FROM THE WITHITGIRL ARCHIVES Story by Sandy Olkowski
Once upon a time in a land far, far away there was a girl who scribbled angry yet incredibly witty passages in her school notebooks. Her friends also made angry scribblings and occasionally drew comics. The girls would furtively compare these rantings, amidst much cackling, in the back row of their Senior Psychology class. But that's as far as it went because they didn't have a book like Zine Scene.
All right, I'll admit it: the girl was me, and her friends were my friends, and we were the perfect audience for this comprehensive introduction to the world of zines. The result of a collaborative effort by Francesca Lia Block (of Weetzie Bat fame) and Hillary Carlip, Zine Scene is a great place to start if you've got the urge to spread your word. The writing is simple and the vibe is super-positive.
Sandwiched between a who/what/where overview and a short distribution bit at the end, the bulk of Zine Scene is a "how-to" section, which covers everything from picking a name to avoiding copyright infringement. Now, the distinction between reading about doing it yourself and actually doing it yourself is certainly not lost on me, but two (possibly subjective) factors redeem this book from the purgatory of 'reading about doing.'
Before I continue, here's another personal admission: I'm layout challenged. I don't know if I've eroded the spatial reasoning part of my brain through years of excess caffeine intake or what, but I cannot for the life of me figure out how to correctly order the pages of my zines.
Imagine my delight when, on page 96 of Zine Scene, I found a simple, visual guide to ordering pages. In a flash of hyperbolic ecstasy, the whole world made sense. Although the world has since returned to its incomprehensible state, the layout chart remains, along with a good deal of other reference material useful to both zine virgins and those of us with a little more, ahem, experience.
For me, zines are about figuring it out myself, doing it my own way, learning through trial and error, so I was initially put off by the amount of content suggestions in this book. As I was reading it, I wondered about how I would use the information had I never before made a zine. Would I be influenced or inspired? By the time I was halfway through the book, my question was answered in the form of an irresistible desire to get cracking on my own zine. Ideas were rushing around my head; I would make the zine to end all zines, I was an unstoppable creative force, I was the omnipotent ruler of the universe! All of which is to say that between the excellent examples of work and the cut-and-paste graphic style, Zine Scene is totally inspiring.
Face it, you can only read so many beauty-tip glossies before you can no longer be held responsible for your actions. Eventually, that voice inside of you will demand to make itself heard. When this happens, no one is going to do it for you. You've got to do it yourself. By turns powerful, cathartic, and a darn good time, self-expression is where it's at.
Sandy Olkowski is a Senior Editor at withitgirl. Where are you now? The withitgirls want to know.
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