A zine is, more or less, a little booklet that someone creates, copies, and shares. Maybe you have a passion you want to write about, or you just want to showcase some sketches or poems, or you’re spreading the word about some local activist work- whatever the topic, a zine is a tool for communication and community-building.
Of course, that’s the simple version. There is a whole long, rich history of zine-making in the US (and beyond); for a lot of people, the term “zine” refers to something a little more specific. For example, a lot of zines share a particular aesthetic: black-and-white, cut-and-paste collage, informal, maybe kind of messy, very DIY. I won’t do a whole history here (though here’s one), but you could trace the history of the zine back through the riot grrrls, through punk, all the way back to things like abolitionist newspapers and revolutionary pamphleteers.
I’m drawn to zines for three primary reasons:
- They’re real. I’m writing this in 2019, a time when a lot of us are drowning in digital media. Zines are something concrete that you can physically distribute (ideally using recycled materials). That doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but it feels different, and cool. Of course, they can also be digitized for maximum accessibility.
- They’re small. The limited space is an exercise in editing: how do you share what you want to share, especially when you’re super passionate about it, when you have a limited amount of pages to work with? This has been a healthy challenge for me.
- They’re democratic. This is a point that has something in common with spoken word and slam poetry. Zines acknowledge that everyone has a story, or a passion, or something meaningful to share. You don’t have to be an expert or have a formal publisher. You just have to have something to say.
Zines I’ve Worked On:
Just Because You Don’t Have the Power to Run Out the Front Door and Magically Fix Everything, It Doesn’t Mean that You Don’t Have Power (2016). I made this (in collaboration with designer Liv Novotny) to share some of what I’ve learned about activism, organizing, and power- especially with people who know that they want to “do” something, but haven’t had a ton of experience exploring what that actually means. (11×17 layout for printing here)
Building a Police-Free Future: Frequently Asked Questions (2017). I collaborated on this with other members of the MPD150 collective. It’s a great introduction to abolition work for people who maybe haven’t heard of that before. (11×17 layout for printing here)
How Do We Build a Culture of Consent? (2018). I asked that question to hundreds of advocates, activists, survivors, and service providers around the country, and consolidated some of the answers here. It’s about recognizing that consent as a personal practice is vital, but that it’s also about shifting the larger culture in a sustainable way. (11×17 layout for printing here)
Resources for Emerging Poets and Anyone Interested in Spoken Word (2019). This zine contains some writing tips, some ideas for getting involved in spoken word, and a list of resources to check out, including a list of ten of my favorite poems of all time. (11×17 layout for printing here)
The Art of Taking the L (2019). This is a poem, plus some discussion questions and additional resources focusing on masculinity, gender roles, and violence.
On a hand-to-hand level, these zines are all free if I have them in stock and you come to a show; if you can’t do that though, feel free to print (and fold) some yourself.
Quick note: if you want a bunch of one or more of these zines, get in touch. For example: if you work at a university and want a few thousand consent zines to include in first-year orientation materials, or if you’re organizing a young writers’ conference and want a few hundred of the poetry one- let’s talk! Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make Your Own Zines
There’s no one way to make or format a zine, but I really like the 8-page “z-fold” format; five of the six zines above were originally created that way. You take one sheet of paper (I use 11×17 paper, but it also works with 8.5×11), cut a slit in the middle, and then fold it how the link says. It’s relatively cost-effective and easy for people to print out their own if they want more copies.
For larger runs, I’ve been sending PDFs to a printer (Smart Set here in MPLS; a union shop, offering a paper option that is 100% post-consumer waste recycled) and getting them printed/stapled instead, just to save the time/effort of doing all that folding. That’s more expensive, but can be worth it if you’re printing thousands at a time (which is rare for most zines, but something to think about).
A couple other resources: