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Zines I Made in 2011

January 2, 2012

I thought a lot about making zines this year, and what it means to me to make them. Again I started off the year thinking I’d probably only do a couple of zines and that would be it, after all I have made an awful lot over the last 15 or so years. When I sat down to write the 2011 list I was surprised that I’d made seven, including two I am a Cameras.

I am a Camera 15  was about visiting Dunedin and looking for traces of the Flying Nun scene, which had its heyday in the 1980s. Dunedin is a university town and I was there in November, when many of the students had packed up their things from their rooms in the big, wooden houses, and gone back home. This gave the city a quiet, romantic feeling to it. It seemed like a place where it would be easy to fall in love. Simon and I explored its steep streets and I wrote the story of our adventures in this zine. I nervously gave a copy to Graeme Downes, the lead singer of the Verlaines, when they played a show at the Annandale Hotel earlier this year. I would have chickened out if it were not for my friend Eric’s persuasive stare from across the room. One of my Dunedin objectives was to find the house where the Death and the Maiden videoclip was filmed. I had thought it no longer there, but Graeme wrote to me and told me that it was, and gave me directions, should I ever find myself in Dunedin again.

I am a Camera 16 was the story of my trip to the Rabbit Island, Okunoshima, in Japan’s inland sea. When I took copies of this zine in to Sticky Elle said I am a Camera had become a travel zine. The last two issues have swung that way, yes, but I have a feeling that the next will be set in Sydney again. I am a Cameras #15 and #16 were stories of pilgrimage, or quests. As some of you may know I work at a university teaching writing. One of the units I taught this year was Travel Writing, and in the week on “pilgrimage” I asked my students what pilgrimages they had been on. There was one of those great tutorial silences. “Don’t you go on them,” I asked? “Do you?” one student asked back. “Yes, all the time,” I said, again realising that my reality is a different kind of reality.

Another one of my quests was detailed in the zine Kingdom by the Sea, which I made around the same time as I am a Camera 15. It is also set in New Zealand, and is about going to Oamaru and to writer Janet Frame’s childhood home. After I made this zine I discovered that not as many people know about Janet Frame as I thought they would. Others, however, knew plenty about her, one particular friend had even dressed up as her for a fancy dress party once. As well as being the childhood home of Janet Frame, Oamaru is the self declared Steampunk capital of the world. They were even steampunk children running around, though we missed seeing the annual penny farthing race by a week. We did travel on a very old train to a shed in which a creaky old man showed us a penguin nesting in a box, however.

If you are a member of the NSW writers’ centre you would have read about my travels to Janet Frame’s home town in Newswrite, the members magazine, one of my non-zine publications this year. I didn’t submit much to magazines or journals this year, which is probably not a good move if one cares to cultivate their niche in the world of literature. I think my role in the world of literature is a kind of bag lady, pacing the streets while the proper writers talk in cafes and flatter one another.

I made this tiny zine for the Zinata, or zine pinata at the Snapdragon Zine Fair, which was held at the Red Rattler in September. I organised it along with Emma and Tim from Take Care distro. My tiny zine was a sampler of my Biblioburbia blog, my major blog project from this year, in which I have been going to libraries around Sydney and writing about my experiences at them. This zine joined many others that people made and sent to us:

To go inside this dragon:

Which was then smashed open, an act which I am still slightly guilty about. Why did we have to make the dragon so cute? Snapdragon made me feel good about zines and the Sydney zine community, a feeling that had waned a little for me after the MCA zine fair. The MCA do a good job of organising a big, busy zine fair, and I know they take it seriously, but unfortunately there are a lot of stalls there selling objects I wouldn’t call zines. An example of this is the “zine” that was two A4 pages folded in half, made up of ads clipped from 1950s women’s magazines, which was then copyrighted by the person who put it together, and sold in a cellophane bag for $13. The stall was also selling panties. I know zines have evolved from when I started making them in the 1990s, and I am interested in their evolution, but this kind of thing makes my spirit wither.

I made two issues of Disposable Camera this year. The first was another one of those instances where I put an unpopular animal on the front and people get scared to pick it up. People like birds and bunnies. They don’t like alligators or moles. This summer (or this weekend – let’s face it, it won’t take long) Simon and I plan to make the ultimate zine cover with all of the images that people gravitate towards: typewriters, birds, bunnies, cats, an all you can eat of retro cute. Around the time I started making zines in the 1990s there was a zine called Ms.45. One issue had a cover which satirised all the things that people wrote about in their zines at the time:

I must boast that it only took me under a minute to find this zine. For those who don’t know me you are picturing that I have an outstandingly organised archive, for those who do, you are thinking how it’s a miracle. At the time this zine came out, almost every zine reprinted the McLibel information, my zines included.

The animal jury is still out on the puffer fish. This Disposable Camera is made up of a story about Melbourne and an A3 map which attempts to document details of the 25 or so times I’ve  been to Melbourne. In the words of the Three Thousand reviewer, who seems ambivalent about this aspect of the zine: “Footscray is the place she only visited to get doughnuts, Carlton is the place her friend’s boyfriend shoplifted some ouzo by stuffing it down his pants, and Frankston is the place where she was photographed next to the grave of someone called Tom Cockhead”. Subjective though these details be, that’s how I know and remember these places.

The final zine I made this year is Band T-shirt, which is a memoir of the band t-shirts I used to wear as a teenager. I debuted a few of these stories at the launch of PAN magazine in September. People seemed to enjoy them so I set to work polishing them into zine form. I particularly enjoyed drawing each of the t-shirt designs, though my drawing sometimes leaves something to be desired. I was excited how you can listen to music when you draw. When I write I need quiet.

This photo was taken by either Belle Dipalo or Mitchell J Hokin, it's from the PAN Magazine Facebook page.

Here is me reading about my first love interest in Turramurra Franklins. The poor girl in her Mudhoney shirt back then would be pleased to know I turned out this way, I think.

If you’re interested in picking up copies of my zines, you can get them from my Etsy store, from stores such as Sticky, Red Eye Records York St, Sydney (band t-shirt zine), Urchin Books Marrickville, or Format Zine store in Adelaide, online at Take Care zine distro, Pushpin distro, UK (I am a Camera #16), Smells Like Zines (when I send them some more!) and possibly more places I have forgotten. You can always write to me too, about trading for your zine or organising some other method of exchange.

That forever address is: PO Box 1879 Strawberry Hills NSW 2012 Australia. Write to me and I’ll write you a letter from a library, or from the lawn, two places I am sure to be a lot this summer.

Thank you to everyone who I met through zines this year, who wrote to me, who swapped their zines with me, who made their own zine, who commented on this blog and showed an interest in my projects, and to my friends old and new.

In January I’m doing a few zine workshops, in Mosman and Blacktown, for those who are or can pretend to be under 18. I’ll see you at the Sticky Zine Fair in February, and in March Simon and I have an exhibition based on my Biblioburbia blog. All else remains a mystery.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Amanda permalink
    January 3, 2012 11:53 am

    I don’t recall the Disposable Camera with the mole, though to be honest, I’m wrapped up cozy with tea and a cat and don’t feel like checking to see if I have it. Have you any hanging around?

    • Vanessa Berry permalink*
      January 4, 2012 10:08 am

      I’ll send you one next time I post you something, I still have a few burrowed in my bookcase.

      • Amanda permalink
        January 5, 2012 9:18 am

        Thanks! I received Band T-Shirt yesterday. I’ll probably read it and then wait a ridiculously long time to write you. But thank you for holding on to that Disposable Camera for me!

  2. Fergus permalink
    January 4, 2012 8:29 am

    Yes, same, I don’t think I have the mole one. How can moles be unpopular? Wind in the Willows?

    • Vanessa Berry permalink*
      January 4, 2012 10:09 am

      I never know what will appeal to people, I like grisly animals best. I’ll send you a mole next time I write. Thanks for sending the new Fergus!

  3. January 9, 2012 10:12 pm

    heya vanessa – one of everything for me please! i am way behind it would seem.
    will $20 cover the lot? i’ll count my pennies and send them to you if so.
    and hello.

    • Vanessa Berry permalink*
      January 10, 2012 10:01 pm

      Hello Mr Porter, yes, I can send you a 2011 selection, count those pennies and send them!

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