Creating a (Zine!) Scene by Francesca Lia Block and Hillary Carlip
We met 10 years ago in a writing workshop and became instant friends: Hillary, a vibrant screenwriter, artist, former circus fire-eater, and lead singer of a new-wave band; and Francesca, compassionate and poetic creator of the magical-realist-punk fairy tales known as the Weetzie Bat books--kindred spirits if ever there were two!
As years passed and our friendship grew, we realized we wanted to write a book together. One of the themes that has always been essential to us both is the idea that self- expression, and writing in particular, can heal. Hillary's first book, "Girl Power: Young Women Speak Out," reflects this philosophy on every page. In addition, we both survived the hardest times in our lives--namely adolescence--with the help of writing and art. Our bookshelves, lined with years of personal journals, bear witness to the fact that for us,writing has been (and is) a lifeline. It's no surprise that we were thrilled when, several years ago, we stumbled upon zines.
Zines--handmade publications that combine elements of journals, newsletters, and magazines--are currently at the forefront of the self-expression revolution. Zines are especially popular with young adults since many have few opportunities or forums to speak out and be heard. Unedited, uninhibited, uncensored, and unpredictable, these creations are attracting people of every age, race, gender, sexual preference, and interest. They can be as intimate as a private diary, packed with scribbled musings and poetry. Or they can be much slicker and streamlined, like some of the online zines, or "e-zines," we've seen. They can resemble anS O S in a bottle, a ransom note, or an elaborate collage. For example, Gina Young's "Private Catholic" is are production of a Catholic school notebook; Christian Merry's "Black Virgin Mary Coloring Book" is just that, featuring hand-drawn designs. A combination of hand-lettering, photos, clip art, pictures from magazines, and photocopies of found objects make zines one of the most original and unusual art forms around.
Sometimes zines are very serious. In "Cicada," "Beautiful Red Lines," and "Screaming Mimi" the writers all deal with self-mutilation (or "cutting"), and use the dignity, power, and poetry of writing to process this frightening experience. Mary Burt's "Sad" celebrates every possible aspect of melancholy emotions, including a list of contributors' "Top Ten Sad Songs" in each issue. Girl or Grrrl zines such as "Hero Grrrl" and "Odd Grrl Out" speak out against sexism and the negative body images often imposed on women. "Flaming Jewboy" fights back against gay bashing and homophobia. Zinesters are writing about topics such as rape, eating disorders, and depression with intense energy and bravery. As Mariah McDougall of "Magdalene" and "Rewn" says: "it's all the things I have to say to survive. I could live on words.... it's a miracle i'm still standing after the stampede of demons I've been letting out lately ... but I'm right here. alive, laughing out some rage and crying out some joy."
Zines can also be as wildly silly as getting together with your best friend for a giggle session. Rebecca Dillon's "Velvet Grass" is full of do-it-yourself arts-and-craftsideas, including how to make your own Mary Jane shoes out of duct tape. Seth Bogard's numerous zines spoof everything from his teachers to "chicken fingers." There are even zines about cereal boxes, banana-peel stickers, bowling, and poodles.
No matter the tone or topic, zines are a way for people to be heard--people who might not otherwise feel they have a voice. In "Zine Scene," we explore and include excerpts from an enormous variety of zines. Our book is a comprehensive guide to creating your own masterpiece--complete with tipson the actual process of creating a zine from cover tocover. We provide writing exercises to get the juices flowing, feature lots of examples of what other zinesters are up to, and cover all angles from design to distribution.We hope you enjoy the experience of "Zine Scene" as much as we loved fulfilling our dream of collaborating on it. In the spirit of our friendship and our belief in the power and joy of written words, we welcome readers to "Zine Scene."