The Way of the Zine: Lessons from the Literary Underground

The Way of the Zine: Lessons from the Literary Underground


Hello everyone, thanks for checking out my post about the great lit events happening this fall. As promised I’m here today to tell you all about the obscurely awesome literary genre known as zines.

I kicked off fall with my favorite literary festival: The Twin Cities Zine Fest. TCZF is an annual celebration of zine culture in the Twin Cities and this latest fest marked 12 years of awesomeness. It’s a place for local zinesters to show off their self-published works and for fans to expo, workshop, and hang out with fellow zine lovers.

But what is a Zine? I get that question a lot and to be truthful zines are not easily defined. At the fest conversation often turned to the nebulous nature of zines. Some fans place comics under the zine umbrella, some disagree. Others define zines as a printed blog and are met with outrage at this simplification.

The best way to understand zines is to get your hands on some. I discovered zines a few years back when I first visited Boneshaker Books. I urge you, dear reader, to go yourself because Boneshaker has zines in abundance (also it is a super cool place to hang in Minneapolis and the rumors of the bicycle book delivery service are true!)

At Boneshaker you will find the little publications known as zines. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and aesthetics. They are filled with rantings, doodlings, and explosive opinions. Sometimes high class design, sometimes low-class design. Created by artists, dreamers, and ordinary people who just want to make something or say something.

I was hooked as soon as I discovered these tiny booklets with their f*** you attitude. I loved the handmade charm and the range of writing styles, from inarticulate digressions to heartbreaking poetics to political opinions. Zines are radically democratic in that anyone can make one and disperse it. There is no middle man, no publishing house guarding the gates, and because the author answers to no one they can afford to be uncompromising.

Zines are outside the mainstream. It’s for the oddballs. It’s for the misfits. And that’s what Zine Fest was, a gathering of misfits; each bringing their art and their ideas to the table.

In this age of corporate media zines are independent, local, and DIY.  These ultimate do-it-yourselfers urge us to stop consuming that which is made for us and to create our own culture. Zinesters stand for a culture whose value isn’t stocks and markets, it’s connection and authenticity. They aren’t after celebrity. They are everyday, ordinary people, just like you and me. Everyday winners and losers, artists and dreamers. In this sad fallen world of corporate profits, zines are a lesson for all creative types…it’s about the work, not the money. The Twin Cities Zine Fest is an annual, passionate gathering of creators, and I left inspired to make something, just because I can, just because I have something to say.

Stay true to your art, dear writing buddies! Take a lesson from zine culture and write whatever the heck you want. Screw the mainstream. If you’re a zinester let me know because I’d love to get my hands on your work. Are you new to the world of zines and need a recommendation? All you have to do is ask!



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