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Issue One, April/May 2021

Pipe Wrench is the magazine I want to read.

I want to read a fantastic thing. And then I immediately want to know what other people think about the thing, and I want to poke the thing from different angles, and I want to discuss the thing with my friends. I don’t want to move right to what’s next. I want to dwell in the fantastic thing — but just enough, because there’s a lot more in the world to read and even more to do.

Pipe Wrench is the fantastic thing with the friends built in. Welcome to Issue One.

Now brush your hair and put on your nicest sneakers, because we’re going to church. Or the temple, or the gurdwara, or the library, or the patch of grass under that big tree, or your favorite chair, the one with the good pillow. Wherever you go when it’s time to be serious and reflective and experience some feelings and become a better person, go there.

You’ll see lots of margin notes like this

to help connect the parts of the issue

and highlight overlaps and common

themes. If you’re ready to jump in,

here’s Breai’s piece.

The centerpiece of Issue One is, I suppose, a critical essay about collective grief and race and social change, but not really. What it really is is a secular sermon: someone unpacking stories and metaphors and history to teach us about what and who we value, how we’re living or failing to live those values, and what happens to people when we don’t. It’s by dancer, activist, and educator Breai Mason-Campbell, who we asked to write the essay she needed to read right now, and it pulls zero point zero punches. It’s a call to empathy and action from a woman who can’t keep waiting for either.

There are ten people in conversation with her — the illustrator who created the art that accompanies her story, and nine others from nine different backgrounds and areas of expertise. Some are writers by profession, some are writers by avocation, and some are not writers at all. They all received an advance copy of Breai’s essay, a month to reflect and respond, and no expectations. You can’t control what people say at a dinner party (unless you’re hosting a truly terrible party; please don’t invite me), and we wanted to replicate that.

Our rates aren’t too shabby and our

freelancer policies are pretty super. We

created them with the Freelance Solidarity

Project at the National Writers Union.

Learn more about them.

I could say a thousand other things about how excited I am or how terrified or how much I value my co-founders and partners, but if my co-founders and partners don’t already know how much I value them then I’ve been doing something horribly wrong. I will say that I am humbled and thankful and dedicated to all the subscribers who signed on to support this experiment before we published anything at all. We have no big funders, no venture capital, no inherited wealth from long-lost aunts. We have us, and we have you. Without you, this does not happen. Contributors don’t make fair wages or get 50% up front, web hosting bills don’t get paid, facts don’t get checked. You are co-creators. Thank you.

If you’ve been wondering what’s up with

the image at the top of the page: this is what.

So welcome, and thanks for the company. I hope you read something that you find yourself thinking about days later. I hope you come across at least one sentence that makes you say, “oh, shit” — ideally with multiple vowels, “shiiiiit” — and immediately text your best friend. I hope you feel a feeling, any feeling. I hope one of those feelings is that your time here was well-spent.

If it is, you have some means, and you haven’t already subscribed: subscribe

And if you don’t have the financial means, no worries. Those who do are underwriting you because that’s what it means to live in a society, and there’s another huge contribution you can make: share what you read with someone else who’ll like it. Some people bring wine to the party, some bring a homemade dish, some bring interesting new guests. A good party needs them all.

Now go read! And then come back here in June, when we do this all over again.


Michelle Weber
Editor in Chief

You can’t control what people say at a dinner party, it’s true. But what you really can’t control is the toasts.

To our Founding Subscribers: This all starts and ends with you. You decide whose stories get told, and how. You decide whether this vision is a sustainable model. You decide if this kind of place should have a future. Thanks to hundreds of cross-continental decisions, we now have a present filled with new voices, new language, and new marching orders. Saying we couldn’t have done it without you isn’t even it. There is no without you.

To our Issue One contributors: Why would anyone ever want to publish alone? We wanted to have people over. We wanted to take your coats, to ask if we can get you something, for you to tell us everything. We wanted to have a conversation, the kind where you stay up all night and sincerely ask each other’s eyes what it all means. We wanted to go there. Your collective energy and imagination fill this issue with that sense of place. 

Finally, I’d like to propose a toast to my dear friend Michelle, whose letter I am inelegantly photobombing. If it were up to me, we’d all be together in the grand banquet hall of a misbegotten ballroom somewhere, from the masthead to the contributors to the subscribers to the crashers who are only in town one night for a conference. All the place settings would have extra glasses. All the dishes would be homemade. Morten Harket would be sitting at the head of the table. And at the other end of the table would be Michelle, laughing and crying and utterly failing to keep it together. I’d be somewhere in the middle, using a serving platter as a gong, getting sloshy and saccharine and sentimental, embarrassing the shit out of her.

I hope this inaugural issue is useful. I mean that — I hope you use it. It’s a guide. 


Catherine Cusick