microfiction, essays and artwork, as well as interviews by authors and artists of all genres and mediums.

Thank you for contributing to Pif, for supporting our production costs by subscribing to our magazine, and for keeping us energized by interacting with our editorial team and our contributors online. I know that I speak for our entire team when I say that we are so looking forward to a wonderful new year with our readers and writers.

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Mariah Beckman is a Seattle-based writer and editor. A transplant from the cloudless skies and arid heat of the Arizona desert, Mariah spends most of her time trying not to feel soggy. Mariah holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Arizona State University and spends much of her free time with her beau, her family, and her pot-bellied pig, Bebop. When she’s not pretending to know how to knit, she loves to run, hike, kayak, shop, snap photos, and explore the nooks and crannies of the Pacific Northwest.