Interview with a Zinester: Vikki Law!

Today we’re serving up an interview with returning tabler Vikki Law! You can check out their previous interview here.

A black & white photo of a person wearing a black shirt and cat mask, holding a fluffy kitty.

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

I do a zine called Tenacious: Art & Writings by Women in Prison which, as its title states, is a compilation of writings & art by women incarcerated across the nation. The zine exists to both give women a platform for their voices and experiences and to educate people outside of prison about the horrors that women face behind bars.

I’ll also be tabling a zine called Enter the 90s: Punks & Poets at ABC No Rio, a partial history of the community arts center in the early 1990s with the beginning of the punk/hardcore shows (now famous–or infamous–for its No Racism/No Sexism/No Homophobia booking policy that was rare in 1990s NYC).

One of these days, I’ll continue my interviews and documentation of No Rio’s history as it’s changed and grown throughout the years, but for now, that’s the part of No Rio’s history I’ll be bringing.

I may also (if it’s okay with the Zinefest organizers) bring a couple of copies of my book Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women, which examines resistance and organizing in women’s prisons.
What is your process for creating/assembling your zines?

Eons ago, when I still had time to do personal zines, I would use cut and paste. I would hand-write or type up text, then cut it out and glue it onto pages along with images I’d either printed out or photocopied.

These days, I simply do everything by computer. For Tenacious, I receive incarcerated women’s writings via snail mail. Most of the time the pieces are handwritten; occasionally, someone has access to a typewriter or word processor and sends me a typed piece. Either way, I still retype it so that it’s all on my computer. Then, when it’s time to compile the zine, I scan the drawings they’ve sent into jpegs, cut and paste everything into a word document, save as a pdf and print. I usually print one to three versions, playing around with the order of pieces until I’m happy with everything. Then I take it to the fantastic Wholesale Copy Shop on 28th Street, drop it off to be copied, walk to the nearby comic book store to kill an hour, come back & pick up my box.

Then begins the long and tedious process of folding and stapling. (I do it myself to keep costs down since I send the zine free to any incarcerated woman who requests it.) I usually put a movie on and half-watch while folding. I’ve learned that, although I love Cantonese movies, it’s really difficult to read the subtitles *and* fold zines properly.

What is your favorite tool or implement for doing so?

A bone folder! My daughter has one from when she used to do origami and occasionally lets me use it. Otherwise, I use a pencil to try to get a sharper crease.
What tips or thoughts would you have for folks who want to make a zine but aren’t sure how?

There is no wrong way to make a zine.

But if you want to see different ways that different people make zines, visit the Zine Fest and check out the tables. Talk to the people behind the tables & ask us questions. We’re more than happy to answer.

If you want to see even *more* zines, check out the Barnard Zine Library while you’re at the Zinefest (or make plans to come back another day). Also, check out the ABC No Rio zine library which has over 13,000 (yes, that’s thirteen thousand–not a typo!) zines from the 1980s to now. If you want to see different styles, we can definitely show you different styles!

Do you have a “bad feminist” (a la Roxane Gay) moment? Has your relationship to feminism changed over time?

I think that every parent has a slew of “bad feminist” moments. I’ll have to think about one I’m willing to share and get back to you.
Finally, who are some of the other zinesters you’re excited to see at this year’s feminist zine fest?

I am always excited to see China Martens, who is sometimes known as the grandmother of the mama zine. She & I have known each other since 2003 and have been collaborating on & off since then. It is always fantastic to see her.

I’m excited that Black & Pink NYC will be tabling this year. Black & Pink, for those who don’t know, connects people on the outside with LGBTQ penpals inside of prison. They also have an amazing analysis of power, prison, marginalization & criminalization that I hope they expand on for thir Zinester interview.

I’m also happy to see that ABC No Rio’s zine library will be repping again this year. It’s such an amazing resource that often gets overlooked because it’s not part of a huge institution (with huge institutional support).

For folks I’ve never met, I’m intrigued by Donna Choi‘s work and am definitely looking forward to seeing it in person. I have to add, though, that last year, just getting to walk around the tables and meet zinesters in person was amazing and so much more than just perusing their on-line presence. So I’m looking forward to that.