What do you zine? Richmond Zine Fest coming this weekend

Zines from Cabell Library's archive in Special Collections. The collection draws in part from submissions garnered at the Richmond Zine Fest, now in its fifth year. Photo by Chris Conway.

Nick Bonadies
Spectrum Editor

Zines from Cabell Library's archive in Special Collections. The collection draws in part from submissions garnered at the Richmond Zine Fest, now in its fifth year. Photo by Chris Conway.

Photocopiers are revving up across the state and beyond in preparation for the Richmond Zine Fest this Saturday, Oct. 8 at the Gay Community Center of Richmond (connected to the Diversity Thrift building at 1407 Sherwood Ave.).

Makers, readers and lovers of zines and other homebrew publishing pursuits will gather for a day to trade and sell their wares, as well as network with others in the zine community.

A “zine,” loosely defined, is “an independently created publication containing anything you want it to” and pronounced like magazine without the “maga-”, according to Alex Wrekk and Joe Biel’s “Stolen Sharpie Revolution.” (Something of an introductory guide to do-it-yourself printing and publishing.)

Zines are typically published via photocopier and can contain anything from original art and writing, to appropriated printed-source material, to a collage of both. They also, according to event organizers, can deal with any conceivable topic.

“It’s really complicated,” said Celina Williams, student research assistant in the comic arts and digital collections at Cabell Library, which features a collection of zines from as far back as 1969. Williams also is one of many event organizers for the Richmond Zine Fest.

“It’s something (the Library Special Collections) has grappled with,” she said. “When people ask me, ‘what’s in a zine?’, I have to ask, you know, ‘what’s in a book?’ It can be about anything.”

Liz Canfield, assistant professor in the VCU department of gender, sexuality and women’s studies, has also helped organize and promote the Zine Fest since its beginnings in 2007.

“The topics of zines are as diverse as the people who create them,” she said. “So the topics range from bike repair, to people writing about their travels, people writing about their jobs, recipes, et cetera et cetera.”

The zine collection in the Special Collections on Cabell Library’s fourth floor gains much of its content from Richmond Zine Fest donations. A brief visit reveals a breadth of homemade content, from entire photocopied artists’ sketchbooks, to photography, to poetry, to zines with history lessons, personal stories and even a few written for children.

Some zines follow in the style of traditional print publications, with editors, layout designers and a semi-regular production schedule. “I Love Bad Movies,” for example, which according to its Etsy site deals in “strange, overlooked and sometimes altogether forgotten movies,” has produced four issues in the past year. The VCU student-run zine Lips Richmond, a “fun and sexy alternative to popular magazines that objectify bodies and fail to speak honestly about sex”, is producing its second issue for distribution at the Zine Fest this weekend.

Most zines, however, are made by a single person, featuring their own writing, art and ideas. What results is an intensely personal expression that may not have been let fly in a literary publishing house.

“It can be freeing in that way,” Williams said. “Since you don’t have some editor saying ‘this is how it must be’ or some teacher saying ‘you have to do it this way,’ you find that you can say what you want, how you want.” For many zine aficionados, she said, inconsistencies, mistakes and other “unpolished” facets of zine culture are part of the appeal.

Canfield said the Zine Fest is a celebration of “do-it-yourself culture” in general, as well as self-publishing. “We focus on the idea that … as a writer or as an activist or as a teenager trying to survive high school – whatever it is, you can write it, and you can publish it. You can make it your own.”

The year 2011 marks the Richmond Zine Fest’s fifth active year, having called home in the past such locations as the Firehouse Theater and Gallery5.

Canfield said that organizers have been serious each year about choosing a “vibrant community space” for the Zine Fest.

“The space we choose is really deliberate,” she said. “It’s a space where people come together as a community.”

The GCCR is only about a 10-minute bike ride from the VCU campus – but according to Canfield, the list of registered Zine Fest tablers and workshoppers include zine auteurs from as far away as New York City, Boston, and Portland, Ore.

“This is a place where you’ll see people from all over the country,” Canfield said. “And you’ll see what they’re writing about and thinking about.”

The fifth-annual Richmond Zine Fest will take place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Gay Community Center of Richmond at 1407 Sherwood Ave. this Saturday, Oct. 8. Admission is free. For more information, including a schedule of workshops and a tabler list, visit http://richmondzinefest.org/.

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