I made my first zine when I was sixteen. I honestly didn’t feel a pressing need to say something, I just wanted to be able to trade for zines that other people made. Zines seemed like such a cool medium, a community I wanted to be a part of. My first zine was called Cuaderno, the Spanish word for notebook, which I thought was cute and fun. I didn’t consider cultural implications at all, and when another zinester called me out on naming my zine with a word in a language that wasn’t mine, I’m not proud of how I reacted. I sent her a whiny letter about how I didn’t mean any harm (which, in my mind, made it okay), then changed the name of my zine with an article about how Cuaderno wasn’t “fun anymore.” I’ve written a longer article about this experience, but I haven’t shared it because I think it centers myself in a conversation about racism and white supremacy that shouldn’t be about me. (If you want to talk more about this, let me know.) My new zine was called Passing the Open Windows, which was a reference to The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving, a novel my boyfriend at the time and I were in love with. The family in the story always tells each other “keep passing the open windows” as a way of saying “keep living” or basically, “don’t jump.” The zines had the same type of content, a personal zine (at times waaaaay too personal) with recommendations and collages and articles about stuff I like. And that’s basically still what I make zines about, because that’s my favorite type of zine. I love getting that little peek into someone’s life. During college, I made more one-off zines, and got into making cooking zines for a while as I learned how to cook for myself. I started The Independent Kitten when I was living in Portland and came across the phrase in a book of cat photos. It was a chapter heading with the perfect balance of strength and vulnerability, fur and claws. The Independent Kitten started as a purely personal zine, but the title makes people expect a lot of cat content, so I try for a mix of cats, personal, political, and recommendations.
For several years in my twenties, I was on the organizing committee for the Portland Zine Symposium. Working to put on such a huge event taught me a lot about working with people, and I made mistakes that taught me how not to work with people. After I stepped down as an organizer of the Zine Symposium, I took a break from making zines for a while. In the last few years, though, I’ve been back, and I’ve been really enjoying the freedom of zines. I love the idea that anyone can make a zine about whatever they want, and I also love that there’s a community of people who want a way to express ourselves outside of mainstream publications.
I tabled at the Portland Zine Symposium this year with my book and a new issue of The Independent Kitten. I got a table kind of last-minute, so I wasn’t able to sit with my friends, which pushed me out of my comfort zone. I got lucky in sitting next to Eunsoo from Koreangry, who is not only sweet, generous, and funny, but also makes amazing artwork. She builds meticulous miniature scenes and photographs them to make comics that are personal and political, and is someone I wouldn’t have gotten to know if we hadn’t been randomly assigned next to each other.
The Portland Zine Symposium inspires me so much every year. I kind of love that the Olympia Zine Fest is a few months after the Portland Zine Symposium, which makes the perfect opportunity to get inspired in Portland and then make something new for Olympia. That’s what I did last year, with The Independent Kitten issue 8, but this year I decided to make a new issue in time for Portland. I’ll be honest, I did most of the work in the two weeks leading up to the Zine Symposium, and ended up copying issue 9 the evening before my tabling shift, and stapling at midnight while binging new episodes of Charmed.
I do almost all of my layout by hand. I like small zines - quarter size has been my size of choice for several years. Each page is a quarter of a sheet of 8.5” by 11” paper, or 4.25” by 5.5”. I like this size because it’s easy to fit into a pocket or purse, and I can make a decently thick zine with only 4 sheets of paper. Writing the content is the hardest part for me, but once I have my long skinny column of text printed out, I love cutting it up, arranging the paragraphs, and gluing it all down. I love seeing the transformation from a chaotically-colored, taped-together stack of paper that’s all wavy with glue to a neat little black-and-white zine.
Zines have been so central to my development as a person. Making zines and the people I’ve met through them have helped me figure out who I am. Zines have been there when I’ve had successes and failures, when I’ve been confident and insecure, kind and mean, making mistakes and growing and learning. I don’t know if I would have had the confidence to write my book if I hadn’t made and shared zines beforehand, and gotten positive feedback on my writing from my zines. So thank you to everyone who’s inspired me, encouraged me, put up with me, and been there, creating alongside me and making zines that are funny, interesting, and, above all, honest.
Hello! Happy November! The most important thing this month is to remember to vote!! If, like me, you live in Oregon, it's too late to mail our ballots in, so please be sure to drop yours off at a library or other drop site before 8 p.m. on Tuesday! I think it's really important to vote for candidates who will oppose Donald Trump, like Kate Brown for Governor. I hope that Oregon will continue with our queer, progressive governor. I know most of my friends agree with me about this, so I think the most important thing is to make sure your ballot gets counted.
My other November news is that this coming weekend, I'm going to the Euzine Comics and Zine Fest in Eugene, Oregon. It will be my first time tabling and attending, so I'm excited. Euzine is Saturday, November 10th from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Auditorium at the Lane Events Center. If you're in the area, stop by and say hello!
In October, I tabled at the Olympia Zine Fest. I've been to the Olympia Zine Fest a few times, and I love the friendly atmosphere and variety of zines. I was lucky enough to be seated next to my friend Sage, and it was great to talk about my book with folks, trade zines, and share my work! I also picked up a lot of creative and interesting zines, which I'm loving reading through.
I hope that Euzine will be just as fun and productive as the Olympia Zine Fest, and that the election results will bring positive change and help guide the country away from fascism. Regardless, I'm trying to fight fascism by living my life the way I want to and speaking out about what I believe. What are you doing to fight?
I got a PO Box! I'm pretty excited to have an official spot for all my zine- and book-related mail now. Send your love letters to: PO Box 33302, Portland OR 97292.
I also posted my zine to Etsy, so if you missed picking up a copy at the Olympia Zine Fest last weekend (which was a great event, by the way, and I will post more about it soon!), you can now order one online!
Below is a picture of some of the gorgeous stamps that I picked up at the last meeting of the Portland Correspondence Club. I love picking out stamps that I think the recipient will like when I'm mailing zines and letters!
The world feels so hard right now. We all saw Brett Kavanaugh get confirmed to the Supreme Court, despite obviously lying under oath and proving that he's completely partisan and not levelheaded in the least. It felt like the GOP was explicitly telling women how much they don't care about us. I guess a lot of things with the GOP have gotten more explicit lately, like the racism and xenophobia that's coming out into the open along with their acceptance of pedophiles and sexual abusers.
During all of this, another one of my aunts passed away. I feel so bad for my grandparents for losing two daughters within six months, when parents aren't supposed to outlive their children. The world also lost Bradley Knox, who laid out my book cover and pages, when he passed away suddenly last month. I hope that Bradley's wife and family know how much they've been in my heart since his passing.
The world is making me want to bury my head in the blankets and not come out until spring. And I've done a fair amount of escaping. I've been listening to tons of mystery audiobooks, binge-watching Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, and I made a new zine. I wrote about my experience writing a book and about my cats. My zine is The Independent Kitten, which is actually a slightly misleading title, since it's not exactly a zine about cats. Right now, I'm finishing up my last article - the one about politics. I feel so overwhelmed but am trying to just take it in pieces and do what I can do. I know it's important to get my own shit together before I can help anyone else, but it feels pretty self-indulgent. Or is that just the patriarchy trying to sabotage me before I even start?
I'm debuting my new zine at the Olympia Zine Fest this weekend, Saturday, October 13th from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Olympia Center. I'll also have books, and I would love to see some friendly faces.
What are you doing to fight the despair? I'd love your tips. I'm donating money, scheduling volunteer sessions at agencies that help my community, and writing thank you notes to Christine Blasey Ford.
Here's hoping the community of the zine fest this weekend will be just what I need to re-energize and get ready to fight some more!
The weekends since my book release have been busy, busy, busy! On Sunday, July 28th, I tabled with my book at the Portland Zine Symposium. I volunteered at the first-ever Portland Zine Symposium in 2001, helped organize the event for several years, and have tabled many times, but it’s been a few years since I’ve had something new to table with. My experiences writing/reading/trading zines were major influences on my book, and I never would have met my writing mentor, Sage Adderley-Knox, if it weren’t for zines, so I was glad to share my book with the zine community. I was also lucky enough to sit with Rebecca and Krissy, two long-term zine friends. The Portland Zine Symposium is completely volunteer-run, and it’s a TON of work to organize. If you see a Zine Symposium organizer or volunteer around town, don’t forget to thank them!
The next event was a little more anxiety-producing . . . my 20-year high school reunion! I’ll admit, part of my motivation in finishing my book this summer was to finish it before the reunion, so I could show up as a Published Author. I don’t know how much of a difference that made, but the reunion was a lot more fun than I expected. Everyone was excited to see each other, even people that I didn’t really expect to remember me. I had a few fears going in, like that I would discover that everyone thought I was mean in high school (a la Liz Lemon), or that hearing about how wonderful my classmates’ lives are would make me feel like my life is lacking. But I was surprised that neither one happened! A few people mentioned remembering me as a kind person, which was a relief considering how angsty and moody I felt in high school. And I discovered that it’s true that being confident in yourself makes you not want to compare yourself to others. I genuinely felt happy for my classmates and their successes. I wish I’d talked to more people and learned more about what everyone is up to, but I felt like the night was over in a flash! Before I knew it, my girlfriend and I were back up in our hotel room, eating yummy takeout poutine from Taproot before collapsing into bed.
This week, as I recover from my big reunion weekend, I’ve gotten 2 pieces of exciting book news. First, I received an email from Quimby’s Bookstore in Chicago, asking me to consign books with them. I’m getting those in the mail this week, so if you’re in the Chicago area, stop by to pick up a copy! The second piece of news is that the Multnomah County Library has purchased copies of my book. When I started writing, my goal was to eventually have my book available in my local library. And now it’s happening! I’m so glad that local readers will be able to access my book for free, and I hope lots of people check it out! I have info to help you request that your local library purchase the book over on the book page, and would love help spreading Book Smarts and Tender Hearts to libraries everywhere!
I like cats, feminism, queers, making things and writing, apparently.