Tag Archives: zine reviews

Gigs, shifts, and lost productivity.

I haven’t updated my blog for such a long time – I’ve been hella busy with my new job.  It’s going really well, and I love working there, though I’m still struggling to get up early every morning – I used to lie in until at least 9am, now I have to get up at 6am.  My body hates me right now.

As expected, working full-time has meant that I’ve had to devote far less time to my hobbies and other commitments.  Before I worked, I could quite easily take on lots of tasks, arrange to go on various trips, etc – the only limitation was financial. Now I have far more financial freedom, but not enough time!  I couldn’t attend Reclaim the Night Cardiff last week due to a late shift, and haven’t been able to see the SFN girls as much as I usually do.

This weekend I tried to squeeze in lots of stuff, and just about got away with it, though I’m not sure if I could manage it again.  On Friday I performed at the Swansea Feminist Network Music Fundraiser!  The gig was good; I wasn’t very happy with my performance, as I got quite nervous on the night and my nerves resulted in a number of mistakes on the piano. I got lots of positive feedback, so perhaps I thought it sounded far worse than it actually did.  The gig was also my first social outing with my new hair, and most people agreed that I actually look better with brown hair. What do you think?

Ali Morris wrote a great review of the night at Swansea University blog The Siren.

The following morning (6 hours after I got home the night before), I travelled up to Nottingham to visit my friend Rose and attend the Nottingham University Prizes and Awards ceremony (I won an award for the work I did for the Women’s Network zine “Artemis”!).  I had such a lovely weekend, and the 5-hour train journey was totally worth it.  On Saturday we watched some live female comedy at Ladyfest Nottingham, which was lots of fun.  I particularly liked Naomi Hefter, musical duo Lindsey & Catherine, and interactive comedy group The Gramophones, so do check those acts out if you’re interested in fun female comedy!

The weekend was awesome, but I’m not sure I can sustain this level of activity.  I’ve already had to turn down Reclaim the Night London this weekend, as I’m so tired from a week of work that a day in London would just make me ill.  (I bet those of you who work full-time will scoff at my weakness – I’m not used to timetables and getting up early to do things, I’ve spent the past 3 years either studying at uni, or on JSA!)  While I’m sad that I won’t be able to donate as much time to my side projects, I feel good that I have a job, and have some money coming in. :)

But I have managed to get a few things done:

Hopefully my productivity will get back to normal once my body has adjusted to my work schedule.  We shall see.

 

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Some thoughts on feedback in the zine scene.

I’ve been thinking recently about feedback in the zine community.  I’ve released two zines since May – issues #8 and #9 of my perzine Here. In My Head. –  and have had no real feedback for either, apart from my zinester friends telling me they enjoyed reading it (which is lovely and greatly appreciated, of course, but it’s not necessarily constructive).

As someone who used to be incredibly sensitive, I was terrified of any sort of feedback.  No news is good news, I figured.  It’s my personal little thing, I don’t want anyone poking holes in my silly little writings (though some zinesters did anyway, but that’s another story).  But now that I’ve got my spark back, I’m feeling more ambitious and have grown a slightly thicker skin, and I want to improve my art.  I know that my zines are still not as good as they could be – perhaps they never will be – so I’d like to know what’s missing, which bits are interesting and which bits aren’t, which aspects of the visual style work and which don’t, why my zine is or isn’t listed among readers’ favourites, why some distros order my zines without ‘sampling’ a copy first and why some still turn me down – basically, how I can improve as a zine writer.

That’s the main reason why I started Spill the Zines – there seem to be a lot of people around who are enthusiastic about zines, who devour piles of stock from their favourite distros, who order zines by their favourite zinesters as soon as they’re released, and who trawl the internet for zine reviews (that’d be me!)… and yet, there isn’t much discussion of zines online – not many websites dedicated to zines that stay active for too long.  Of course I can think of a few overseas that are (Broken Pencil, Zineworld, and Hello Amber spring to mind), but most of them seem to be paper-based (which is a pain when you’re from a different country, and skint like I am), or dying out a little (e.g. We Make Zines).  I also hear from many zinesters that they don’t get much written feedback from their readers anymore, and that they miss that connection.

Some people are reluctant to be too critical for fear of offending the writer.  I know that us zinesters tend to pour ourselves into our work, so much so that you can’t detach yourself entirely from your zines, and the subsequent criticism.  We’re also often perfectionistic, and rarely have a great deal of self-esteem.

There’s another argument that I’ve heard with regard to feedback – zines are meant to be a mode of self-expression, not academic essays, so being critical is uncalled for.  A zine isn’t something to be improved upon, it’s just the outpouring of your mind.  And I definitely think that many zinesters write zines because they need to share their stories.  Nonetheless, feedback is still good to hear, even if you want to avoid the critical route and just write something like “I identified with this part in particular”.  It’s good from a writers’ perspective as we like to know what our readers like and dislike.  It’s also good from a personal point of view, to know which parts of our stories resonate deeply with others, and to know that we’re not alone.

Having said that, I think it would be naive to think that people who write zines don’t care what people think of them.  There’s always a certain element of pride involved in creating your own little bit of art. Who wouldn’t want to know what people liked and didn’t like about it?

Maybe there should be a disclaimer in one’s zine – “I like feedback, positive and negative”, or “I write this for me, I don’t care if I’ve made mistakes or it’s messy or whatever”.  I don’t know.  I haven’t really reached much of a conclusion with this ramble… I never was any good at providing answers to the questions that float around in my head.  Still, some things to think about.  And of course, I’d love to know what you all think.  Do comment on this blog entry and let me know your thoughts – even if you think I’ve got it all wrong and am just not looking hard enough for people to write about my zines.

Also, I’m tabling at two upcoming zine fests – Sheffield Zine Fair and Camden Zine Fest.  If you see me at either, do come over and say hello, and let me know what you think of my zines, or just zines in general!  I love talking about zines – let’s do it together.

Note: I’ve also been struggling with these feelings with regard to my music career – why I rarely get any feedback or enthusiasm for my music. But I am, unfortunately, putting far more effort into my zine career than my music career at the moment (mostly due to confidence issues, but also because making zines is easier and cheaper than making music) so at least I can hope that if I were to put more effort into my music, then I’d get a little more attention.  That’ll change as soon as I get a job and can afford to buy the supplies needed to gig!

On an unrelated note, I’ve been writing in a few different places recently -

The F Word: review of Lady Gaga’s album Born this Way
I’m on the F Word! Yay!

Spill the Zines: Zine Resources
Where I discuss the benefits of using Zine Wiki, We Make Zines, and other online resources.

Spill the Zines: Birmingham Zine Festival, From Behind the Table
A review of BZF as a zinester tabling at the event.

Electric City: Review! Porcelain Black – This is What Rock and Roll Looks Like
Formerly of Porcelain and the Tramps fame, I review Black’s latest single.

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Review: London Zine Symposium 2011!

On Sunday I went to the London Zine Symposium with my good friend Caitlin (only a 3-hour train journey from Swansea, not bad eh?), where we met fellow zinester Ingrid at the station.  We had an awesome day together – great zines were bought, wallets were emptied, expensive London food was consumed, many free papery things were hoarded in our bags.  Also, I tried my first ever Krispy Kreme doughnut – ‘strawberries & kreme’.

*drool*

So after I held them up by insisting on finding something to eat first, we arrived at the venue, which was being held in a cool area of east London. There were lots of stalls and interesting people en route to the venue; a far cry from the (fairly) homogenized population of Swansea that I’m used to!  Inside, we had a bit of a nose around the stalls, and met with a few cool people there, including Lizzy from Marching Stars, Sophie Koonin, Hodge and the women from Bad Reputation, Tukru and her Vampire Sushi distro, and Emma Jane Falconer.  I bought one of Hodge’s gorgeous “An Alphabet of Feminism” posters, which I was chuffed about.

There was a zine library stall, where I donated a few issues of my zine, and a table for free zines and flyers, where I shoved piles of Spill the Zines flyers and issues of my free minizine Twt. When I returned to the table 20 minutes later, they had all been taken! Yay!  With hindsight, I should’ve printed out far more flyers…  oh well, there’s always next year.

image by Shebang Zine

Other highlights of the symposium included: meeting a few lovely zinesters who I’ve either written to, or follow on Twitter (all of whom were lovely), drawing monsters and third-eyes for ourselves at the Interactive Monster Unit (I wore my third eye on my forehead like a twat, whereas Caitlin and Ingrid had the good sense to wear them on their t-shirts), eating yummy food by the catering company “Anarchist Teapot“, browsing through some incredibly well-drawn comic zines, and the gorgeous sunny weather.

I will say that meeting strangers who knew of me through my zines was very scary.  I had a few people come up to me (I wasn’t hard to spot with my purple hair) and start chatting, which has never really happened before, so I’m not sure if I handled it well.  I always worry that I’ll be a total disappointment in person… but I don’t think I made too much of an idiot of myself in front of anyone… I call that a success!

Afterward we left the symposium, we visited  the iconic record store Rough Trade, which, I must embarrassingly admit, I’d never heard of until that day.  After picking up loads of the free zines and newspapers available inside, and browsing their awesome stock of vinyls and CDs, we got our picture taken in its infamous photo booth:

I wish I'd pulled more silly faces.

We then went for a coffee and watched the world go by under the verandah.  Such a good day. <3

I picked up so many zines on Sunday; I’m still too afraid to look in my purse to inspect the damage.  If I had the time, I would’ve done what Caitlin did and reviewed a few of them in this blog post, but sadly I’ve been too busy to read them so far.  For the meantime, you can read Caitlin’s post. :)

Other bits of zine news:
1. I’ve just done an interview about British zines and feminism for a PhD researcher in Warwick, which was a little scary, but turned out to be quite fun. Looking forward to reading the finished thesis.
2. My zine is being stocked at US distro and craft store, Fluxxii! Take a look here.
3. Spill the Zines has been syndicated on http://syndicatedzinereviews.blogspot.com!  Hannah and I are now listed as their two of their “staff reviewers”, which I think is rather exciting.  Take a look at their archives here.

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Quick Update.

Hello all,

Just a quick update to let you know that I won’t be around much for a little while, due to the ridiculous amount of work I have to do for my degree.  I’m writing lots about feminism though, so it’ll be a labour of love. :)

The zine review blog I’m co-editing, Spill the Zines, is now officially up and running – do take a look and comment!  If you have any zine-related news, get in touch with us at spillthezinesukATgmailDOTcom.

Also, I have new hair:

This is as exciting as my life has been recently.  Sorry chaps.

Day Zero update: I read this charming little book this week:

Cunt - Inga Muscio

My mum told me off for reading it in the surgery waiting room, haha.  I proceeded to explain to her – quietly – the history behind the word “cunt” and the lovely warm feelings the book gave me, so she came round to the idea of the word eventually.  :)

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Spill the Zines – a UK zine review blog!

Hello readers, sorry for the lack of posts recently; I’ve been feeling pretty under the weather, and haven’t actually done anything that’s interesting enough to blog about, apart from this:

This month, Hannah (Not Lonely zine) and I are opening Spill the Zines (spillthezines.blogspot.com) – a blog about British zine culture with zine resources, reviews, news, and announcements posted regularly.

To establish Spill the Zines as a useful and comprehensive resource, we’d like you to email us any news or announcements you have – we want to hear everything, including the publication of the latest issue of your zine, calls for submissions, zine events and public meet-ups, zine-related blog posts, the opening of a new distro/zine website, and anything else you can think of!  If you have any news or info to send the editors, please get in touch atspillthezinesuk@gmail.com.

A few people have been kind enough to blog about us, including Miss Tukru and Caitlin Gwynn, and you should do the same – mention us on your blog, Twitter, or Tumblr, and spread the word! :)

Music Update: my website has been updated, now featuring music blog Electric City‘s lovely reviews of my work.  Take a look here! Also, don’t forget to download your free copy of Gimme A Cure on Bandcamp!

101 Things Update: Watched quite a few films on the IMDB Top 250 recently; some good, some not so good.  Updated list here.  Apart from that, no news!  I promise I’ll do or write something interesting soon!

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Zine Reviews: Febuary 2011

Little Grrrl Lost & Found #5: Visions of Change
Riotgrrrlaz, US – riotgrrrlazAThotmailDOTcom

This zine was a case of “never judge a book by its cover” for me.  I saw the cover and thought “meh, maybe later”, putting it away in my zine box with the intention of reading it eventually.  Three months later, I finally decided I should read it, seeing as Riotgrrrlaz is always so nice to me on Twitter.  And I was pleasantly surprised!  Sorry it took me so long!  Anyway, the general theme of the zine seems to be ‘survival’, particularly survival from abuse in the first half.  She lists different forms of domestic violence and abuse, including some US statistics on domestic violence – for example, one in every four women will experience abuse in her lifetime.  She discusses the difficulties that women face trying to escape abusive relationships, encouraging the reader to be fearless enough to regain their life and view themselves as worth saving.  After this section there is another inspiring piece on the phrase “a diamond in the rough” (it mainly makes me think of Disney’s Aladdin, but I’m silly like that!) and how we should all reflect upon our good qualities and our qualities that need “polishing”.  There’s also a fairly sad piece on her dog Winnie having a false pregnancy.  There are a couple of little perziney bits in there too, like poetry, creative writing, rants and raves, and inspiring aphorisms (e.g. “in the eyes of every woman shines the soul of a Goddess”).  The whole zine is very well-written, with a plain layout, but the interesting fonts and pictures used make up for that.  It definitely feels too disjointed for me though – the opening section on abuse was very informative and useful, reading more like an info booklet than a perzine.  But everything else in the zine was very personal and at times quite artistic.  I think it should’ve been one or the other rather than both styles jammed together.  Nevertheless, I really enjoyed reading this zine, and think that Riotgrrrlaz’s zines are going to keep getting better and better.

Mew #2 & #3
Chelsea, US – http://www.kawaiicupcakes.etsy.com
I’m reviewing both, as they came in one package, and are both fairly short (16 pages each)!  This is a small, sweet, hand-drawn perzine.  Both have a general cat motif running through (I should’ve guessed, since the title is the noise a cat makes, and there’s a cat on the cover of #3, heh), with lots of cute kitty drawings, how to apply kitty make-up, and reviews of pet-themed Nintendo DS games.  However, both zines have their own general theme.  Mew #2 is “the issue issue”, because it contains pieces that deal with ‘issues’, including the division of body and soul, being active and creative, feeling caged, and gendered language.  In the intro, Chelsea mentions that she’s been thinking a lot about feminism, and implies that she’d like to include more feminist discussion in her zine.  I would’ve liked to read a little more of her feelings about being a feminist and what issues she’s interested in, as there were only little snippets of feminism and gender throughout the zine.
Mew #3 is “the spring issue”, with pieces on what she’s been up to this spring, the evil of water chestnuts, and how unfortunate that the rise of the internet seems to have killed the art of penpaling (especially when it comes to privacy issues).  There’s also a minizine attached in the middle of Mew #3 with drawings, fiction, and things spring makes her think of.  They’re both very fluffy and silly zines, but I really enjoyed reading them!  It seems as if Chelsea has a great sense of humour, which I love to read about. A lovely little zine to cheer you up when you’re feeling a bit too serious, I think.

Rhetorical #2
Chiara, Australia – rhetoricalzineAThotmailDOTcom
A nice little quarter-sized zine from Chiara, the same girl behind minizine ‘Blixa’ that I reviewed here a while ago.  As it’s by Chiara, ‘Rhetorical’ is packed full of her awesome hand-drawings and cartoons, as well as some interesting (although messy) cut-and-paste layouts.  This zine has a lovely look/feel, and the messiness kinda adds to its charm.  Inside, Chiara writes about role play gaming, Buffy drinking games (hell yes!), her favourite stylish women, her love for singer-songwriter Nina Nastasia, Tom Hodgkinson’s self-help book How to be Free, and her fave idle pleasures.  Not all that well-written, but nevertheless I had lots of fun reading this, and I think you would too. :)

Functionally Ill: Adventures With Mental Health #6 & #7
Laura-Marie, US – robotmadATgmailDOTcom

Another double-review – Laura-Marie and I had a huge trade a few weeks ago and I ended up with 4 issues of her zine (yay!), so I’m reviewing my two favourites.  Both are 1/4 sized and 10 and 18 pages long respectively.  Both are mental health zines that deal with Laura-Marie’s experiences of bipolar disorder.  Issue 6 focuses on the logistics of care, including losing services due to budget cuts, high medication costs ($688 for a month’s medication at a regular pharmacy?!), the difficulties getting hold of certain medications, the dispassionate and brisk health workers she encounters, and clinic appointments.  This one is written in a kind of diary-style, with different entries under different dates.  It’s very well-written and straightforward.
Issue 7 focuses on Laura-Marie’s mental health taking an unexpected dive a year ago.  She discusses the symptoms she experienced, and her return to taking Abilify, which thankfully has made her feel much better.  We also read what radical mental health means to her, her fascination with suicide and suicide notes, where she mentions wanting to make a chapbook of suicide notes (which has now been written, and is available here!), her suicidal thoughts,  the shame surrounding suicide, and how her long-term partner Erik has helped her get through difficult times (it’s always so lovely to read about those supportive people in a zinester’s life).  I really enjoyed this issue of Functionally Ill – if I’m honest, I would’ve preferred both zines to be much longer, maybe by combining the two, but that’s the only complaint.  Plain interior layouts – black text on white background throughout – with really interesting covers, especially #6!

Feels Like Friday #12
Ivana Stab, Australia – ivanaforpresidentAThotmailDOTcom

LOVED this zine!  For me, it’s got all the elements of a great perzine – interesting cover, fairly substantial length (40 pages),  amazing layouts (seriously, they’re so creative), and angry feminist content!  I also love the fact that it’s 4″ x 4″ – different, I like it.  In this issue, we read lots about feminism – gender roles, being expected as a feminist to have all the answers, violence against women and victim-blaming, and being unapologetic – but Ivana also touches upon subjects of death, sexuality, and her Serbian mother tongue.  Ivana’s zines are almost poetic, with a stream-of-consciousness feel to them.  This is mostly a good thing, but it did mean there were many times where her thoughts drifted off the page where would’ve liked to read more.  Ivana has since stopped writing Feels Like Friday, and has now started a new perzine, Watch Him Bleed, which I must make an effort to get hold of soon!


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Zine Reviews: January 2011

All I Want Is Everything #1
Caitlin, USA – saltonmyskinATgmailDOTcom

I have to say, this is the best zine I’ve read for a long time!  It’s 54 pages long and half-sized, which provided me with plenty of reading material on my recent 4-hour train journey from Wales to Nottingham.  Caitlin is a professional writer, and this really shows in the quality of her work.  It was one of those reads where I kept coming across sections that I wanted to highlight, and/or rip out and pin on my wall, especially her discussion of the view that men who rape are some unstoppable force of nature that women must spend their time avoiding (why do we never see ads that read “DON’T RAPE. DON’T HIT YOUR GIRLFRIENDS” ?)!  That section was taken from a piece about victim blaming and rape culture, where she writes a letter to Elly Jackson (La Roux) expressing her disappointment in the comments Elly made about how “some girls” (read: ‘sluts’) shouldn’t be surprised when the men they attract beat them up (read the F-Word’s take on the interview here)!  That was my favourite piece, I think – she argues very clearly and passionately against the common victim-blaming viewpoints, such as the  idea that a man who rapes will always be a man who rapes, or only a certain type of woman ever gets raped.  Elsewhere in the zine, Caitlin writes about the pointlessness of nostalgia, including her nostalgia for her 90s teen years, and how we tend to look at the past through rose-tinted glasses.  Another highlight was a long piece on running, strength and femininity, where Caitlin discusses running her first marathon, and the feelings of strength and serenity that running gives her.  She believes that according to our culture, women must be weak in order to be sexy, and “armchair psychologists” try to claim that women are not “designed” to be strong – but she argues that this is bullshit.  The layouts in this zine are very simple and plain, but Caitlin admits in the zine that she’s a “creature of words”, not visuals.  The quality of writing more than makes up for this. It’s just how I like perzines – long, well-written, and full of interesting ideas that I mull over in my mind for days after!

A Coast to Coast Journal
Catherine Redfern, UK – catherineATdurgeDOTorg
A Coast to Coast JournalYes, Catherine Redfern, writer and founder of The F Word, has written a zine!  And what a lovely zine it is.  Published a month ago, the zine documents Catherine’s 190-mile walk from the West coast of England to the East coast via the Lake District – St. Bees to Robin Hoods Bay (check out the C2C website here).  Whilst on the walk, Catherine kept a diary, and drew and doodled every day.  The result is a lovely 60-page long hand-drawn and -written story about their 2-week journey.  Inside, we read about what they did on each day, the pubs they stayed in, conversations they had, walking across bogs and streams, and the nasty weather conditions they faced getting through the countryside in the mud, rain, and eventually the sun!  The zine was crammed with sweet drawings on almost every page, including diagrams of what they carried in their rucksacks, and what was in the hotels (e.g. sheep outside the window and a four-poster bed in the Lion Inn).  The zine is very well-drawn, in a cute cartoon-ish way, and the writing is always interesting and sometimes quite funny.  It’s even inspired me to look into doing the Coast to Coast walk in the near future!

Ennui #2 & Karl Marx’s Beard Presents: A Book of Ill-Tempered Commodities
Danny Olda, US – footnotepressAThotmailDOTcom

Although these zines are quite different from each other, I figured it made sense to review them together, as they were sent together, and are both pretty short!  First, Ennui.  At 40 pages, it feels fairly substantial, but lots of interesting pictures, drawings, and large titles break up the flow nicely, and in reality it proved to be a fairly quick read.  it’s a bit of a mixed bag – there’s a short murder-mystery story, a story about a beer run to Walmart followed by seeing birds as an omen for certain death (I couldn’t work out if this one was fictitious or not), and a long piece on capitalism and Danny’s dissatisfaction with the capitalist goal of accumulation, and the symbolism attached to commodities that make them so desirable and popular.  There’s also a silly little cartoon called “The Continuing Adventures of Monocle & Moustache”, where Moustache admits his love for the Jonas Brothers.  Tehe.  I loved the piece on capitalism – very well-written, and funny in places – but the murder story didn’t do it for me.  It seemed very strange to have such different content together in one zine, but what with the title being “Ennui” and all, I suppose it makes sense that Danny just wrote whatever he felt like out of boredom.  Entertaining, lovely layouts, but a bit too fragmented for me.
Second, Karl Marx’s Beard.  15 pages long, with hand-drawn commodities spouting curmudgeonly remarks and Marxist ideas.  My favourite is the slice of bread who yells “oh that’s cute. You think I’m fortified for you. Dude, I’m fortified for shelf-life only. Period.”  Among the silliness there’s some serious messages scattered through about the fucked-up nature of western capitalism and how these everyday commodities, such as bread and coffee, make the rich even richer by exploiting the workers that actually produce the goods.  Other ill-tempered commodities venting their spleens are a car, a pen, a telephone, a TV dinner, and a television, with some facts about the propagandistic nature of television to finish off.  It’s pretty funny, and quite unlike any other zines I’ve read so far.  Danny seems like a really talented writer, and I think his future zines will be really special.

Freckledgecko #6
Twilight Gecko, US – twilightgeckoATgmail.com

This is a really well-written, contemplative zine, that left me feeling quite dreamy and inspired.  The best way to read Twilightgecko’s perzine is curled up in a blanket next to a fire, maybe with a glass of wine or a hot chocolate.  Delicious. The layout is clean, with simple white boxes of text laid on top of pretty backgrounds.  The pieces are short and thoughtful, and you get this sense that you’re almost reading Twilight Gecko’s diary and following the drifting thoughts as they breeze from topic to topic.  Some things discussed in the zine include being a writer, feeling stuck in the past, memories, dreams, and the dysfunctional and sometimes cruel people that live on her street.  There’s also some poetry and lists dotted among the pages.  Although the topics themselves aren’t thaaaat interesting, what won me over in this zine was the artistic, almost stream-of-consciousness style of writing, that infuses the zine with such warm cozy feelings.


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December 2010 Zine Reviews!

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! Sorry for the delay in updates; I’ve had a nasty cold for the past 2 weeks!  Normal service will now be resumed. :)

Not Lonely #4
Hannah, UK – not_lonely_zineATyahoo.co.uk
I swear Hannah is some sort of zine-making machine, she just keeps churning them out so quickly!  As usual, this issue of Not Lonely did not disappoint.  This is the list issue, specifically focusing on lists of fours.  She lists 4 reasons for why Not Lonely #4 took longer than her previous zines have taken, 4 of the best times of day to have a cuppa, 4 bad habits (including forgetting people’s names and faces – me too!), 4 reasons she is like a granny, and 4 things she likes and dislikes in books.  The layouts are really gorgeous in this zine, with lots of typewritten pages and cute handwritten notes – I think it’s the most visually pleasing issue yet.  Not Lonely is one of the rare few zines that completely absorbs me when I start reading.  When Hannah posted me this issue, I opened the package in the kitchen and started flicking through the zine there and then, while the kettle boiled.  Before I knew it, I’d read the whole thing in a matter of minutes without even thinking!  Some zines can be a little laborious to read, but Hannah’s zines are just lovely easy reads.  Just how I like ‘em. :)

Brainscan #22: A Practical Body Modification
Alex Wrekk, US – alexATsmallworldbuttonsDOTcom
Alex Wrekk is a fantastic writer.  She’s been creating zines for over a decade, and she’s listed among many people’s favourite zinesters.  This issue comes in a little pretty envelope, and deals with her experiences of getting an IUD (Intra-Uterine Device, known as ‘the coil’ in the UK).  She talks about what an IUD is exactly, the advantages and disadvantages of getting one fitted, the reasons that led to her decision to get one, the complications that arose during the procedure, and the politics of getting in IUD in the US.  She also some frequently-asked questions at the back, including whether her boyfriend can feel it during sex.  Very entertaining and informative, with a lovely layout.

You’ve Got A Friend In Pennsylvania #3
Sari, US – youvegotafriendinpaATgmail.com
Damn, I enjoyed this zine so much. In this quarter-sized feminist perzine, Sari writes about zombies, body hair and essays on shaving various parts of the body (armpits, legs, face, and pubic area), and girl-hate.  This last topic in particular was interesting for me to read, as someone who has struggled with girl hate for years. Ze discusses being a perpetrator of girl hate, and examples of girl-hate around hir, including girl-hate and sexism within hir local punk scene, which was interesting, if a little saddening, to read.  The section on shaving was also really interesting, especially hir thoughts on the divide between hairy (non-shaved) feminists and shaved feminists.   At 48 pages, it’s a pretty long  zine packed with writing, which is just the kind of zine I love to read.  The topics discussed are typically exciting feminist fare, and left me feeling very inspired, which is how the best zines should leave you feeling.  The layout is visually pleasing too, with a few nice little black and white photographs taken by Sari on hir trip to Slovenija. Just lovely.

How Do You Take It #1
Tasha, Australia – a_perfect_turtleAThotmail.com
I thought this zine was so lovely!  Tasha has written lots of zines in the past, but this is the first issue of a new series focusing on Tasha herself.  She discusses her quirks, such as enjoying hot hot showers and getting irritable when she’s hungry (me too, Tasha!), never growing out of cutting her own hair, and thoughts on tea and coffee.  She also writes a passionate feminist rant on breastfeeding and bottlefeeding, discussing the misogynistic idea that a woman’s breasts are only suitable for public when they’re being displayed sexually, and the idea that you’re either pro-bottle or anti-bottle – society should support women in whatever choice they make!  The best thing about this zine delivery was all the freebies she included!  There was a tiny 2″x3″ zine called “these things make me happy” (similar to Twt #2, but much better drawn), a lovely handwritten note, and an adorable mini-zine about a little spider’s adventures to outer space, with text by Tasha and drawings by her young son Bastian Black! Sooo cute!

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November Zine Reviews!

Telegram Ma’am #19: The Winter Survival Issue
Maranda, Canada – schoolformapsATgmail.com
As we’re well into our horrid British winter, I thought a review of this zine seemed rather apt!  This issue is a short but sweet zine, listing 27 tips to help you survive the long winter months, particularly focusing on how to survive SAD (Seasonal Affection Disorder).  Some of the things Maranda suggests include knitting your own scarf, burn scented candles, write letters, go for a long walk, and build a blanket fort!  I found many of the tips suggested (e.g. setting yourself small goals such as going outside every day) really helpful, as I suffer from SAD and can find the winter really difficult to get through too.  Highly recommended.
(Maranda has now released Telegram Ma’am 19.5, a longer version of this Winter survival zine.  I’ve yet to read it, but you can buy a copy at Maranda’s Etsy store if you’re interested!)

Edgy! #11
Star Blue,  US – edgystarATgmail.com

A half-sized perzine from the US, Edgy #11 contains an interesting combination of serious contemplative content and fun, silly stuff.  Star Blue includes her thoughts on wanting to be a larger than life character, wanting to make her own reality, aiming towards bodily perfection and being happy with her body,  her experiences of racism as a white mexican girl, and some well-written poetry.  There’s also some fun comics on dreams of kissing Owen Wilson, adventures at her job in Box Office Video, and thrifty summer fashion, as well as written pieces on male celebrity crushes, cute things her boyfriend does that she loves, and an awesome rap about Angelina Jolie – “angelina – tougher than xena – on the cover of a magazina“!  Some people will undoubtedly enjoy the variety, but personally I felt that by jamming the serious stuff and fun stuff together in one zine, it kinda detracted from both aspects, making the zine feel disjointed and lacking impact.  I would’ve preferred one or the other, as both the fun content and the serious content was enjoyable in itself!  But that’s just my personal preference.  On the plus side, everything is well-written, with an attractive layout and a colour cover (I love colour covers!).

Fight Boredom With Girl Love!
Edited by Amber, Canada – amber.norreanATgmail.com

The fifth issue of Amber’s boredom-busting compzine,  Fight Boredom with Girl Love is my favourite yet.  In the intro, Amber explains that this zine has a strong focus on riot grrrl, as jealousy and girl-hate was a frequently discussed topic among riot grrrls.  As well as some brief background info on the riot grrrl movement, the zine includes discussions on female jealousy and competitiveness, the emerging culture of women hating each other instead of supporting each other, internalized sexism, reclaiming sexist language, the problem with rape jokes, feminism in the 90s sitcom “Roseanne”, and ways to deal with jealousy.  There are also a few pages of thoughts on riot grrrl and the supposed revival from a number of well-known zinesters including Ciara Xyerra, Maranda Elizabeth, and Ocean Capewell.  The zine is presented in Amber’s signature typewritten and cut-and-paste visual style, which is gorgeous to look at.  Near the end, Amber features the usual zine reviews, some feminist book recommendations, and the inspirational original riot grrrl manifesto (which you can read here).  I think every woman should read this zine, because it features all those themes of girl love that we should be encouraging in our fellow sisters, and at 34 pages, it’s an entertaining and pithy read.  If you don’t already own this zine, get your hands on a copy, and share it with your girl friends!  Spread the virus!  <3

Licking Stars off Ceilings #17
Clementine Cannibal, Canada – lickingstarsoffAThotmail.com

The thing I love about this zine is how Clementine’s writing develops and improves with every issue. I’ve been reading this zine since #4, and the content just gets better and better.  Issue 17 is the latest in the zine series, and is by far my favourite issue of LSOC!  Clementine describes this zine as “a zine about making changes, making choices and figuring out who i am and what i want”, which I think sums it up pretty well!  She writes about dealing with relationship problems, overcoming alcoholism and being sober, how the meaning of love has changed for her recently, her bisexuality, violence against women, and grrrl zines.  My favourite piece was her fascinating discussion on psychiatric medication, where Clementine argues, very respectfully, that we should seek political answers to our problems rather than chemical answers.  I gotta say, this really rings true for me.  These ideas of community, mutual support, friendship and self-love seem to obvious, yet the medical authorities always go for the “easy” option – drugging us up.  It’s something I think about a lot, as a medicated depressive who has to pay for every month’s lot of pills.  You hear all these stories of people with depression where they say things like: “I have a great car, a great boyfriend, a great job, lots of money, lots of stuff… so why aren’t I happy?”  Maybe there is a chemical cause, who knows.  Or maybe we’re allowing captialism to define happiness and contentment for us, when in fact they’ve got it all wrong.  I think Clementine’s onto something when she argues that symptoms of depression are actually “symptoms of living in a soul-denying profit-driven capitalist racist misogynistic [society]“.   She writes in such a powerful and inspiring way, and it really makes you think about these issues in a way you may not have considered before.
As well as the longer written pieces, there are some lists, some girlVIRUS flyers, drawings, and more little goodies.  The layout is great too, with handwritten and typewritten pages on interesting patterned backgrounds.  Thoroughly enjoyable, as ever!

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October Zine Reviews!

More zine reviews!  I swear I’ve been bitten by some sort of zine-review-writing bug, heh.  I try to keep the zines I review pretty current, but it’s not always an option – I try to review zines that I really enjoyed, which usually means they’ve been around for a while.  Still, I’ve included all the contact info for the following zinesters so you can get in touch with them if you want to get your hands on a copy.  Also, High on Burning Photographs, Love Letters to Monsters, and If Destroyed Still True are all available to buy at Marching Stars distro.

Alabama Grrrl #9/Love Letters To Monsters #3
Ailecia, US / Ciara, US – learningtoleaveapapertrailAThotmail.com

Let’s state the obvious – Ciara’s zines are just plain awesome. You know it, I know it, she knows it.  This issue is no exception, with tales of moving house to Kansas with her partner, dealing with dodgy landlords and difficult living conditions, being disabled, her relationship with  her mother, building a community, making friends, and the feeling of liberation after she closed her zine distro.  This issue is less political than previous issues of Love Letters to Monsters, instead reading as more of a memoir.  I really enjoyed Ciara’s story, and since reading this have endeavoured to get my hands on more of her previous zines.  The other half of this zine is written by Ciara’s neighbour and friend Ailecia.  I hadn’t come across Alabama Grrrl until now, but that too was equally enjoyable.  She discusses the pros and cons of going to grad school, the death of a friend through drugs, punk communities, and the sexist and violent behaviour that deserves recognition in certain punk scenes.  This split-zine is very long, very well-written, and very engaging.  The layout is a little too plain for my liking, but the quality of writing more than makes up for that.  Can’t recommend enough!

Asylum #1/High On Burning Photographs #5
Matt Hahn, US /Ocean, US - http://oceancapewell.wordpress.com

I was not expecting this zine to be as entertaining as it was, judging by the plain cover (but then that’s why they say “never judge a book by its cover, eh?)!  It’s a nice long half-sized zine, with half the content by seasoned zinester lady Ocean, and the other half by Matt Hahn, who writes his sections while incarcerated in California.  In the introduction, Ocean explains that she “met” Matt through a prisoner book program, when a witty letter he’d written amused her enough to write back and keep in touch with him.  Both Ocean and Matt did their own typing and layout for their written pieces.  At first it was difficult to keep track of who wrote what in the zine, as the written content isn’t divided neatly into two sections as split-zines usually are… but I think I worked it out correctly!  Ocean writes about a day in the office where a colleague tried to recreate a Jackson Pollock piece using house paint and a posterboard.  This prompts Matt to write about the relationship between authenticity and authority, concluding that those with power arbitrarily decide what is reality and what is fakery, which subjugates the masses.  Ocean also writes book reviews in a haiku format, stories about winter adventures, and remembering the things that New York City has taught her.  Matt’s sections gave me some food for thought, as he discusses some really interesting issues, including zombies and human autonomy (“is a zombie theoretically possible?”), the transformative experience that incarceration has been, calling his prison cell “home”,  and his plans for when he is released from prison. Both write about things that happened to them in the year of 1997, which includes turning 15 and finding herself for Ocean, and a mystical metaphysical experience with his now-deceased friend for Matt.  I’m really glad I read this zine, as every page was thought-provoking and well-written, with some intelligent ideas throughout.

Chronicles of Nadia, Vol.1
Nadia, Australia – nadia.bradyATgmail.com

This is why I love We Make Zines.  It lets you stumble across wonderful zines that you wouldn’t have found otherwise – I think what attracted me to this zine on WMZ was the fact that it included a cartoon about Amanda Palmer fighting space monsters, haha!  Anyway, this zine really is a mixed bag – as well as the occasional funny cartoon (including one titled “The Adventures of Ian McKellen” – love it!) and a colouring-in page, Nadia also writes a brief history of feminism, reasons why she is a feminist, her reading habits, CT scans, medical TV shows, why Romeo & Juliet is not that romantic, and some recipes thrown in for good measure.  My personal favourite piece is a job reference letter written by the captain of a pirate ship, recommending the fictitious Holly for employment – as a former dark overlord of the Seventh Circle of Hell, artist, vampire hunter, and eventual captain of the pirate ship Ass Bandit, Nadia believes that Holly is perfectly equipped to be a tax accountant.  Awesome.  Interspersed among the longer pieces are little random thoughts, like “My imaginary wedding is going to be totally awesome.”  You really get this sense of Nadia’s sense of humour and fun nature.  The layout is cool – half handwritten, half typewritten in lots of different fonts, with mostly dark busy backgrounds.  Yeah, it’s pretty messy in terms of layout and style, but I think that’s part of its charm!  When Nadia sent this zine to me, she also included a mini-zine on natural skin and hair care remedies.  What a lovely mail day that was. <3

Swing Set Girl #7
Sarah S, US – sarahswingsetATriseup.net
This zine is, in a word, beautiful.  The cover is printed on brown textured paper,  and the interior design is simple, with a tree/leaf theme running throughout.  This issue focuses on the themes of “family, mental illness, and unconditional love”.  Sarah discusses her father’s schizophrenia and how the family try to support and understand him, and then dispels certain myths about schizophrenia (such as the idea that physical violence is a primary characteristic).  She discusses her mother, a woman she describes as “beautifully strong” and “the anchor of our family”, her relationship with her sister, her grandmother’s nervous breakdown and the Electroshock Therapy she was given, her freemason grandfather (with some info on who the freemasons are), a legal battle involving her grandmother’s will and her selfish aunt, and her beloved cat.  She ends with a lovely piece on how to support a loved one with a mental illness.  After I finished reading this zine, I felt more than just a feeling of “be thankful for what you’ve got”, but also a kind of joy in living and the redemptive power of love. :)

If Destroyed Still True #4
Nine, UK – nineATjinxremoving.org

I’d heard a lot of great things about Nine’s half-sized perzine, but this week was the first time I’d actually read an issue.  The zine did not disappoint – inside, she recalls tales of going out on a Friday night “getting drunk and getting action”, travelling on a whim to Norway and spending time sightseeing and paying far too much for croissants, the difficult ending of a relationship, and great crushes that never went anywhere.  There’s also a common theme of bisexuality running through many of the written pieces – as a bisexual woman, Nine explains that she worries about others trying to reclassify her and determine whether she ‘really’ prefers men or women.  She says she is “living under the spectre of biphobia and in fear of upsetting the lesbian and gay community”.  I thought this was a really interesting point that maybe doesn’t get discussed as much as it could be in zines (biphobia is something I used to come across a lot in past social circles, and it used to really get to me – “she just kisses girls for attention“, “he’s not bi, he’s greedy“, blah blah blah. Yuck).  The layout of this zine is really nice too – handwritten on interesting patterned backgrounds, maps, and photographs.  A lovely read.

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