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.

Interview with a Zinester: Julia Lipscomb!

We’re back with Interview with a Zinester! This time, we’ve got Julia Lipscomb, a bi-coastal zinester that has volunteered at several zine libraries, including the Zine Archive and Publishing Project (ZAPP) in Seattle and currently ABC No Rio. We’re excited to have her table at the zine fest this year! Let’s hear what she has to say:

(psst, if you haven’t checked out our last interview with new zinester Devon Spencer, you can see it right here!)

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1. Give us a short description of yourself and the work you do (including any zine samples if you have them!).

I write personal zines! I’ve been writing zines since 2004, and honestly my zines have gone through as many phases as I have. In high school, I wrote about music. In college, I was writing poetry and chapbooks and sometimes zines about archiving from my internships. After college, zines proved to be my only recession-proof skill. How NOT to Write a Resume is a comic published after sending my resume to over 200 positions and getting rejected by 30 interviews. I think it’s important for zines to come full circle. When you evoke difficult feelings in zines, it is the responsibility of the zinester to start in a happy place and end in a happy place. Whether that’s framed by poetry, comedy or another rhetorical device is up to the zinester. No matter what I write about, it’s always personal.

Currently I’m pursuing a Masters in Arts & Cultural Management at Pratt Institute. Basically I love working in nonprofit arts organizations so much that I decided to study them! My classmates and professors are very inspiring.

2. How did you get introduced to zines? Were you influenced by anyone? And what was your seminal zine moment?

Like most zinesters, I started publishing zines before I even knew what a zine was! My seminal zine moment was visiting the Zine Archive & Publishing Project (ZAPP) in Seattle the summer after graduating high school. In Spokane, Washington, where I grew up, I could count the number of zine publishers on one hand. At ZAPP, there were thousands – and by thousands, I mean twenty thousand – zines in every genre imaginable (or unimaginable). It was unreal and definitely humbling. I knew I had to step up my game.

Growing up in Spokane, I was influenced by local writers and cultural leaders, by people who included zines in a larger community of artists, musicians, writers, publicists, record labels, and other innovators doing their thing independent of profit. Local journalist, Isamu Jordan, was publishing a weekly music column in the alternative publication, 7, and interviewing every musician in the community – I was very inspired by that and started interviewing musicians myself. Sadly, Isamu passed away suddenly last September and I can’t think of my earlier beginnings without remembering him.

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

Anyone regardless of gender who uses zines to protect and defend their political, economic and social rights is doing feminist zine-making, in the broadest definition of the term. I also believe that keeping a space open for zinesters – whether for a one-time event, open hours library or in collaboration with another arts venue – is inherently political. That’s what makes public spaces for feminist zine-making so difficult – and necessary.

Most of my zines are more implicitly feminist, though I can’t deny once publishing a zine titled sex + intellect aimed at sexism in academic circles. My latest zine, One Ear Bud Free, is a work zine inspired by other work zines like Dishwasher and Temp Slave. One Ear Bud Free is an exposé of all of the temp jobs and unpaid internships I worked and the music that got me through them. You may recognize a few jobs where being a woman or having a speech disability simply got in the way of my performance or chance at long-term employment.

I’m super inspired and excited for NYC Feminist Zine Fest, and I want to write more feminist zines! Lately this past season I’ve received a lot of criticisms for being a woman who watches football by both men and women alike, so I think a zine about football is in order. Go hawks!

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

A friend from ZAPP in Seattle makes these beautiful silkscreen zines and runs Blue Dot Prints. I also love Gina Siciliano’s zines that I picked up in Portland. She draws these beautiful, incredibly-detailed comics and her narratives are very moving and relatable. I’m attracted to more “art” zines, though I do have a soft spot in my heart for grainy offset zines found in old school punk zine archives.

Blue Dot Press’ work: http://www.bluedotprints.com/

Gina’s work: http://ginasiciliano.com/home.html

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

This is my favorite question of all because I had to think the hardest on it. I keep thinking of the broiler underneath conventional ovens. The broiler is the best way to make the yummiest open face grilled cheese sandwiches. You can make something gourmet with your best cheese, or you can use the broiler to simply make something good to eat at 500 degrees in less than 5 minutes.

Shameless zinester plug: Come read and make zines with me at ABC No Rio. The ABC No Rio zine library is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 6-9pm. I’m in on Thursday’s!