zines anew

(Part of this post cross-posted at PLG@Simmons Blog.

I had a friend in elementary school who, like me, was creative and entrepreneurial (where did that go? I want that back). In fourth grade, we started a trading card company where we created proprietary characters, made up attributes, created supplemental merchandise, and sold them. I think we made about $10 before our parents found out that we were taking money from our friends, and there was something about that that they didn’t like. Whatever.

They had less of a problem with it when we started a zine in sixth grade. Again, whatever. My point is that we made a zine together, and we consistently published issues for about a year and a half. And it was great. We had an outlet where we could tell people what books we liked, who inspired us, what we liked to cook, whatever. We had an outlet where I was forced to do something I did not like to do – draw – because we wanted the zine to look good, and that meant I had to stretch myself. Zines were really good for me.

So once we stopped publishing it, I decided to keep going and publish a perzine. And I trolled around zine communities on LiveJournal and traded zines with other people, wrote an article on zines for VOYA, and generally thought they were the greatest, even if I wasn’t totally immersed in all of the sociopolitical implications behind them and wasn’t completely comfortable in myself to be more engrossed in subcultures that were available to me in that world. Then I stopped, and I don’t remember why, but I kind of forgot about them.

So I was very happy when I came across a listserv email about a zine maker and graphic artist, Nicole J. Georges, who was going on tour for her new book, Calling Dr. Laura: A Graphic Memoir. I immediately brought the email to the attention of my co-PLG members and suggested we host her for a workshop of some kind. Obviously we did, because I’m writing this, so March 5, we had a most excellent time with her.

We didn’t really know what to ask her to do, so she asked us. Given that we are all in library school but all have very different interests and backgrounds (and some of us are in various dual degrees and library tracks, including archives), we had about eight million questions for Nicole, so a lot of the event was her answering questions and telling us cool things about Factsheet Five, Riot Grrrl, and other groundbreakers in the world of those self-published packets of expression. As she reminded us, zines are perfect if you feel that you aren’t represented in mainstream media, or even if there’s just a part of you that’s not represented, because maybe your favorite music is widely reviewed already, but there’s no perspective on it from your gender identity; or you love fashion, too, but there are no magazines that talk about it in the context of emotional memory. Or whatever. You get it.

I think we meant to start creating our own zines, but somehow, time ticked by, and all we were doing was discussing how zines can relate to library collections, why none of us in PLG (except one person) had been to the Papercut Zine Library yet (oops), how you can make a zine even if you aren’t the world’s most talented comics artist or grammatically correct writer, and how they can especially allow marginalized groups to be heard (oh hey, oral histories of people living in nursing homes). It was probably the most enjoyable two hours of natural, real discussion I’ve experienced in awhile, and it made me think of how much it should be applied to public and school libraries.

Zines aside for a minute, I can’t see a lot of events taking shape like this, but in some ways, they are a lot less intimidating than more traditional events, like lectures where you’re supposed to sit and be quiet and then ask an insightful question at the end, or workshops where you absolutely must make a sculpture along with everyone else. It was audience- and speaker-derived, which meant it was always changing and was, I hope, interesting to everyone involved. It is disappointing that we didn’t have a bigger group of people attending when so many people had asked us for more details, but certainly the weather had something to do with that, and also, I can’t really disparage people for not coming to events when I so often do not go to events even when they sound great. But I wonder, if events like these (meaning less defined, more casual, and less about having to immediately be really knowledgeable or fangirl/boy as soon as you arrive) were more common, would people be more likely to engage in group things at libraries?

It’s something to think about. Formal events, even if you think of them as informal book clubs, can be very intimidating to shy people or to people who are simply still feeling out what it is that they’re interested in. So this sponsored-hanging-out-with-an-awesome-person-and-eating-food was a great alternative to the usual stuff you see on offer.

Also, I’m going to start reading (and maybe even writing) zines again. As soon as I finish my homework. Wooo, spring break! Anyway.

Nicole’s Etsy shop is here, and her work is definitely worth checking out. We all went a little shopping crazy.

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