Q and A with Chicago Zine Fest Organizers!
We had a chance to catch up with the very busy people organizing this year’s Chicago Zine Fest, which will be held March 12th-13th at some great places all over Chicago. Check out chicagozinefest.org for all the information. They were nice enough to answer some questions for our Blogifesto! Take it away folks….
So, what’s the Chicago Zine Fest all about? How did you get involved in organizing the fest? When was the last Chicago Zine Fest?
Leslie: The Chicago Zine Fest is an opportunity for self-publishers to gather together and showcase their work. Our goal is to make zine-making accessible, highlight the talents of self-published artists, and give independent artists a chance to interact, and swap skills through tabling, lectures, and workshops. We tried to create a more interactive fest; including a reading, an art show, a film fest and the exhibiting. We are hoping people will talk and invest time in getting to know one another and what their zines are all about.
I got involved with organizing the Chicago Zine Fest the same way all four of us did–we just decided to make it happen! Ramsey, Matt, Neil and I all traveled up to and tabled together at the Milwaukee Zine Fest. On the drive back to Chicago we all collectively decided it was our calling to make this happen in Chicago.
A fellow Chicago zinester Michelle Aiello organized a smaller DIY centered event called the Ephemera Festival, which took place from 2005-2009. Overall though, for the huge city we live in and the amount of people making zines here, there hasn’t been a festival of this design in a very long time or possibly ever.
What’s the first zine you ever read, where did you get it?
Ramsey: The first zine I ever read was a photo zine called Worthless. I got it at a Catch 22 show, haha, in 1999 or 2000 probably. The guy who was selling merch for them was also selling his zine. I specifically remember asking him what it was and he said ‘oh, it’s just a collection of my photos put together, like a little magazine.’ I was 14, from a small town, just getting into punk and had never heard of zines at that time so I didn’t know what he was talking about, but he said it would help him buy a Pepsi. Inside was a compelling photo essay about a mom who lived in a van with her daughter in New Jersey. It wasn’t until a few years later, when I had learned about zines and started reading them, that I realized that guy, had sold me a zine a few years prior. That zine stayed with me for a long time, even though I didn’t really know what it was or why that guy put it together.
What’s so great about zines, why have a fest celebrating them, and what does the future of zines look like?
Neil: The micro-budgets most zines exist in give authors the freedom to say whatever is on their mind. If I want to say something, there’s no reason not to. For the consumer of a zine, beyond the ability to stock up on some heavy reading for cheap, the appeal is the direct connection between you and author. You get to read their inner thoughts, having never met them, and you can write directly back to them.
Celebrations like the Chicago Zine Fest are important because it allows zinesters to increase that connection between the reader and the author. There are very few forms of art in which the audience can interact so directly with a creator as with zines, and a major vehicle for that is sticking the author behind a table for six hours. A complete novice can walk into a fest, and not only be exposed to hundreds of different zines that range in subject matter and form, but they can put a human face to a somewhat quirky medium.
The future of zines and other DIY media looks great! We’re currently facing two quite different trends in media, the first is the consolidation of major media among just a few companies, the second is the increased popularity of “user generated content.” Zines have always been about publishing the ideas deemed unmarketable by those who control the reigns of publishing. With fewer companies controlling major media, the output has become more uniform, which is only going to cause more people to turn to their own form of media making. Blogs, podcasts, twitter and youtube are making the idea of self-publishing far less fringe. Locally, we’re seeing institutions such as Chicago Public Radio devoting major resources to user generated content. They’ve created Vocalo, a station broadcasting from Chesterton, Indiana that allows anyone to contribute content. A lot of people are worried that new media is going to hurt print, but it seems like if anything, the new media is going to be supportive of the ideas behind zines, breed more zinesters, and allow folks to connect with them with greater ease.
What has the response been so far about the Chicago Zine Fest?
Leslie: The response has been overwhelming and amazing! We never dreamed when we were sitting around saying there should be a zine fest in Chicago that just months later we would have people from all across the country and Canada coming. It has been awesome to have our dream list of sponsors all agree to support us as well as our dream list of readers and participants. We are really thankful and humbled by the response we have gotten from everyone wanting to participate in all aspects of the fest.
What are the resources in Chicago for zinesters?
You can buy or read zines at all of these places, be sure to check out some of them if you come to town! Ask any of us with a “staff” button. We’ll be very glad to give you directions:
Lichen Lending Library and Spiritual Archives
Third Coast Comics
Women and Children First
Chicago Underground Library
Depaul University Library Zine Collection
If you were stranded on an island and could only take one zine, one book, one album, and one food– what would they be?
Matt: some Anthony Marvullo joint, Robinson Crusoe, The Band by The Band, and Pizza.
Leslie: Every Single Word by Corrine Mucha would seem fitting, Nine Stories by Salinger, 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton to get me up and going every morning, and probably vegan pizza as well.
Ramsey: an Invincible Summer/Clutch split, 100 Years of Solitude, it’s a toss up between the Red Walls and Fall Out Boy (actually,that’s a silly joke. my real answer is Luiz Bonfa), and quinoa! The only way I can get a complete protein in one food, as a vegan.
Neil: Paper Cutter #5, A Child’s Christmas in Whales by Dylan Thomas, Miscellaneous T by They Might Be Giants, and grapes.
If Chicago (as a city) were stranded on an island and could only take one zine, one book, one album, and one food–what would they be?
Anything by Al Burian, DIY Boatbuilding, something by Alkaline Trio, and Chicago Pizza or Chicago style hot dogs (celery salt, peppers, tomatoes and pickles!).