Fifteen Years of Zine Making and Indulgence 12

Indulgence numbers 11 & 12 with Grow at Brooklyn Zine Fest

Indulgence numbers 11 & 12 with Grow at Brooklyn Zine Fest

When I was seventeen and ordering records through the mail from Kill Rock Stars and K Records I stumbled upon something amazing: zines, or small, self-published magazines, that were often distributed by their creators or through bedroom-based businesses called “Zine Distros.” I’ve told this story many times, but discovering these earnest publications where people from all backgrounds, but especially women close to my age, shared their stories, interests, passions, fears and experiences was nothing short of life changing. Growing up in a rural area, reading zines and writing to their creators was a lifeline to a world that was bigger than the one immediately around me.

At 17, like most teenagers, I was struggling to figure out who I would become in this world as a feminist, queer person and a writer. Making zines showed me that I could already be who I wanted to become by sharing my writing and freely expressing my identity. I started my personal zine Indulgence, inspired by an English teacher who declared, “Some would argue we are in an age of the pinnacle of self-indulgent, personal writing” (this was during the mid-1990s memoir craze, blogs were not yet in existence).

Zine fest redux!

Me and Meredith, a zinester friend from Portland, at the LA Zine Fest in February

Zines became central to my life and opened me up to a worldwide network of creative people, many of whom I am still in touch with today. Once I began making zines I felt I found my calling. I threw myself into zine publishing and zine culture, meeting zine makers all over the country and helping to start the Portland Zine Symposium in 2001 when I was taking a “gap year” between high school and college in Portland, Oregon.

My zine production has waxed and waned over the past few years, subject to time pressures placed on me by school, work and general life, but even in this world of blogs, Twitter, Instagram and so many other platforms for sharing, zines are still my preferred format for longer form, personal essays. I’ve always used zines as a venue to help navigate changes in my life and this past year has been no exception. I wrote the pieces for Indulgence #12 over the course of the fall of 2013 and polished them up this winter and got this latest issue ready for the Brooklyn Zine Fest, which took place at the end of April.

Workin' the table at the Brooklyn Zine Fest

Workin’ the table at the Brooklyn Zine Fest

Indulgence #12 explores three major themes in my life: work, love and death. Over the past year I quit my job and shifted my career from nonprofit arts administration to working with creative technology companies, walked away from a long term relationship and experienced the death of my grandmother and the shifts that created in my family dynamic. All in all, it was a year of navigating the choppy waters of adulthood, sometimes gracefully and often times with a fair amount of stress and angst. I’m proud of the essays in Indulgence #12 and think that they are some of my most focused personal writing yet. I’d love for you to pick up a copy. Like all of my zines, the cover is handmade and it is hand bound. It’s $4 with shipping for the US and $5 for the rest of the world. You can order through Shoplocket here.

Crackers the cat loves zines!

Crackers the cat loves zines!

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Return of the Zine!

Indulgence 11 CoverBefore I was a world famous blogger and these musings on my life, clothes, travels, and writing were read by millions (or at least by my mom, hi mom!), I poured by personal writing out into a small, handmade publication called Indulgence. I started Indulgence a shocking 15 years ago, in 1998, while I was still in high school and living with my parents outside of Portland, Maine.

The name was inspired by one of my high school English teacher’s snide comments about personal writing – that it was nothing but self-indulgence, as a way to mock that sentiment (I think personal writing is vitally important), carve out a space for my writing, and at the same time, not take myself too seriously.

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Over the years and issues Indulgence has been a place for me to experiment with form, voice, storytelling and risk taking. I came out as queer in its pages in the second issue, did a lot of soul searching about what it meant to move to New York right before September 11th and experience its aftermath in the 7th and 8th, endlessly analyzed my relationship to race as a white woman in the 9th, and recorded the heartache of a New York to Paris love affair in the 10th. Finally, nearly 5 years after issues #10, I finished issue #11.

Even though the zine was dormant for five years, I never stopped identifying as a “zinester” (I certainly relate to it more than being a blogger) or speaking of Indulgence as an active publication. I met my closest friends through writing and trading zines in the late 1990s and early 2000s and am still constantly inspired by zine culture. My experiences organizing zine events, like the Portland Zine Symposium, were a big part of what inspired me to write my first book, Grow. I was even quoted extensively in the New York Times about zine culture in reference to the recent Brooklyn Zine Fest!

However, I felt like all my interesting personal stories had dried up. I was discussing this with Golnar and Mimi after watching a reading during the Race Riot Zine Tour (both of these rad ladies are in their 30s, super smart academics and still make kick ass zines, by the way) and Golnar’s comment gave me the kick in the pants I needed to make a new issue. “My life is way more interesting than it was when I was 17,” she said, “And I still wrote about my life then, so why not now?”

Working on Indulgence #11 at the IPRC

Working on Indulgence #11 at the IPRC

Right, of course. So Indulgence #11 is my way to coax myself back into personal storytelling. I can’t help but feel like the writing is a bit rough around the edges, but it’s a zine after all.

This issue brought my zine making full circle. I laid it out over the course of two days in Portland, Oregon at the Independent Publishing Resource Center’s brand new space (I spent hours at the old, cramped IPRC back in the day making Indulgence issues #5 through #9). When I brought it, hot off the presses, to the Brooklyn Zine Fest a big group of my zine pals from the late 1990s showed up!

My table at the 2013 Brooklyn Zine Fest

My table at the 2013 Brooklyn Zine Fest

So after all of that, I’m really excited to share this new issue with you. It felt good to get gluestick glue all over my fingers again (despite my love of a clean, minimal layout, I will always prefer to do an old fashioned paste-up to a newfangled InDesign layout) and start to put some thoughts and feelings on the page. It’s 28 little pages of stories about music and life in New York City, line drawings, and infographics that try to grasp at the relationship between career, love and money. All in a hand printed cover lovingly stitched together by my own hands. You don’t quite find that kind of love on a blog, right?

You can have your copy for just $3 plus shipping (or a trade). You can order it here!

Being a blogger having been a zinester wanting to become a writer

Petite Super International
The other week I went to the Brooklyn Bloggers meetup at the Bell House with my friend Laura of the blog Eating the Beats. It was my first time going to an event consciously as a “blogger,” and despite having written on Killerfemme for the past few years I’ve been hesitant to really identify as being a blogger versus simply being a person who has a blog. All told, the Brooklyn Blog meetup was fun. I talked to bloggers who write about New York nachos, tech and gadgets from a girl’s perspective, writers for Broeklyn, and a brave young woman who writes about being broke and navigating New York’s dating scene. It was nice to hear people’s interesting ideas and find out about how they are crafting their blogs. However, I also feel like I’ve come to blogging too late to really get into it without seeing the bold commercialism that is behind so many blogs now. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but blogs are often seen as a means to another end, which is fine, if that’s your goal. While I too would love a book contract and/or a regular byline, I don’t necessarily think my personal blog will be my ticket to my dreams as a writer.

Mostly I feel like I haven’t found my blogging “community” yet. Perhaps it’s because of the vastness of the blogosphere (if we can even call it that anymore), but I don’t feel like I’ve found bloggers who share my ideas, values and aesthetics. In fact, most of the blogs I read are in French. While I thoroughly enjoy those blogs, it’s hard to connect with those writers when I write in a different language, even if I comment on their entries en francais.
Who will win the typing contest?
This made me think back to when I started making my personal zine Induglence in 1998. When I first encountered zines I knew immediately that I would make one myself. The concept of publishing one’s own personal writing made sense to me innately, especially as a teenager, because I knew that I could not expect anyone else to publish my work. Perhaps because I knew exactly the kind of writers I wanted to connect with—I would describe them loosely as young feminists interested in art, queer politics, and music—it was easier for me to immerse myself in the zine community. I felt like over the course of two or so years I was able to build up an audience for my zine and also a network of close friends, penpals and fellow zinesters that I felt I shared something in common with. My connection to and beleif in the power of the zine network extended into helping found the Portland Zine Symposium in 2001. It continues to resonate into my adult life because some of my closest friends (and neighbors) are women I met through zines over 10 years ago.

Perhaps its because I have close friends now that I don’t feel the same urgency to seek out people to connect with through blogs. However, I also feel like I am writing in a vacuum, and some days that makes me wonder if I should even continue to bother with this blog. Keeping a blog (and keeping it up more regularly and diligently) has reminded me about the whole reason I started making zines and keeping a blog to begin with: to write. Being a writer has been my dream ever since I was a little girl and it is something I am determined to make a reality in my thirties. I know it’s harder now than ever to distinguish oneself, one’s voice, one’s ideas, and one’s blog (especially if I don’t have hundreds of dollars and hours to sink into the design and hosting of it), but I also feel like its much easier for me to find opportunities to publish and connect with wider audiences nowadays. For me, I feel like blogging and writing for other web-based publications holds a lot of promise. We’ll see what the future will bring.

Hopefully in the next decade I'll be able to write a better novel than Ida the cat.