Writers and design

Through my tenure writing this blog, I’ve dug my way around the internet trying to find useful and interesting websites that I would think other writers would appreciate. The one thing I can never seem to get over though, is the horrible, amateur looking designs that many of them employ.

I already picked on Pif and a few of the databases for being bad, but the more online literary magazine I try and read, the more annoyed I get at the bad design.

The Mad Hatter’s Review might just be one of the ugliest websites I have ever seen. I know they have good content. I’ve read stories that come out of it. I have heard people talk about it. But go ahead and try and subject yourself to that site and tell me how many stories you read.

La Petite Zine is another respected publication that looks like they put about five minutes of effort into designing their site. Then there’s Slope. I get it, it’s cute. Everything is on an angle. I don’t want to read things that are on an angle. Then you find out that the entire magazine is one really really long page. Hope you don’t have 56k!

It’s time for these editors to either learn some Dreamweaver, or pay someone to make a decent site for them. There is no excuse in 2009 to have a website that looks like that.


Pif Magazine – is less more?

The next online literary magazine to fall under my scope is “Pif,” another all-in-one like “Hidden City Quarterly” though with a lot more clout and a lot less style.


  • Has been published since 1995 and has a rich archive.
  • Will take pretty much anything as a submission.
  • Content is all on the main page.
  • Hosts Pilot-Search, a literary search engine


  • Front page is ugly
  • Very overwhelming at first. There is no introduction, just an assault of content.
  • Links are confusing and strangely labeled. (masthead and mediakit)
  • Why is Pilot-Search so buried if it’s as good as they claim?

So what we have is a site that is all about substance over style. Way over style. No style can be found at all. At first glance, the website looks like a fake one designed to trick people into looking at ads. What “Pif” really screams for is organization. The front page looks like it should be a different page, maybe one labeled “content.”

The jury is still out on Pilot-Search. It claims to be the largest literary search engine, but then why have I never heard of it? And why is it so hard to find?

The content itself is decent. Nothing particularly wowed me. Everything seems to come from a published writer. What’s interesting is that you have to create an account to see any information about submissions. It seems that Pif wants to be exclusive. In that strive, they are excluding readers as well.

Despite my harsh opinions, “Pif” claims to have a large readership that returns “…12.5 times per month.” Maybe one of you guys will enjoy it more then I did.

Verdict: Pass it. There are many literary magazines online.

Resources for Writers

Okay, in all fairness this should be called, “Resource for Writers,” but then it just makes this sound like a paid advertisement, which it isn’t, but could be. I accept paypal.

Tonight I bring all of you aspiring writers Newpages.com. This is like me as a webpage and without the sarcasm charm. I’m going to focus on the parts of the site that would be most important for us, so don’t yell at me if you see other things up there I didn’t talk about. What I see them as being most useful for is their comprehensive list of literary magazines. newpageslogoorangeblack

Unfortunately, these are not divided into online or print only categories. This means some of the content could be hidden behind a subscription fee.

What I really like, though, is the list of current writing contests. They also have a list of lit mags that are actively looking for content right now. Some plus, some negative but still worth checking out. Good link to have bookmarked.

Best link to have bookmarked? Me fools.

Traveling down the wrong side of the tracks – Hidden City Quarterly

My first literary magazine review comes from a little city close to my own heart. Hidden City Quarterly is a Baltimore based literary and arts online magazine trying to bring about recognition for the older arts in a new media world. The site itself is pretty traditional and clean in layout and concept. Four times a year, they release an issues containing poetry, art and of course fiction.

The site itself tries to read like a magazine, with links at the bottom of the few first pages so that you can “turn” them. For ease of navigation you can also use the tabs at the top. There are no ads and nothing is to spread out, meaning that it will display nicely even on smaller screens.

The reason I bring them to attention is the “theme” of the magazine. They send out an appeal to suburban America, to the hidden artists who have a passion and don’t know where to share it. In a way, Baltimore is a hidden city. Located so close to Washington D.C. and Philadelphia, someone has to visit to properly understand our charm. They use that as the building block of their concept to connect the hidden artistic communities of American (and the world – I was informed they received a submission from Australia).

They are an up and coming arts magazine. That means up and coming writers should jump at the opportunity to submit. In my correspondence with current fiction editor (and writer of this issue’s letter from the editor) he informed me that they are trying to expand their fiction section and are looking for more submissions.

This is a nice site that is just starting out and trying to build up some credibility. Give them a read and tell them(and me!) what you think. The next issue is planned for April so get to submitting. I’m going to give it a shot and you should to.

Location: http://www.hcquarterly.com/

Current issue: http://www.hcquarterly.com/thisissue.html