Since 1999, I've written 19 individual zine titles, I've set up 2 zine distros (Poptarz and Sticky Fingers), I helped set up the zine collection at the Stuart Hall Library with my previous colleague, Sonia Hope, I've organised various zine talks and spoken on panels at other zine events, and I have only ever bothered to learn how to make zines using scissors and glue because I am lazy and because it is fun.
I started writing zines when I was 15. I lived in a tiny town in West Yorkshire called Dewsbury, it wasn't that bad but when I was a 15 year old queer weirdo it felt like a place devoid of culture and heart or anything that might matter to me (that's pretty unfair to Dewsbury, but when you are 15 you tend to feel over-dramatic and isolated). Like all weirdos, I felt lonely and out of place, and desperately wanted to be connected to a world of stuff elsewhere. I lived through fanzines. I didn't call them 'zines' back then, they were 'fanzines' to me because they were mostly music fanzines that I read, I would later discover personal zines and political zines and all the other million types of zines.
I started reading fanzines when I was 14/15 completely by accident. I read an article in Just 17 that mentioned zines like Organ and All About D and Friends and Paper Bullets. Yes that's right J17, a mainstream teenage girls magazine got me into zines. So the next time you roll your eyes because another mainstream publication has decided to run a feature on zines because zines are having a come-back (um, they never went away mate), just think about how far reaching that can be.
I think the first zine I ever bought was All About D and Friends fanzine.
I read about bands and gigs and riot grrl and queerxcore movements and teen-c bedroom pop that anyone with a toy keyboard could make. It felt a million miles away from my teenage bedroom boredom, but I wanted to be part of it so bad.
I'd sellotape £1 coins to the back of a bit of cardboard and send them to zine makers and get their zines sent to me in the post in envelopes crammed with glitter, sanrio stickers, flyers for other zines and distros, and friendship books. They were a lifeline. I discovered riot grrl and queerxcore punk bands through those fanzines, I learned about other people that were like me, people that were completely different to me, or people that I wasn't brave enough to be yet. I learned about politics with a pop culture lens that made it easier for me to understand.And yeah, sometimes I just loved a good old fashioned Drew Barrymore collage...
|Some of the zines that got me into reading/writing zines|
I didn't have friends in my own town and so I relied on penpals and zines to keep me going. And then I realised that I could write one, I could actually make my own zine! And it didn't matter that my town was small and that I was young and clueless, in zines every voice matters, so I got my typewriter and scissors and pritt stick and began to write my first zine. Here's an illustrated bibliography of every zine I've ever made since then...
Angel Food 1999 - 2001 (3 issues)
I decided to write my own zine called Angel Food when I was 15. Angel Food was a riot grrrl/bratpop zine about the music I loved, as well as little stories, rants, and pictures to do with my own life. Seleena Daye was my penpal at the time and she also contributed artwork and stories for the zines. In fact she's the one that encouraged me to start writing my own zine in the first place.
Here's what happened: I read a couple of zines by Manda from the band Bis (zines like Funky Spunk, Popgirls etc) and I basically copied the entire aesthetic. I used backdrops of cut out pictures from manga comics and stuck my words and drawings over the top. I guess it might not appear a direct copy cuz a lot of zines at the time looked like that (and still do now) but I have to be honest, I was copying because I didn't know any other way to make zines. I liked the way Manda's zines looked and so I did it too. It seems silly now, and if you had accused me of copying that aesthetic at the time I would have totally argued with you, but looking back it is amazingly blatant just how inspired I was by those zines.
I wrote 3 issues of Angel Food before deciding that I hated the name and I hated trying to know about music. I cheated with the record reviews that I wrote as I couldn't afford to actually buy many records. I was 15 and working at ShoeFayre on Saturday afternoons for £2.20 an hour (a job I later quit because the manager wouldn't give me the day off to go see Angelica play a gig in Lancaster), so I couldn't afford to buy that many records, and mostly I reviewed whatever singles I heard on John Peel that month. I was also getting a bit braver and decided I wanted to write more about personal things than just music.
Go Lola 2001 - 2002 (4 issues)
Go Lola was a mix of music and personal stuff with much more political/feminist writing than previously. My entry point to feminism was through riot grrrl, which as problematic as that may be, it was the most important period of awakening and discovery. In 2001 I attended Ladyfest Glasgow which was the most inspiring and life-changing weekend ever, I still firmly believe that. And so Go Lola was born. In Go Lola I tried to write about my personal life and politics. Although my writing at this time is very studenty and right-on without knowing very much about the subjects I was writing about. This zine is super earnest, I tried so hard with everything I wrote and that painful effort is totally apparent on every page. As with most zines written in my teens, I can't really bring myself to go back and re-read much of Go Lola as it makes me cringe, but it's the one that I'm most proud of as I can see a transition to more personal content.
The Day Bob... 2001-2002 (2 issues)
The day Bob was a mini perzine that I co-wrote with Seleena Daye. The title of the zine is a total in-joke that isn't funny or understandable to anyone other than the 15 year old versions of Seleena and myself. This zine was a mini zine for rants and personal stories. It was nice to be able to write about personal things without feeling like I had to balance the zine with more pieces about music. I had sent a recent copy of Go Lola to be reviewed by Teletext and received a slightly negative review saying that Go Lola was too personal to be considered a good music zine. While I didn't want to write a strictly music based zine, it kinda stung a little, so it was nice to have The Day Bob... as an outlet to write about personal things. The Day Bob... lasted a couple of issues before Seleena took it on full time as her own zine and I went back to writing mini perzines alongside my main zine Go Lola
Dee Dee Strikes 2001 - 2002 (6 issues)
The flats for Dee Dee strikes sit in a drawer in my house and I am unable to look at them without cringing my face off. Dee Dee strikes was written under a pseudonym because I wanted to write personal bits and not have my friends know it was me. It was painfully personal and is absolutely horrific to read back. It was the first time I'd mentioned my own queerness in zines and re-reading them now it's super obvious that I was a super lonely clueless weirdo queer even though I tried too damned hard to appear confident and completely self assured in those pages.
Radical Cheerleaders 2002 (2 issues)
After Ladyfest Glasgow 2001, Seleena Daye and I formed the first UK Radical Cheerleaders, we called ourselves Radical Cheerleaders of the North. We were bratty and obnoxious and we genuinely believed we were the greatest punk act of all time. We wrote a self titled zine and took it with us to our debut performance at Ladyfest London 2002 which explained who we were and contained our cheer lyrics and pictures of Kelly Kapowski. Most importantly, the zine contained a 'guide to the north' basically trying to get across that we were annoyed that so much attention was always placed on the south and London in particular, and so we included a list of all the rad northern bands, club nights, and cultural activities in the north we could think of. We later released a split cassette with The Mombies and wrote an accompanying 2nd issue, again bragging about how awesome we were.
Cut out and Keep 2003-2005 (5 issues)
I hadn't written a new issue of Go Lola in almost a year so I began a new zine called Cut out and Keep which featured interviews with bands as well as personal pieces. Due to playing in bands such as Smartypants and The Booklovers, and also performing solo as Supercasio, I was becoming more involved with the Manchester queer feminist music scene and started writing about it. I wasn't living in my tiny town now dreaming of things HAPPENING elsewhere, I was actually now part of the things that were HAPPENING. It was exciting writing about my friends who were also in bands and talking about the things that we were part of as though it was real and valid. I mean of course it was real and valid, but to write about it in a zine rather than writing about rockstars on pedestals was pretty exciting as I realise just how easy it was to create and be part of culture. Oh and I also wrote a lot about Harry Potter in this zine. Cut out and Keep was the last zine I wrote that had multiple issues and straddled a general feminist punk/personal tpye of view. After Cut Out and Keep, my zines would be mostly single issue zines. I don't know how this happened, but I put it down to my small attention span which means I constantly want to write zines about completely different things.
In 2005 I went to library school and started a course which would make me a qualified librarian while also working as a trainee librarian and having already worked in libraries for 2 years previously. I opted out of the Masters degree as I couldn't afford to do a proper academic qualification, and instead I completed a postgrad diploma - the only real difference is that the course is hella cheaper and doesn't include a final year thesis. While I never really got to write a thesis, I did do a bunch of research for one that I never got the chance to write so instead I turned part of that research into a zine and published two issues of Dewey Decimal Love. Dewey Decimal Love was a look at how the library profession has been historically gendered as male and how this then changed in the 1880s as women were allowed to qualify as librarians for the first time. Like most of the zines I make, it's a niche subject for a niche audience, but if you are interested in the representation of librarians in popular culture and the ways in which the library profession has been gendered then Dewey Decimal Love was the zine for you!
In 2006 I formed a band called Cooties Attack with my friends Huw and Melisa. We played casio bedroom pop and we were awesome. When we released our first EP I wrote an accompanying Cooties Attack zine to take with us to gigs and give out to people in a bid to convince them we were amazing. The zine featured fake top trump cards for each of us, silly stories, interviews, and bits about Superheroes and Harry Potter.
This was a zine I co-wrote with Cooties Attack member and BFF Melisa. In it we wrote about being poor and how to have cheap fun i.e. staying at home and living in your own world. It featured recipes of cheap packets of noodles, a guide to being poor, and bits about our favourite boxsets. It's the first zine I co-wrote with Melisa and we always had so many plans to write lots more zines together. This never happened as when it comes to writing together we are both far too lazy and would be more likely to stick High School Musical 3 on and eat all the sweets in the world.
Hogwarts Jamboree 2009 (single issue)
In 2009 I organised an all day wizard rock festival called Hogwarts Jamboree with Melisa. It was a tribute to wizard rock, a fun punk subculture full of bands dressing up as Harry Potter inspired characters and singing songs about Harry Potter. We screened a documentary about it called We Are Wizards, invited all the biggest UK Wizard Rock bands to play, including my own wizard rock band Shrieking Shack Disco Gang, and held workshops. I compiled a Hogwarts Jamboree zine for the event to showcase the best of Wizard Rock to those who might not be aware of it, as well as writing in great detail as to exactly why I hate Hagrid. I was so proud of Hogwarts Jamboree and it was a brilliant event. I still give out copies of this zine even now as I think my essay on why Hagrid should have died in the Harry Potter series is one of the most important essays of all time, and also because it's fun trying to introduce people to the concept of wizard rock.
School is a Battlefield for your heart 2009 (single issue)
The best way to get over a significant break-up is to compile a mammoth zine documenting the history of teen television from The Wonder Years to present day, right? I love teen tv, I love teen lit, I love teen films, I love teen culture, I always will. And so I tried to validate this in a zine talking about the importance of Peter Engel and how much of a gamechanger My So Called Life was. It was a 60 page love letter to teen tv shows and it kept me afloat that summer when my brain wasn't doing too well. It's weird that although the zine isn't personal at all and doesn't offer any glimpse into what I was going through at the time of writing it, looking back at those pages I know exactly what I was going through and exactly why I needed the distraction of a huge zine project like this. Zines save my life sometimes not just as an outlet for the personal junk in my head, but sometimes as a way of giving me creative projects to take my mind off things.
Dear John Hughes 2009 (single issue)
When John Hughes died I suddenly found the need to justify why I found so much meaning in Pretty in Pink when I was 15. I wrote a mini zine as a tribute to John Hughes. While the majority of his work can be dimissed, and even the stuff of his that's celebrated can be problematic, I have a real love for Pretty in Pink. Obviously Blane can suck it, and Duckie is amazing, but Pretty in Pink was the first piece of glossy pop culture that made me think about class and how frustrated it made me feel.
Insomniac 2011 (single issue)
I didn't write zines for a whole year and it's weird to think of that now. I did end up contributing to lots of other zines published in 2010 but I was never inspired to write my own zine at that time. I've had real bad problems with sleep for as long as I can remember. Insomnia and sleep paralysis are now a standard part of my life and sometimes it can really screw things up for me. In an attempt to feel better about my shitty sleep disorders I wrote a light hearted mini comic about insomnia.
The adventures of Zomboy 2011 (single issue)
Me + Bruce 2011 (single issue)
I have a weird obsession with Bruce Springsteen that I just can't explain. So I wrote a comic about all the ways Bruce Springsteen has been in my life. I'm also a supporter of fan cultures in general. One of the reasons I enjoy using the term 'fanzines' in relation to zine culture is that I dont see any shame in being a fan of something. There's this idea that being a fan of something makes you passive as you place an aspect of culture on a pedestal and never create anything yourself. Not true at all. And while this zine may not be Born to Run, it shows that I can do something creative with my passions for things. I always tell people that this comic isn't actually about Bruce Springsteen, it's mostly about me. In the comic I talk about growing up with my dad, breaking up with my then girlfriend, and how being a fan of something makes me feel. Hopefully I made a zine that even the biggest Bruce haters can read.
Joining the Dots 2012 (single issue)
PCOS (poly-cystic ovary syndrome) affects a fucktonne of people born with ovaries. I was diagnosed when I was 21 and I became very fed up with the misdiagnosis/mistreatments I received. Online resources were geared towards people who were trying have babies or people who wanted to lose weight. So I wrote a fat positive queer positive zine about it instead, offering alternative advice and using examples of crappy conversations I'd had with doctors. Writing Joining the Dots was a brilliant experience as I received contributions from my friends which made me feel less alone and gave me the inspiration to be fierce with doctors even when I feel scared and stupid. It was amazingly cathartic to write and it was great when friends asked me what PCOS was and I was able to hand them a copy of my zine so I could open up conversations with them. I still receive really emotional feedback from people about this zine and I keep thinking I might write a follow up issue as my adventures with PCOS have continued and gotten both better and worse in different areas. My biggest regret in this zine is not writing more about the trans experience of PCOS. Due to timing this never worked out as I was trying to complete the zine in time for Queer Zine Fest London 2012 and at the time of printing I still hadn't received back answers to questionnaires from a couple of trans contributors. Maybe a revised edition should be in the works, hmmm...
Bad Rep 2012 (single issue)
In 2012, Bad Reputation, the queer diy club night I had organised with my best friends came to an end. To mark the end I wrote a zine to give away free at the last ever Bad Rep club night. The zine is a shoddily drawn comic illustrating a transcript of an interview we once did with our awesome friend Johanna where we discussed the reasons for starting a diy queer club and the importance of queer spaces. I love this zine, and even though it was put together super quickly on a sick day from work, I'm glad I got to put something out about how much Bad Rep meant to us all , cuz if there's a place for over earnest feelings about cultural activism then it's definitely within a zine! You can read an online version of this zine here
Me + Bruce (and my dad) 2013 (single issue)
This is the second zine I've written about Bruce, although this time it's not so much about the ways I love Bruce, it's about WHY I love Bruce. Mostly it's about how I've managed to completely appropriate ideas about my Dad and growing up working class through the songs of Bruce Springsteen. I'm often quizzed about why I love Springsteen, and as a working class queer feminist I don't have a lot of good answers other than sentimentality. This zine sums up a lot of feelings about my Dad and my own working class background and was incredibly hard to write. This is one of the zines I'm most proud of, but it's also my most recent zine. I'm sure that once my new zine is out I'll say the exact same thing about that and then this zine will become just another zine I wrote in the past that now makes me cringe to look at. Giving my Dad a copy of this zine was really scary as it was largely about him. He is super supportive of everything I do and always loves reading my zines, but I didn't know how he'd react to having a zine written about him. I didn't want to patronise or offend. In the end he told me he loved my zine but still didn't quite understand Springsteen's music, which was good enough for me.
If anyone owns a complete set of all the zines I have written then not only do you get a prize, but can I borrow some of them from you as I only have creased mastercopies that I've stuffed into boxes.
Listing every zine I've ever made was super fun to do, but it made me realise I need to take better care of my work. You think as a librarian I would automatically know to do this, but I don't. Moving house a billion times, stuffing things into drawers and boxes, and simply throwing stuff out that makes me cringe to look at now, means that I dont have a full archive of my work anymore which I'm definitely gonna rectify for all future work.
And as it's international zine month, hopefully I can bash out a new mini zine for the occasion to add to this list.