Yeahhhhh, I waited 25 years to finally attend a zine festival—1,674 miles and nearly 10 years from the first time I hear the word zine. I don't remember how I discovered their existence, but I do know they've totally fascinated me ever since. (And you know I like print things).
A few weeks ago, Phoenix had its first annual zine festival. Featuring a room full of tables, all manned by zine lovers + makers. Plus: a coffee truck, a taco truck, and special guest speakers. I don't know who chose the venue for this place, but it was liiiiit. I was low key more interested in the architecture—pillars! high ceilings! natural light! urban decay!—than the tables full of zines, but that's not what this is about.
We walked in an hour or so after the event started. Friendly/cool volunteers greet us. There is coffee around the corner and t-shirts and tote bags for sale if you're interested. I said no thanks to a tee, but did opt for some coffee. I can't report on the quality of the coffee because the 'special nut milk' I paid $1 extra for was so overwhelming to my picky palette I had to throw my latte out 2 sips. ANYWAY, I'M PETTY let's move on.
Not 5 minutes after we arrived they announced that a talk—self-publishing 101—was about to begin in "the pillar room." YES The Pillar Room was everything. Did I mention this place had subtle Italo-luxe vibes and it normally used as a gallery space? Very Maria.
I like to learn things, so we settled in the back row of white folding chairs in the Pillar Room to listen to Sage Adderley (of Sweet Candy Distro) speak. Thirty minutes later, we stepped back inside the main hall where I was immediately drawn towards a table where two young brown boys sat. Neither on of them looked older than 10 and they had several saddle stitch zines for sale. I went for one called Black Indigenous Boy. "That one's three dollars." I handed one of the boys the cash and smiled.
While I may not have shelled out cash at every table, I did linger shyly at some, flipping through zines, prints, and buttons, all lovingly made. I tell one artist, laughing, that this is an inherently awkward process. Zines feel so personal and intimate. Many are hand-made from start to finish, imbued with the personality, thoughts, and creativity of their maker. They are a labour of love and I feel the weight of that at every new table.
I feel like I am fumbling around with a piece of someone's soul. This sounds extreme, and it is, but it's true. I like this, though. it is a format I identify with strongly. So much of what I am is not in an average interaction with me. I am hiding. Like a benevolent Voldemort (what is this metaphor?!), I scatter pieces of myself in other places—this blog, instagram captions, my daily drawings.
Maybe it is these feelings that make me want to buy every zine on every table. We snake our way around, quickly making our small wad of cash disappear. My tiger painted tote bag is soon filled with stranger's soul pieces. We spend our last ten dollars on an L.A.-based fashion zine called Reflekt Magazine. The woman manning the table is friendly and talkative. I leave feeling full and content, like I just ate a satisfying meal. This feels good, like a zine fest should.