Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Zines Are Back In Town…But They Never Actually Left!

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The Zines Are Back In Town…But They Never Actually Left!

This past Sunday afternoon, I attended a backyard barbeque. But this was no ordinary outdoor summer fête. In addition to the regulation burgers and dogs and potato salad (and grilled bacon and bowl of red Nibs), there was a keg of Steam Whistle, delicious complimentary mini donuts (!) from our hosts Wade and Karen, a live band…and something else.

While I was enjoying the bittersweet music of Papermaps as I marvelled over the perfect pairing of bitter hops and sweet grease, I noticed that a nearby friend was holding a familiar shape. It appeared to be several folded-in-half 8 ½ X 11” photocopied sheets of paper stapled together, with handwriting and drawings on the outside. Could it be? I thought, and moved in for a closer look.

“Hey,” I said to my pal as casually as I could muster, “what’s that you’ve got there?”

“Oh, it’s somebody’s zine,” she said. “Want to have a look?”

“Sure,” I said, and attempted to control my trembling hands as my friend passed me the lovely cut-and-pasted object, which I saw was titled Static Zine. I assumed it must be an artifact, several years old at least. Nobody makes zines anymore, I thought sadly. But then I spied “June ’11” on the front, and gasped in wonder. I am a zine lover and maker from way back—1999, to be precise. And here I was under the foolish misconception that these handmade, self-published beauties were extinct, and that I was a dinosaur.

[PHOTO BY DEREK WUENSCHIRS (Click on the thumbnail to enlarge):]

I sat in a lawn chair as Papermaps played on, and I read Static Zine Issue #001 cover to cover, grinning all the way through.

Static Zine: Toronto Arts & Life for Locals & Visitors (#001, June ’11, NXNE Issue) is energetic, funny, and generous, full of helpful tips and tricks and goofy opinions and wry observations and great illustrations. And a maze! And graphs measuring the relative hangout-ability factors of various Toronto Public Library branches!

My favourite pieces were “Cabbie Convo: The Musician” by Bhairavi Thanki (a sweet recounting of a conversation with a taxi-driving aspiring musician), “An Insomniac’s Guide to Napping at Shows” by Aviva Cohen (the author calls herself a “PhD in ZZZ’s,” heehee), and “Me Want Food, After Hours” by Melody Lamb (a giggle-inducing rant about Toronto’s lamentable lack of 24-hour dining).

Then came the best part—my friend told me that the creator of this zine was just over there, as were a number of the contributors. So of course I had to meet them. Then I had to interview them—and quickly, before I drank too much more beer. (After the interview, I also met Scott Honsberger, another contributor—and bringer of the red Nibs!)

I huddled with Jessica Lewis, the editor of Static Zine, along with writers Aviva Cohen and Melody Lamb, and asked them some questions...

[PHOTO BY DEREK WUENSCHIRS (Click on the thumbnail to enlarge)—FROM LEFT: Aviva Cohen, Jessica Lewis, and Melody Lamb ]

Me: What inspired you to make this zine?

Jessica Lewis: It was a fun project to do with friends, and North By Northeast was a fun deadline to set. We’re all bloggers, but we also wanted to make something on paper.

Aviva Cohen: We like gluing things.

JL: Yeah, and this stuff [paper zines] doesn’t really exist anymore.

Me: Had you guys seen many zines before you made yours?

AC: There’s another zine out now called Offerings, about experimental, alternative music. And we’ve seen other ones at the Toronto Zine Library.

Melody Lamb: I’ve always been interested in making zines, and I’ve read a lot of them. I tried to make one when I was 15, but I didn’t get past the first page. It’s great to make a zine with other people.

JL: I’m still a newbie. I’ve done some writing for Broken Pencil, and I’ve volunteered at Canzine. I wanted to make my own zine, and we have so many talented friends.

Static Zine is having a launch party this Sunday, June 19, from 1:30pm to 7:30pm, moving from the Sky Blue Sky Sandwich Company at 605 Bloor Street West to Christie Pitts Park. (And I was honoured to be asked to read in their storytellers’ installation! They said they’re going to hook me up with a tin can and some string in the later part of the evening—YES!) Spread the word around, and come on out for some good, old-fashioned photocopied-paper fun.

In other Toronto zine-related news, the Small Press of Toronto Spring Book Fair is also happening this Sunday, June 19, from 11:00am to 5:00pm at Hart House, 7 Hart House Circle, University of Toronto (stop by on your way to the Static Zine shindig!).

Furthermore, the Meet the Presses SCREAMING Chapbook Market is happening on Saturday, July 9, from 12:00pm to 5:00pm at Clinton’s Tavern at 693 Bloor Street West.

Finally, clearly I’m wrong in thinking Nobody makes zines anymore, because I just read this fantastic Broken Pencil article by Liz Worth: “Despite What You’ve Heard, Zines Aren’t Dead.” It warmed my hardcopy heart.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Jessica Westhead

Jessica Westhead's short stories have appeared in major literary journals in Canada and the United States. "Unique and Life-Changing Items," which appears in And Also Sharks, was shortlisted for the 2009 CBC Literary Awards. Her first novel, Pulpy & Midge, was nominated for the ReLit Award. Westhead lives in Toronto.

Go to Jessica Westhead’s Author Page