account_circle by Derek Alger

From the Editor

You never know what you might see

Issue No. 169 ~ June, 2011

I stood frozen in the aisle when all of a sudden, a man in jeans with a gun drawn appeared in front of me and another guy, also with gun drawn, came flying over the shelf to my right, knocking canned goods and cardboard boxes all about.

Preserving the past as best we can

Issue No. 167 ~ April, 2011

I picked myself up and wandered along the front of the lake down toward our cottage, my right hand raised to my tear-filled eyes, little knowing my father had shifted from filming the action between the Indian tribes, instead, concentrating on my solitary walk of defeat along the shoreline.

A journey through Celtic past, present, and future

Issue No. 166 ~ March, 2011

Treasa has lived in Barrie for the past 11 years, where she is currently the coordinator of the Novalis Project, responsible for providing presentations of drama, music and dance, and performances and workshops in the arts for adults with developmental disabilities who work and reside in a neighborhood together.

Bob Payne: A Traveling Man

Issue No. 165 ~ February, 2011

I was recently returning from visiting my sister and her kids in Ontario when I thought of Bob Payne, a travel writer whose articles have appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Islands, Outside, Men's Journal, and Bon Appetit, as well as the Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Miami Herald, and Dallas Morning News.

A long overdue lunch with Sidney Offit

Issue No. 164 ~ January, 2011

I was at lunch recently with my friend, the acclaimed historian and novelist, Thomas Fleming, and his friend Sidney Offit, the best writing teacher I ever had, when I took a course with him at the New School on W.12th Street in Manhattan after suffering …

Celebrity time with Dad

Issue No. 163 ~ December, 2010

The celebrity culture has always been alien and incomprehensible to me. I have never been in awe of anyone, except perhaps Mickey Mantle when I was four, and I have never wished I was someone else. Not that I think I’m even close to perfect, …

Now that the voting is over

Issue No. 162 ~ November, 2010

Many will be relieved, either happy or down, with most indifferent, as the results of the mid-term elections across the country will now be official, in most cases. For me, I’m simply happy my mailbox will no longer be stuffed with campaign literature. It’s amazing …

Finding an Interesting Writer a Phone Call Away

Issue No. 161 ~ October, 2010

The other week my brother and sister, who are a year apart in age, and both younger than me, attended a high school reunion.  I can’t believe what year reunion it was because I still think of my siblings as teenagers, even though age wise, …

Oh, Brother, Glad You’re Still With Us

Issue No. 159 ~ August, 2010

My mother always told us if something ever happened, if we were ever injured or in trouble, the first thing we should say when we called in such a situation was “I’m okay,” before going into the specifics about whatever had happened. I came home …

According to Whom?

Issue No. 158 ~ July, 2010

It’s a simple phrase, an elementary question, but one which probably should be considered more frequently by people in general, and journalists, in particular, both print and broadcast, and that is “According to whom?” In an age where passions, and resulting generalizations run high, outlandish …

No generic doctor for me

Issue No. 153 ~ February, 2010

"...I remember debating Dr. Nacht, using my own personal logic to challenge the so-called medical experts. I thought I successfully discovered a loophole, or at least an interesting observation, when the acceptable cholesterol level was lowered from 250 to 200 by the medical authorities,... in one night literally millions of folks went to bed with acceptable cholesterol levels, only to awaken in the morning with high cholesterol levels which needed to be treated."

John Bowers: A versatile writer through the decades

Issue No. 148 ~ September, 2009

"Yes, Bowers was a country boy, but he developed into quite a versatile writer, publishing non-fiction books, celebrity profiles, novels, a Civil War book, Chickamauga and Chattanooga: The Battles that Doomed the Confederacy, and even a highly readable biography of General Stonewall Jackson. Still going strong at the age of 81, Bowers has a novel, Love in Tennessee, which was released this month to come out from Red Hen Press."

Who Was The President Then?

Issue No. 141 ~ February, 2009

The guy handed me my plastic bag of purchases, and I don't know why, but taking it in my left hand, I extended my right hand to shake his, only with my index finger pointing out toward him. "President McKinley was assassinated in 1901," I said, adding that a guy came up to him with a bandaged hand concealing a gun and when McKinley reached out to shake hands, he was shot twice.

A special high school English teacher

Issue No. 134 ~ July, 2008

"Mr. Duffy and my mother both knew I could write, actually thought I would become a writer long before I had any inkling of it. I have no idea what they saw, or how they knew, but here I am writing this, so they must have known something. I can say this, however, it was only years later that I came to really appreciate what Mr. Duffy had done for me as a teacher."

One on One

Mindy Greenstein

Issue No. 168 ~ May, 2011

Mindy Greenstein is the author of the widely-praised book of personal essays, The House On Crash Corner, published and released this month by Greenpoint Press, a division of the not-for-profit New York Writers Resources.

Julianna Baggott

Issue No. 167 ~ April, 2011

Baggott earned an MFA at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and her first published novel, Girl Talk (Washington Square Press, 2002), was a national bestseller, quickly followed by her novel, The Miss America Family (Washington Square Press, 2003), and then The Madam (Washington Square Press, 2004), an historical novel based on the life of her grandmother.

DeWitt Henry

Issue No. 166 ~ March, 2011

DeWitt Henry, the founder and longtime editor of Ploughshares, is the author of the memoir, Sweet Dreams: A Family History (Hidden River Press, 2011). He is also the author of Safe Suicide: Narratives, Essays, And Meditations (Red Hen Press, 2008) and the novel, The Marriage Of Anna Maye Potts (University of Tennessee, 2001), winner of the Peter Taylor Prize for the Novel.

Roxana Robinson

Issue No. 165 ~ February, 2011

Roxana Robinson is a critically acclaimed fiction writer who is the author of four novels, including her most recent one, Cost (Picador, 2009), which was named one of the five best novels of the year by the Washington Post, won the Maine Fiction Award, and was long-listed for the Dublin Impac award, among others. Her other novels are Sweetwater(2005), This is my Daughter (1999), and Summer Light (1995).

Amy King

Issue No. 164 ~ January, 2011

The city thrilled, though. I loved the energy, the vastness, the arts in spades, the various accents, the dirt, the clash of unplanned architecture, how scenesters eclipsed but artists could be found on the right beer swilling night in some seedy cheap bar, etc.

Diane Lockward

Issue No. 163 ~ December, 2010

Diane Lockward is the author of four collections of poetry, including her most recent work, Temptation by Water (Wind Publications, 2010). Her previous works are What Feeds Us (Wind Publications, 2006), winner of the Quentin R. Howard Poetry Prize; Eve's Red Dress (Wind Publications, 2003); and a chapbook, Against Perfection (Poet's Forum Press, 1998).

Benjamin Percy

Issue No. 163 ~ December, 2010

Benjamin Percy is the author of the recently published novel, The Wilding (Graywolf, 2010), and two collections of short stories, Refresh, Refresh (Graywolf, 2007) and The Language of Elk (Carnegie Mellon, 2006).

Mark Goldblatt

Issue No. 162 ~ November, 2010

I’m not a natural performer; if the material isn’t up to par, I have the potential to bomb in a big way. But the book is funny, or at least it’s meant to be funny, and it’s full of word play, and that sort of thing tends to work when read aloud. What’s Chuckles the Clown’s motto? “A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.”

Kelly Cherry

Issue No. 161 ~ October, 2010

Kelly Cherry is the author of nineteen books of fiction -- both novels and collections of stories -- poetry, memoir, essay, and criticism. Cherry's short fiction has been reprinted in Best American Short Stories, Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, The Pushcart Prize, and New Stories from the South, and has won three PEN/Syndicated Fiction Awards.

Nancy White

Issue No. 159 ~ August, 2010

Nancy White’s most recent poetry collection, Detour, was published by Tamarack Editions (March, 2010). Her first poetry collection, Sun, Moon, Salt, won the Washington Prize for Poetry in 1992. White currently teaches English at Adirondack Community College, after previously teaching at St. Ann’s School in …

Marisa Silver

Issue No. 158 ~ July, 2010

Marisa Silver, who made her fiction debut in The New Yorker when she was featured in that magazine’s first “Debut Fiction” issue, is the author of two novels and two story collections, her most recent collection, Alone With You, published by Simon & Schuster earlier …

Indie Spirit Films

Issue No. 157 ~ June, 2010

Pif Magazine contributing editor Derek Alger caught up with Aria Alexandra, the creative spirit behind Independent Spirit Films of Seattle. Alexandra recently completed her first short film SPIDER, a neo-noir crime drama, where she served as the writer, director, producer, set-designer, editor, and composer. SPIDER …

Lance Olsen

Issue No. 151 ~ December, 2009

"Realize, along with T. S. Eliot, that only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. Reach out and support other writers. Understand this writing thing isn't a competition; all of us can win all the time. Think of yourself as part of a conversation about the big stuff of life and narrative that extends across time and space, and ask yourself where your voice fits in, how you can help other voices be heard. And if you plan to write for fame or fortune, do something else . . . immediately."

Julie Kane

Issue No. 148 ~ September, 2009

"...Diane Ackerman took two of my poems for 'Epoch' when she was the poetry editor -- I was an undergrad and she was in the PhD program, so I was thrilled beyond belief that she considered me a "real poet." T. Coraghessen Boyle, Marilyn Hacker, and Sandra Gilbert all had work in that Winter 1974 issue of 'Epoch'. Maybe I'll be able to sell my copy on eBay to fund my retirement."

Charles Salzberg

Issue No. 146 ~ July, 2009

"...I'd written an article about street gambling, 3-card monte, and an agent asked me to write a novel based on it. I didn't really want to, but when she said I could make several thousand dollars, which was a lot of money then, I said yes. I think I wrote it in a month...It was called Street Gambler, and fortunately, I probably have the only copies left."

Pam Uschuk

Issue No. 142 ~ March, 2009

"...Almost too late, I learned to love my mother. Sometimes taking care of her constant needs felt like an imposition, but I've come to understand that it was also a huge gift I'm still unwrapping. I've written about her in poetry and prose, and I continue to untangle the web of my knotty childhood."

Greg Herriges

Issue No. 142 ~ March, 2009

"...While my students were dying in gang fights, I had to enter a numerical symbol next to each dead student's name... A big "L" meant the student had left the system. A little "l" meant the student had been transferred to another class in the school. "99" meant you'd been capped, hacked, and stacked, Jack. It was enough to make you sick."

Jamie Malanowski

Issue No. 137 ~ October, 2008

"No editor or publisher ever wakes up in the morning, looks out his window, and scans the landscape for a brilliant writer who's just too shy to put himself or herself forward. It's a put yourself forward business, at every level."

Molly Peacock

Issue No. 137 ~ October, 2008

"I went to the State University of New York at Binghamton and studied with the poet Milton Kessler. He gave me the best advice about my poems. He'd point to something in a poem that he thought was successful and he'd say, 'See that?' 'Yes,' I'd say. 'Well,' he'd say, '"do that again.'"

Walter Cummins

Issue No. 137 ~ October, 2008

"All through college, I wrote for the school paper and even edited a humor magazine, for a while emulating a then-popular humor writer named Max Shulman. Junior year, with trepidation, I signed up for a creative writing course, which started my life of fiction despite the disasters of those early stories."