A black and white, tattoo-style drawing of a feminine hand holding a large pipe wrench, under a banner reading "pipe wrench"

Wherein a good thing comes to an end, sooner than one might have hoped.

This is a bittersweet difficult heavy shitty announcement to write, so rather than trying to frame it in a way that makes it seem less shitty, or starting out with a touching personal anecdote wherein we all learn a valuable lesson, I’ll be direct:

Pipe Wrench is ceasing publication, effective today.

Here’s the institutional announcement:

We published two years’ worth of issues filled with beautiful, important writing and art that continues to have an impact. Our stories were anthologized and nominated for impressive awards. We were formally recognized as awesome.

Despite this, we’ve been unable to generate the revenue needed to make the project sustainable and have seen a drastic change in our financial position during the current hiatus, with two significant funding sources drying up.

Pipe Wrench’s math doesn’t work. Our biggest expense is freelancers’ fees, but we have no interest in prolonging our existence by reducing our rates; we wouldn’t be Pipe Wrench if we did. No writer can make a living making $150 an article, nor would we ask anyone to. To make sure freelancers got paid fairly, our non-freelance team spent some or all of the past two years donating massive amounts of labor. But it’s one thing to sacrifice for a while to get something new off the ground, and another to work for next to nothing indefinitely. None of us is in a position to do that, nor would I ask anyone to.

So Pipe Wrench has published its last issue. 

All subscriptions are canceled as of today. If you subscribed or were charged for a renewal after December 1, 2022, we’re happy to refund you; send a note to hello@pipewrenchmag.com. Our remaining funds will be used to pay our taxes, keep the website up, and pay a bit of something to our core team.

The website will stay right here, at pipewrenchmag.com. We’ll use our remaining funds to pay for hosting through 2023, and after that I will personally ensure that it remains up. No writer should see their byline disappear or have to scramble to PDF their work before a site goes under. And many of the pieces have ongoing impact — we can see medical schools continuing to link to issue six. It’s important work, and it will all remain accessible.

And here’s the personal one:

Am I sad? I’m sure I will be once I click the “publish” button on this. But right now, I’m not. I’m tired. (Not news.) I’m second-guessing some of my decisions. (Definitely not news.) I’m disappointed in the world for not recognizing how great Pipe Wrench is and throwing money at us. (Also not news.) I’m frustrated that critical acclaim and revenue do not have a proportional relationship. (They never have.)

I’m mostly proud, though.

I’m proud that we made a thing, an entirely new thing. It lasted for two entire years. Writers and artists trusted us — an unknown entity, an experiment — with their stories. I got to shepherd eight exceptional longform pieces into the world, along with dozens of unexpected, lovely pieces of fiction, essay, poetry, and more. Look!:

I’m proud that of the approximately 100 freelance contributors who filled our digital pages, 90% were women or nonbinary, 64% were people of color, and 35% were LGBTQIA. Seven of our eight longform features were by women; four of eight by women of color. The fat issue was filled with fat writers and artists. The Indigenous land management issue was filled with Indigenous writers and artists. The nonbinary issue was filled with nonbinary writers and artists.

I’m proud that we gave every one of those people an industry-leading contract, upfront payments, and a supportive editorial experience. I’m proud that we paid everyone promptly. I’m proud that we responded to every single person who pitched us — and there were a lot, because of the great contracts and fair rates — personally and with care.

Who’s represented in a publication and how people are treated — those are choices. You can prioritize under-published voices. You can prioritize writers with lived experience. You can create systems that support timely and helpful communication with people interested in publishing with you. Not paying on time, or actively working to expand your network of writers, or responding kindly to people who do the work of pitching you (and pitches are work) are not inevitabilities. They are choices.

I’m proud of our choices. 

Building Pipe Wrench is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There was more crying than I generally hope to do at work, which, ideally, is zero crying. And it was beyond gratifying. Now a wonderful thing exists that didn’t exist before. It’s been my stress and my privilege to make it.

And finally, the thank yous.

To Catherine, Soraya, and Matt, who gave so, so generously of their time and friendship to make Pipe Wrench real, thank you.

To spouses, partners, and loved ones named Brian who celebrated with us and were also there during the crying, thank you.

To every writer and artist who trusted us to do right by their creation, thank you.

To the people who supported us financially before we’d published anything at all, and to all the subscribers, thank you.

To anyone who read and wrote back to our newsletter, thank you. It made our days, every time.

To the curators like Longform, Longreads, Pocket, The Browser, and The Sunday Long Read, who gave our stories a boost, thank you.

To every single reader, thank you.

We miss you already.

Michelle Weber, unemployed editor