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.
I like cats, feminism, queers, making things and writing, apparently.