Microcosm’s Blogifesto Talks to Ayun Halliday about The East Village Inky Zine!

The good Ayun Halliday recently released the 48th (!) issue of her fantastic, illustrated per-zine, The East Village Inky. We decided it was high time to catch up with her and talk zines, books, and awards…

Q: When you first started doing The East Village Inky did you think it would go on for as long as it has? Most zine-makers do not make it to issue 48. Totally crazy and exciting.

A: For someone who loves ephemera, I’m pretty bad at conceiving of things, projects, and people as ephemeral. Likewise, for someone who’s ducked out of an entire book’s worth of day jobs, I’m pretty bad at quitting. When I love something, I want it to last forever, and shy away from any assumptions that it won’t. There’s a precedent, too. I somehow managed to write and perform in a late night, low budget show for nearly a decade, only stopping when the arrival of my first child took the matter out of my hands. 

The autobiographical nature keeps the zine fresh for me, and hopefully for the long time readers as well. It’d be a drag to have to keep making the same three jokes, a la the Family Circus. Oh hell, did I just reinforce the idea that it’s a ‘parenting zine’? Because it’s not. It’s a zine made by someone who had little kids, who now, coincidentally, has big kids. I recently made a time progression video of all 48 covers for a zine reading at the Lower East Side Girls Club with Fly and Cristy Road. It made me appreciate how much life has been crammed into those 1920 quarter-sized pages, even if the whole thing is viewable in the same amount of time the Ramones took to burn through Judy is a Punk. I’m glad to have documented stuff I would have otherwise forgotten, and to have documented it in this particular, handwritten, illustrated format. 



Q: What was going on in your life when you started the zine? Why did you decide to do it?

A: I was a year into motherhood and the wheels were about to come off mentally. I was missing my late night, low budget theater lifestyle – the flip side of doing a long term project is the danger you’ll feel unmoored when it comes to an end. I needed a creative project that could reach a small audience of strangers, whilst allowing for the constant companionship of a one year old. I’d wanted to make a zine for quite some time, but had never found a subject I felt would sustain more than a single issue. Then along came Inky and bingo! Exploring New York City as one whose ability to participate in its many pleasures was defined by my maternal situation provided the initial sustaining subject. It also enriched the experience of early motherhood, getting me out of my funk by providing a sense of purpose, a deadline, self-generated assignments, and lots of daymaking mail from friendly strangers.

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Q: Last year you put together the Zinester’s Guide to NYC. Has your life changed in any way? You plagued with annoying questions from the great unwashed? Free meals at your favorite NYC eateries?

A: Oh yeah, I’m a total big shot now. I think its most lasting legacy for me is a compulsion to check out and share every new, cheap, oddball pleasure I stumble across. I am also stricken when I learn of one of our listings closing, or moving, or reopening under a different name. Still, I stand by my conviction that one cannot truly experience a new city when one’s eyes and mind are blinkered by a smartphone addiction. Presumably ZG2NYC users are resourceful enough to do a little online double checking before leaving home. I’ll bet the hardiest among them are game to explore nearby frontiers should they arrive to find that one of our greatest-sounding listings has mysteriously morphed into a nail salon. Speaking of which, I’m glad to have historic record of these places as they go out of business, because I swear, I walk down my old street, 9th between 1st and A, and cannot for the life of me recall what most of those storefronts used to be…


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Q: A little bird told us the ZG2NYC recently won an award. DO TELL.

A: Oh yeah, that was a real boost! Like Tsegaye Kebede and Mary Keitany, the ZG2NYC is a bronze medalist. In our case, it’s compliments of the Society of American Travel Writers’  Lowell Thomas Awards, in the guidebook category. It’s gratifying that the first place winner was published by Lonely Planet. It’s even more gratifying that I have some fresh credentials to justify my inclusion when my travel writer buddies invite me to hang with them at Otto’s Shrunken Head. No Touch Monkey! and Other Travel Lessons Learned Too Late was beginning to feel like a very old fake ID, given that it was published in 2003.

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Q: What’s next for you, zine-wise, book-wise, fun-times-wise, family-wise, etc-wise?

A: We’re getting the bug to travel again in that rambling, low budget way. It’s all very embryonic right now, a challenge to coordinate with the New York City public school calendar, but it’s a far more appealing prospect than shopping for real estate, no matter how beat the rental apartment we’ve inhabited for 12 years now becomes. Zine wise, I’ve been hosting an East Village Inky Resubscription Round Up, trying to reconnect with everyone who ever let his or her subscription lapse (or at least since I began keeping computerized records). It’s worked out staggeringly well thusfar, even if I did get myself banned from sending out friend requests on Facebook for a few days. It’s kind of the zinely equivalent of renewing one’s vows. I’m also working on a couple of books, and toying with the idea of a mass new project involving the NYC subway and books (as opposed to e-readers). More on that later, I hope.

Check out the 48th issue of Inky here. Check out the Zinester’s Guide to NYC here.