Interview with a Zinester: Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz!

 Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz – singer, zinester, self-described “mad rat girl” – will be joining us on March 1st tabling her zine Living in La La Land. Here’s her interview:
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1. Kindly give us a short description of yourself and the work you do.

I’m an artist and experimental musician, primarily. I like to do a lot
of things. For a long time I was mainly doing minicomics, but the
zines I’ve been putting together lately are combination comics,
written commentary and photo-collages. I want all those elements to
flow together into the overall mood of the story I’m telling. I want
the “Living In La La Land” zines to merge a landscape that’s both the
external place where I am (New York City) and my personal
consciousness when going through the experiences I’m recounting.

2. How did you get introduced to zines? Were you influenced by anyone?

I can’t remember cuz I’m old (LOL). No, it’s hard to pinpoint because
it seems like zines were always around and part of what I was
interested in. You’d go into a record store and there would be a rack
of zines, primarily music ones but also more eclectic or personal
stuff that people had made and put in there on consignment. Same with
comic stores, there’d be a section for self-published minicomics in
the better ones.

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3. What does it mean to do “feminist zine-making”? Does feminism appear in your work (explicitly or implicitly)?

I think anytime a person uses zines as a forum to explore ideas that
are important to or within the feminist movement, and adds their voice
to it, that’s feminist zine making. I think in mine the feminism
appears in a very implicit way. It’s autobiographical and therefore
has a “the personal is political” approach. In that way it encompasses
issues of feminism, or touches on issues regarding schizoaffective
disorder, physical disability, or issues with housing & the police and
such, and trying to live a creative life through it all because these
are the things my husband and I are dealing with. There are also some
less-than-glorious moments of conflict; there’s one page where this
very yuppie-ish woman shoved my husband out of the way to get to a
cab, which is very much ablism on her part, and I fly into an
“episode” and begin attacking the cab and calling her a
not-very-feminist word o_0. So you’re looking at this intersection of
ablism, mental health issues, and some of my own gender baggage coming
out in the heat of the moment. But it would have been disingenuous to
wash over that, to not look at where sexism can become internalized
even in someone who has consciously taken an interest in feminism.

4. What is your favorite zine or piece of mail art? Do you like any specific style/part of a zine?

I dunno, there’s a lot of good ones! I’m mercurial like that, my
favorites can change all the time and now with zines going through
this sort of resurgence, I’m sure there are a lot of good newer ones I
haven’t even seen yet. Then when you get into mail art, that’s a whole
other realm of the art world beyond zines. My friend Tamara, (who is a
great artist and also a feminist) participates in a lot of mail art
projects, there are people sending all these one of a kind things
through mail, all over the world. I think that movement started with
Fluxus, though it may go back farther. What I like about zines is
their freedom of style. They can be as raw or slick as the creator
decides. The subject matter and design of a zine doesn’t have to be
dictated by marketing trends or the interests of sponsors, or what’s
currently a popular opinion to hold.

5. If you could sum up your zinester life in a kitchen appliance, what appliance would it be?

A blender–it’s able to mix up multiple elements, it’s in turmoil, and
it makes noise and has blades. 🙂

Interview with a Zinester: Annie Mok!

Today’s interview with a zinester features Philly-based creator of Screentests, Annie Mok. Illustrator, writer, singer (and fantastic dancer), “dream warrior comix-babe” – she’s a big deal. Check her out:

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1. Kindly give us a short description of yourself and the work you do.

My name is Annie Mok. I identify as a trans woman, plus sometimes other things too / in addition to rather than instead of being a trans woman. I make comics solo and collaborative, draw illustrations, and sing in a band called See-Through Girls. I live in West Philly in a tall house called Witchhazel House.

2. How did you get introduced to zines? Were you influenced by anyone? 

I got introduced to zines through a grab bag that was offered for free off a message board in 2005, when I was in high school. I read zines by lots of people, including Rocket Queen #2, and Taryn Hipp’s Girl Swirl and A Girl Called Mike. Later I found minicomics when I went to art school in Minneapolis. As far as zines go, King-Cat by John P. affected me strongly.

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3. What does it mean to do “feminist zine-making”? Does feminism appear in your work (explicitly or implicitly)?

Since I’m a woman, and my work advocates for my lived experience as valid, the work is “feminist.”

4. What is your favorite zine or piece of mail art? Do you like any specific style/part of a zine?

I re-read Gabrielle Bell’s minis, published by Uncivilized Books, over and over.

5. If you could sum up your zinester life in a kitchen appliance, what appliance would it be?

A ceramic thing to make a pour-over coffee.

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Interview with a Zinester: Victoria Law!

Get pumped, everyone – two weeks until Zine Fest! We’re so excited Victoria Law – author of Resistance Behind Bars, co-editor of Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind, and editor of Tenacious zine – will be tabling! Here’s what she has to say:

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1. Kindly give us a short description of yourself and the work you do.
I’m a freelance writer, mother, zinester & analog photographer. I write about prisoner justice issues, primarily focusing on women prisoners–both the injustices they face and the ways that they resist, challenge and try to change these injustices.
In late 2002, I was asked by several women incarcerated in Oregon if I would do a regular zine of art & writings by women in prison. They weren’t seeing themselves or their experiences represented in the media–mainstream, independent or prisoner zines–and wanted to change that. But, being in prison, they don’t have access to copying machines, postage, computers, the ability to send mail out unread by prison mailrooms…so they were looking for someone on the outside to take on this project.
How could I say no? And so, Tenacious: Art & Writings by Women in Prison was born.
Nearly a dozen years later, most of the women who came up with the idea have since been released, but I recently put out issue #30 with writings from women incarcerated in several parts of the country. Tenacious is free to women in prison (both cisgender and trans women) and I’m noticing, from the letters & submissions that I get, that women often pass it around to others in that prison. For many of the women, it’s a chance not only to share their experiences in print, but also to be heard and to be validated. So many times, women in prison are told that their lives, experiences and voices don’t matter, that nothing that they do matter. To see their words in print contradicts that. It shows them that their lives *do* matter.
I also sometimes do one-off photo zines. I also used to make travel zines using the postcards I sent to CookiePuss, the cat at ABC No Rio. (Sadly, CookiePuss passed away in September 2013 just before her 17th birthday)
2. How did you get introduced to zines? Were you influenced by anyone? 
I actually don’t remember how I was introduced to zines. I was in high school at the time. I was living in Queens, but started coming to the Lower East Side and East Village on weekends. I probably picked up a zine at a poetry reading or independent bookstore. Maybe someone gave me one when I went to ABC No Rio? I really can’t remember.
3. What does it mean to do “feminist zine-making”? Does feminism appear in your work (explicitly or implicitly)?
I think that producing a zine that highlights the voices (both verbal and visual) of women behind bars is definitely an act of feminist zine-making. Focusing specifically on women’s prison issues when the conversation about mass incarceration is so dominated by men’s issues is also an act of feminism.
4. What is your favorite zine or piece of mail art? Do you like any specific style/part of a zine?
I really like zines with some kind of personal touch. My fellow mama zinester China Martens used to hand-color the covers of her zine The Future Generation and I always loved how she made them look like old hand-colored photographs (back before color photography existed). Unfortunately, I can’t handcolor zines that I send into prisons because many prison mailrooms would either send them right back or toss them in the garbage, claiming that this somehow violates mailroom regulations and threatens the safety and security of the institution. (If only colored pencils could bring down prison walls!)
As for mail art: I was involved with Books Through Bars–NYC (a group that sent free books & other reading material to people in prison) for many years.  I used to love seeing all the envelope art that incarcerated artists would send us when they wrote to request books. The bulk of envelope art came from Texas, but around 2003, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice banned envelope art.
5. If you could sum up your zinester life in a kitchen appliance, what appliance would it be?

Hmmm, I was originally going to say a hot plate because, for the first 13 years of my adult life, I only had a hot plate to make my meals. And it wasn’t a very good strong hot plate, which meant that I could only do very little with it.

But I think my zinester life is actually more like my fridge–sometimes empty, sometimes full of good things, sometimes half-filled with leftovers, occasionally housing things I’ve forgotten and are now growing scary things inside them.

Interview with a Zinester: Ponyboy Violet!

Ponyboy – radical eating disorder activist, author of ANAlog, tabler at this coming Feminist Zinefest – gives us the scoop on their work:

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1. Kindly give us a short description of yourself and the work you do.

 
i write a zine called ANAlog: dispatches on d.i.y anorexia recovery.  it’s a zine about grappling with eating disorders that i write for radical-identified folks specifically, because, while a lot of mainstream literature has been created to try and address why eating disorders happen and how to recover from them, i have not found these narratives to adequately address my own struggles, or the struggles of the other radical and queer folks i know who’ve lived with eating disorders.

 
2. How did you get introduced to zines? Were you influenced by anyone? 
 
it was all about doris for me!  i had read zines before doris, but i didn’t fully understand their magic until doris was introduced to me, and i can’t actually sum up the humungous impact this zine has had on my life.  doris is profound without being pretentious, self-reflective without being self-important.  it is poetic and playful and political in equal measure.  it’s silly and severe, shy and bold.  it’s been a giant influence.

3. What does it mean to do “feminist zine-making”? Does feminism appear in your work (explicitly or implicitly)?

i am genderqueer — though i was female-assigned at birth, i don’t fit into the female/male binary and don’t identify as female.  given this, i’ve had a complicated relationship to feminism — or, maybe more accurately, i’ve had a complicated relationship to some feminists and their expressions and definitions of feminism.  i don’t identify with an essentialist feminism, one that focuses on sussing out who the “real” women in the movement are, and in my zine i talk about the liberation i experienced when i discovered that i could call my body parts whatever i wanted, and when i realized that i didn’t have to let culture dictate what my body should look like/behave like.  all of that being said, i think feminism should be widened, not done away with, and i think a lot of good people are doing good work to widen feminism today — to make sure that it includes all kinds of bodies and identities, to make sure that it stays within a radical framework.  i would like to think of my zine as a contribution to this widening feminism, and think it’s crucial that any radical examination of eating disorders take place  through a feminist lens: eating disorders are rebellions against capitalism and patriarchy’s incursions on our bodies, and the state has always attempted to control the population by controlling female-assigned bodies first and foremost.

4. What is your favorite zine or piece of mail art? Do you like any specific style/part of a zine?

see question number two! : )

5. If you could sum up your zinester life in a kitchen appliance, what appliance would it be?

hmm… as an eating disorder activist, this is an interesting question to consider!  i think i’d be a knife with a pink handle.