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Zinester Life

It’s International Zine Month 2015!

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03.01.2015 / writing zine descriptions
As of this past Wednesday, it is now one of my three favorite times of the year! Along with Halloween and county fairs, International Zine Month ranks high on my list of seasonal favorites. Last year, I posted my ten reasons why I love zines as part of the daily prompts for July, and each still holds true.

You can download the daily prompts from Stolen Sharpie Revolution and follow along. This year I plan to make some copies of my prose poetry zine, Small Parts, to leave at work (prompt fifteen!), make a flyer for a few of my zines (prompt eight!), and finish up my one-page zine on cryptids (page twenty-three!)–among other things, of course. I also printed out some of the prompt lists to leave on the table at work, where we have various other handouts and flyers. Hopefully this along with the free copies of Small Parts will get some people interested in zines and International Zine Month.

Will you be doing anything to celebrate the month?
Have you enjoyed IZM before or is this your first year?

July 3, 2015

Zines 101: My Digital Method

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Last week, I shared my cut and paste approach to making zines; this week, it’s all about digital, baby.

I know this would be vastly easier to do if I had InDesign, but alas, I am blessed only with LibreOffice and Photoshop CS4, so that’s how I currently assemble my literary zine, Wonderlust. It tends to be a larger project overall, so the easier I can make it by working entirely on the computer up until printing, the less of a headache I end up with at the end of everything.

1. Start in Word (Or, once again, LibreOffice in my case)

Like with my cut and paste zines, I set up the page size in my Word document using the Page Layout option and go from there, copying, pasting, typing, and arranging everything I’m including in the issue. I usually start with a rough table of contents because that can be copied and pasted between issues with only the names, titles, and numbers changing. This step is made up mainly of waiting for submissions to come in, followed by deciding what order to put them in and simply reflecting that within the Word document.

2. Set Up a Cover in Photoshop

When I’ve got a cover image selected for the issue, either from submissions or a photo of my own if I haven’t received any, I begin laying it out in Photoshop.

I’ll set up my file to 8.5″x11″ in landscape (at 300 dpi), that way I can see both sides of the cover (front and back) at the same time. I prefer to use landscape photos for the cover that way they wrap all the way around the back simply because I think it looks more appealing, but it’s always an option to print on only one half and have a portrait photo for your cover instead.

From there, I’ll drag down the little guide lines from the rulers and set them at one-eight of an inch on each edge because that’s usually where printers stop, as well as in the middle; all this to help make sure the cover text is centered as best as possible. Then I set up the image in the way I find looks the best within the guidelines, sometimes allowing a bit of overhang past the lines because the dimensions are a little funny, and it won’t hurt anyway.

Lastly, I lay in the text, which includes the title, issue number, and season/year. Rather than place this in the same spot each issue, I allow it to move around to whatever space looks best with that issue’s cover photo, otherwise it might cover up a part of the cover that you’d actually want showing.

3. Save for Printing

I literally work where I get my literary zine printed, so I know that the best way to save the files is as PDFs. Other places may have other preferences, but I think PDF is always your best bet if you’re digitally assembling a zine to be printed later on. Plus, PDFs are the most common files used for downloads in my experience, so if you’re looking to offer it as a download at some point or maybe upload it to Issuu (which I’ve been considering), you’re all set.

I know different programs have different methods for saving as a PDF, so I’d say poke around what you’re working with (or google it, of course) to learn that one.
04.13.15 / wonderlust lit zine issue two
Et voila! I have a beautifully printed literary zine to share with the world.

In a way, creating a zine digitally is a lot easier than the cut and paste approach: It’s not as messy, can be done while lounging on the couch rather than hunching over the floor or coffee table, and is far more organized to start with. Nonetheless, I much prefer the cut and paste method on an aesthetic level as well as a creative one. It makes sense to do Wonderlust digitally, but I don’t know if I’ll ever put my other zines together this same way.

Now that you’ve seen my two approaches, what do you think? Which is more appealing to you? Why?

June 15, 2015

Zines 101: My Cut & Paste Method

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About a week ago, I had a quick Twitter chat with Emily about zines when she asked if I’ve ever posted about my process and what it is, and I realized that I’ve never done an in-depth exploration of exactly how I go about my zines. So that’s what we’re up to today.

Now, before I start let me just say that I am by no means a How-To Expert, so if I miss any steps or anything is unclear, please let me know and I’ll do my best to clarify.

I have two ways of going about my zine making process: cut & paste and digital. Today I’m just going to go over the cut & paste process because it’s my favorite method and it’s a little more fun to talk about. Don’t worry, though; I’ll be sharing my digital method next week.

1. Starting in Word (Well, LibreOffice)

To start, I type up my pieces on the computer, making a Word/LibreOffice document with the pages set up to the size that I want. The first issue of Whatsername, for example, was half US letter (8.5″x5.5″), so that’s what I made my Word pages with about a quarter-inch margin. Older issues of One-Girl Bicycle Club were always a quarter US letter (4.25″x5.5″), so when I did those, I set up the Word document at that size with something between an eight and a quarter-inch margin.

From there, I type everything out, including the cover text at the very end of the document. This gives me a general idea of the page length my zine will end up with and how I’m going to lay out the pages when I get to the cutting and pasting.

When I have everything typed and have edited until my eyes are ready to bleed, I go ahead and print the Word document two pages to a sheet, which you can find in the print options box.

2. Images

In One-Girl Bicycle Club, I would take scrapbook paper and glue my paragraphs on top, then glue in the scrapbook paper onto my zine template, thus creating a little patterned border around my paragraphs. In Whatsername, I took a new approach, choosing photos on my computer and heavily editing them in Photoshop, boosting the contrast and applying filters (the Torn Edges and Half Tone being my favorites).

3. Cutting and Pasting

Once I’ve got everything printed, I get to jump into the fun, messy part: cutting and pasting.

The first step here is to create your template. I usually take however many sheets of paper I need to create the number of pages my zine will be (for example, a twelve-page, half-size zine–including covers–would take three sheets of paper) and fold them in the layout I’m going for, either in half or in quarters.

I always always always cut one essay at a time, otherwise I mix up the paragraphs without fail (and sometimes I even mix them up within the same piece). This is also where plenty of paper clips come in handy because I’ll cut out all the pages and paragraphs to one essay and clip them together, separate from the rest of the issue. With scraps of paper strewn about and glue inching its way across every surface, it’s already a messy project, so the more ways I can remain organized as I go the better.

Compared to the writing, this part is a breeze, especially if you’re like me and enjoy puzzles because it’s all about finding the best way to fit everything into your issue. This step usually takes me a day or two, depending on how motivated I’m feeling, and I almost always glue something to the wrong page at least once, which is why I highly recommend setting up a template before you begin rather than trying to remember exactly which page you’re working on.

4. Copying

Once you’ve got all your flats assembled, then you’re ready to take them to your copy shop of choice and start making copies. I usually do ten issues at a time because I don’t tend to run out very quickly, but that’s personal preference of course.
06.07.15 / zine flats
Like every other part of this process, when the time comes to make copies it feels like the most fun part because you get to play around with settings on the photocopier and choose fun colored sheets for your zine. The first issue of Whatsername is actually my first time using a colored sheet for my cover, and since I couldn’t decide between pastel pink or lilac, I went with both!
05.27.15 / whatsername #1
I use a long-arm stapler for my assembly, which is especially useful now that I’m doing half-size issues, because otherwise I would have to fold over the pages to reach the middle and that just doesn’t look great. It was about a $30 investment, but for how long I’ve been doing these and how long I plan to continue, it was more than worth it.

And there you have it! How I most often assemble my zines. Like I said, I’ll be sharing my digital method next week, which isn’t too different but uses only Word and Photoshop, rather than both and then printing–but you’ll see.

Any questions or suggestions? Anything that could be clearer or more detailed? Are you at all interested in making your own in this style now? If you already make zines, how do you go about it?

June 8, 2015

Call for Submissions: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fanzine

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05.11.15 / btvs
Last night, while watching Game of Thrones, I sat making a list of zine ideas that have been brewing for the past few months and breaking them down in order to get a better grasp on them. (You may have seen me mention on Twitter that I currently have seven zines/ideas in the works–not including Wonderlust or my perzine, so it’s been a little overwhelming.) What I decided was that instead of taking on every idea myself and inevitably stressing out, I would make (at least) two of them comp zines, much like Wonderlust, taking submissions from people and curating them into one-shot issues, and the first one I want to work on is a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanzine.

I’m looking for art and writing dealing with the movie, TV series, and/or comic series. This can be fanart, poetry, love letters, critical essays, just about anything. Tell me about your favorite episode. Tell me about what it was like the first time you watched the series (or the third time). Tell me your opinion on seasons eight and beyond.

Technical details: The zine is going to be half US letter size and in black + white, so if you’re sending art, keep that in mind. Right now I’ve got the deadline set for the end of June (just when Wonderlust #003 should be coming out, so I can jump right from one project to the next). If you’re interested, email me your submission or even just an idea that you’re throwing around but not quite sure about yet at

May 11, 2015

Pioneer Valley Zine Fest 2015 Recap + Tips

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This year I had my second zine fest tabling experience (and third zine fest experience overall), and I’m already making plans for the next one. Last year I shared how my first time around at the Pioneer Valley Zine Fest went, and here I am to do it again.

I spent Friday night collating, stapling, and folding a stack of zines, prepping my table display, and attempting to keep my excitement under control because sign-in and set up started at 9am, and I wanted to be ready. My friend Katie came with me to keep me company and cover the table when I wanted to browse, and that was one of the biggest lessons of the day: Having company makes a huge difference. Last year I spent the day tabling by myself, only kind of talking to the people around me, and as a relatively unsocial person, that made for a long day, but this year the time passed with enough activity, distraction, and conversation that the time flew by.

My favorite thing about this year, though, was that there seemed to be so much more activity. I felt like I spent a lot of last year in a fairly passive state, watching people walk by once in a while and mostly doodling on a scrap of paper I’d brought with me. This year, though, I was almost always either making small talk with someone stopping by the table or talking with people around me or even just talking to Katie. It felt much more active than I remembered last year being, and I think that was another thing that helped the day pass with so much speed and enjoyment.

Of course, I also snagged a great haul throughout the day, picking up somewhere around thirteen zines through both buying and trading, and I can’t wait to sit down and read all of them this week. (Plus I bought a Papercut Zine Library shirt! I always love getting to rep zines in simple ways, just like with my Chicago Zine Fest tote bag.)

04.11.15 / post-zine fest

I don’t know if you’ve noticed at all, but I kind of adore zines, and I think it would be great if everyone everywhere made their own and got involved, so to get you started on the zine fest route, I thought I’d share a list of advice and lessons I learned between last year and this year’s experiences.


  • Be prepared for bodies. / With rooms full of tables, sellers, and shoppers, zine fests tend to get cramped. Smaller ones might have less shoppers at one time, but they might also be in a smaller venue, so keep in mind the potential for tight quarters as you’re walking around deciding what to spend you hard-earned money on, which brings me to…
  • Cash, cash, cash–and plenty of it. / If you’ve browsed zines online at all, you’ve probably noticed that they’re usually only a few dollars apiece, so please don’t be obnoxious and pay everyone in $20 bills (someone did this to me on Saturday and it was a bit nerve-wracking), and you’re pretty much out of luck completely if you’re planning on just cash.
  • Use the buddy system. / This one is merely personal preference, but I much prefer going to a zine fest with a friend. Not only does it give you someone to spend your time with, but I think it can take off some of the stress and pressure of being somewhere you maybe aren’t familiar with.


  • Bring snacks and water. / You will likely be there all day, unless you just don’t feel like it or you run out of zines, so be sure to stock up on energy. I like to go with a combination things that are good for me and things that are just darn good: water and fruit, Snapple and Reese’s. You’ve gotta bring snacks that will both keep you going and keep you happy.
  • Bring plenty of change. / This year I showed up with $50 in fives, ones, and quarters–and I still panicked about having enough change. For some reason, always having enough change is something I try to constantly be on top of because, especially at something like a zine fest, you’re going to need it when you’re buying and selling items at such low prices.
  • Bring any booboo fixers you might need. / I tend to get headaches if I get too warm or stressed, so it’s good for me to pack some aspirin/ibuprofen for a zine fest. Tissues are good. Lip balm. Whatever must-haves you need to make yourself comfortable for six to eight hours.
  • Make sure you have plenty of copies. / This is another place where maybe I go overboard (like with the change), but I’d much rather have too many copies than find I’ve run out an hour into the fest.  I try to bring between ten and twenty copies of my own zines, and whatever I have in stock for the rest of the distro (usually about five copies each). Definitely bring as many as you think you’ll need, but make sure you feel like it’s enough.

I can’t wait to see how PVZF turns out next year, along with the Boston Zine Fest, which I’m considering tabling at in the fall. At the very least, I will definitely be attending.

Have you ever been to a zine fest? Are you interested in them at all? (Hopefully yes!)

April 13, 2015

Nine Lives + Dream Lives: A Zine Distro as a First Step

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03.01.2015 / writing zine descriptions
Nine Lives has been “open” for about two weeks now, and while I haven’t gotten any orders yet (as I expected), I’m pleased with how things are going. The site looks good–basic, but good–and I’m in love with everything I have stocked so far, along with other zines I’m still expecting in the mail. There may not be much to look at right now, but it’s all a start, and it feels good to have a project going well when others don’t seem to be going anywhere at the moment.

I spent Sunday working on descriptions (and watching “Mysteries at the Museum” on Netflix), which meant rereading a lot of the zines that I had gotten and writing up little summaries for them. The descriptions all tended to end up being a bit longer than I expected, but don’t think I’m complaining about that. Honestly, I fell in love with every zine a second time as I was going through them; some I hadn’t read in at least a year and while I knew they were good enough that I wanted to carry them, I forgot just how damn good they were. Others, like Maps + Text, I read for the first time and was happy to discover it was worth the faith of carrying without reading ahead. (But as a sort of off-shoot of Paper + Ink, which I love and have had two prose poems appear in, I was feeling pretty optimistic to begin with.)

I think there’s still a lot of tweaking to be done, either on the website or in general, but I think this step forward has been a smooth and pleasing one so far. It’s one of  those actions that I can already see growing and improving far into the future, and there’s this giddiness running through me each time I think about it. Maybe someday I’ll have hundreds of zines, a better shopping interface, a brick & mortar shop! That last one really is my end goal, if I’m honest. A long time ago, or so it feels, I wrote about my dream of owning a zine and book shop, and that dream hasn’t dulled in the slightest. Since I took this step, it’s only gotten stronger.

I think part of why it took me so long to start a distro, even though I first considered the idea at least a year and a half ago, was the fact that it was just scary. Asking people if I could carry their zines was scary. Taking on all the responsibility of keeping inventory and mailing packages and communicating with others was scary. But in the past year, zines have become such a huge part of my life, something I live for now, that it was worth the fear to at least try. Along with that, as much as I like my life at the moment, I don’t want this to be how I live forever, and I can’t change that without facing those fears and getting off my ass and taking chances.

(Excuse me while I get all emotional over myself and this can-do attitude.)

I know I have a future in zines, in so many ways, and if opening a distro is the first step to my dream life, then it’s a step damn worth taking, even if I stumble.

March 4, 2015

Introducing Nine Lives Zine Distro

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nine lives zine distro

I seem to have a lot of dreams and ideas, don’t I? Perhaps. But at least they’re coming together.

Like starting a literary zine, having my own zine distro has been an idea floating around in my head for the last year or so, and as with a number of other things over the last few months, I finally decided to just go for it. So over the weekend I started ordering zines to stock and worked on getting a website set up with Dan. Right now I only have my own zines listed because I’m waiting for the others I’ve ordered to come in, but once they do my plan is to take a day or two or five to put together descriptions for them and list them on the site.

Still, you’re welcome to browse around at what’s there, though it’s not much different from my zine shop page at the moment. In fact, I’m not sure if I’m going to keep up with the zine shop separately from the distro or not. It might be nice to have if I decide to do any one-shot zines that may not fit into the distro (like My, My Menstrual Cup and the X-Files fanzine I’ve had on the back burner for so long now), but I’m not quite sure yet. Please let me know your thoughts on that!

I’ve started this distro not only to spread my love of zines even farther, but also in the hopes that it will become a stepping stone toward the bookstore I dream of owning someday. I spent a number of hours over the weekend trying to finish reading Cometbus #56, only to be distracted thinking about how I would organize a book and zine shop. (I even had a certain space in mind, but that was mostly for daydreaming purposes.) I’m trying to take firm steps toward my life goals, and I feel like starting this zine distro is the right thing to do at this moment.

I still have a to do list to keep setting up shop (including getting a P.O. box so I can take distro submissions), but as usual I was too excited to wait until everything was perfect to share because I would love to hear what you think.

February 18, 2015

It’s Time! Submissions for Wonderlust #002 Are Now Open

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Submissions for the second issue of Wonderlust are now open and I am bouncing out of my shoes!

The response to the first issue has been fabulous, and I feel like things are only going to get even better. Every time I get an email I hope it’s a new order, and I’ve had so many over the past month or so that I couldn’t complain even if I wanted to.

I also learned a few lessons from putting together the first issue and successfully worked through a variety of challenges to get it out, and it was just an all-around positive experience for me, and I hope for the contributors as well. And that’s why I’m so excited for this second one! I can’t wait to see the amazing pieces that will be included, so if you wanted to submit to the first issue and never did or even if you were in the first and want to submit again, here’s your chance!

January 28, 2015