Zine-Maker: The Gift of Zines

Zine-Maker: The Gift of Zines

Announcing one final new zine of the year: The Zine-Maker zine.

Last week I was invited to Cardiff to facilitate a workshop on zine-making. I thought I’d get meta and make a zine for the workshop about zine-making. I figured it’d be a nice thing for people to take away, as well as giving an opportunity for anyone who couldn’t make the workshop to work/play through it in their own time.

What’s in the zine

The Zine-Maker zine introduces you to the idea of zines and where they come from. It helps you to figure out whether zine-making might be for you and – if so – what kinds of zines, or – if not – what alternative kinds of creativity might be a better fit. Then it takes you through a couple of quick warm-ups for your word-making and image-making (as well as a bunch of alternatives if these things aren’t for you). Finally, it gives you practices for making three zines/zine fragments/zine plans.

You can take a few hours alone – or with friends – to work/play through the zine as a workshop. Or you can just read it through, or dip into it, whatever works for you.

Who inspired the zine

In preparing this zine I read more of Lea Cooper’s wonderful series about zines, In the Zine House (and Carmen Maria Machado’s amazing book In the Dream House, which inspired Lea’s title). Lea’s words particularly helped me to understand the mad, crip, queer potential of zining.

I also read Stephen Duncombe’s excellent analysis of zines and art activism, Notes from Underground. I was fascinated to find out more about the roots of zine-making in both sci-fi fandom (which resonates hard as I’m currently watching everything Star Trek) and in the punk scene.

As well as embracing the DIY ethos of zine-making, both fandom and punk encourage their audiences to break down the hierarchies between creators and audiences by writing their own stories and/or making their own music.

Personally, slashers and other fan-fic authors take mainstream media into their own hands, often making fiction that is queerer that mainstream media is able to produce. Punk and Riot Grrrl resist the capitalist music industry by insisting that everyone can make their own music.

Politically, sci-fi and punk also both challenge the normative status quo, imagining futures where things are done radically differently, particularly in terms of the hierarchies that a drawn between what/who is considered valuable and what/who is not.

In the Zine-Maker zine, I bring Natalie Goldberg and Lynda Barry into dialogue with zines. Both authors present a radical alternative to conventional advice about words (Natalie) and images (Lynda). They suggest that we should dismantle normative ideas about what makes good, successful writing or pictures, and instead return to our ‘beginner’s mind’ or the child parts of us who knew/know how to play with words and images.

Finally, I love these words from Yarrow Magdalena which I include at the end of the zine.

I love thinking of zines as spells that can travel throughout the world to tell stories and share skills and knowledge … You can hide inside them when things get tough and you can experience another person’s world intimately or escape into some place brighter than your own. Zines give us a chance to shift the narratives we’re exposing ourselves to and to water the kinds of creative eco systems that are more aligned with our values than mainstream media. – Rituals, Yarrow Magdalena

The gift of zine

If you’d like to give the gift of zine, or of zine-making, feel free to download and share the Zine-Maker zine here.

Meg-John (MJ) Barker (they/them) is a writer, zine-maker, collaborator, contemplative practitioner, and friend. They are the author of a number of zines and popular books on sex, gender, and relationships, including graphic guides to Queer, Gender, and Sexuality (with Jules Scheele), and How To Understand Your Gender, Sexuality and Relationships (with Alex Iantaffi).