Little Lit, Big Heart
ABQ Zine Fest unfolds
You don’t need an agent to say you’re OK. You don’t require a publishing house to distribute your work. You can tell your stories, share your drawings and project your rants all over town, as easily as one, two, three. (Copy, fold, staple.) There is no one who can censor you, no genre that can hold you. This is the creative and hyper-DIY attitude of dozens of local zinesters—and counting—who are coming out of the woodwork to share their talents at the inaugural ABQ Zine Fest.
“This is such an exciting thing to be doing, to be able to write whatever you want,” Marya Errin Jones, the spearhead of ABQ Zine Fest, tells the Alibi. “It might have come out of feeling this block for my own writing. Not feeling like I could write the things I wanted to write, or being afraid to put words on the paper.” She says that after reading some DIY lit with a friend, “it really blew the doors off.”
Jones made her first zine—“Prague: A Fucked-up Travelogue”—in February. “It was a story that I’d been carrying for 10 years and hadn’t really found a way to tell.” The medium worked well for her. Next she wrote about a trip she took to Wales and Scotland. These two issues fall under a travel series she’s calling “Electric Voyager.”
But Jones doesn’t just write about globe-trotting. She also has a dirty series that she describes as blue-collar porn. The first issue is called “Officer Amy” and details a threesome with a police officer. The second revolves around an elevator operator and an executive who works in the building. “It is kind of funny to write about someone like that,” Jones says. “We don’t even think about ‘blue collar’ anymore. That’s such a ’70s kind of idea. Now we actually don’t acknowledge people who work in that type of work.”
After discovering the Albuquerque zine scene, Jones felt compelled to make a festival around it. “I know that there’s a rich history,” she says, and she wants to get people to share, trade, be together in a room and have fun.
Andrew Lyman, zinester and founder of the independent NaDA Publishing, says his zine project “Bands!” is based in fun. He got the idea when he lived in Portland, Maine, and he and his friends would try to come up with incredibly stupid band names. “I thought it was one of the most hilarious pastimes possible,” Lyman says by phone. “And we started a little group called Bands. Some bad Photoshopped covers started circulating around, and we pretended like we had these albums and went to these shows.”
They even made up venues that didn’t exist in Portland, such as Dave’s Chowder Chalice. The game eventually made its way to print in “Bands!” The collection of articles, interviews, photos and more is all about made-up groups. Lyman says growing up reading rock magazines and writing for one for a brief period made him realize that music journalism is one of the dumbest things there is, but that it also takes itself very seriously. “Bands!” is not about making fun of anything, he says, but about having fun with the style.
Another author, Eva Avenue, is intent on thwarting certain styles. Her zine idea came to her while she was laid up in a Barcelona hospital bed, doped up on pain meds. “The student ghetto needs a local publication,” she thought. “And what will I do?” What she did is return to Albuquerque in September 2009 and put out the first issue of the “Nightly Noodle Monthly” that October.
She says she worked at the Daily Lobo for a time, which was good training, but she wanted to break out of anything rigid. “I get excited when I find a mistake in my zine because then I can either underline, like, Hey, that was spelled wrong, or cross it out and put what I meant to put, just write it to the side. And so I’ll print with the edits there,” she says. For her, it’s a testament to human error.
Basic freedom of expression and the human need to communicate are embodied by zines. This is the assertion of Billy McCall, another fest organizer. He writes the creative nonfiction zine “Proof I Exist,” and he’s been creating micro-literature for about 15 years. He says by phone that it’s hard to understand a social network that doesn’t exist on a computer, but that’s what this culture is.
“For me, a handwritten letter is much more inconvenient than an email, but because it’s more inconvenient to me it holds more value,” he says. “I appreciate that the person went through the time to do it and I appreciate that they put in more effort. When you put in more effort to something, that makes it all the stronger.”
The three days of ABQ Zine Fest will be about connection and play. Marya Jones says the first night is a meet-and-greet at The Cellar Door, with live music by The Scrams, Lady Uranium and The Deadtown Lovers. She encourages people to just hang out and talk, hoping to lure the greater community that follows the bands but may not know much about zines. Other highlights of the festival include performances by Annah Anti-Palindrome, a sound artist from Oakland, and a DIY emporium.
Saturday’s (first-ever) Zine Olympics will have competitions such as speed stapling, precision folding and synchronized zine-ing—where duos perform a choreographed, wordless piece to music, portraying the experience of creation. There will be lots of prizes, including the titular items, of course. Andrew Lyman says, “I think zines will flow like water.”
The most important message for him is that people should show up. “This is Albuquerque’s first-ever zine fest, and things that are starting out and are possible flash points to creating new, exciting chapters of a community should be supported,” he says. “People should be excited that this is getting organized and happening here.”