Sunday, September 25, 2011

What I Learned When I Made My First Zine

cross posted from my Media Justice column

I made my first zine ever in life over last weekend. It became the program for entrepreneur, author, and artist Erika Lopez’s east coast The Welfare Queen tour that is on limited run in NYC for Latino Heritage Month. Erika had given me all of her hard drives that had all of her artwork on them and that was amazing!

A zine is very do-it-yourself (DIY) form of media making. Some folks say zines are similar to magazines where they have stories, interviews, poems, words, images, and other forms of text similar to how we read books and magazines. Sometimes the text is handwritten, but it is definitely a way for the use of radical typography. So, even though I was making a program for an off Broadway show, it worked out.

I’ve read so many zines, have many friends who create them, and have toyed with the idea of creating one and this seemed like a good time. One of the ways I found this to be a useful activity was that I only had to credit all of the artwork to one person, Erika. That made things so much easier, as does having access to all of her artwork. When the artist supports you using their art, it’s such a great way to begin.

I asked one of my homegirls Aaminah (whom I’m trying to get a Media Makers Salon interview with where she shares her background, interests, and experiences creating zines) for some mentorship and guidance for creating the zine. She sent me to this post she created online about making zines. I specifically wanted to know how to set up the pages for making copies of the zine (my zine was all black and white).

Here are some lessons I learned:

1. For the zine I was making, spelling is important (unless part of your media making is to challenge conventional modes of spelling and language/grammar rules).

2. It’s important to pace yourself while creating the zine. This means setting realistic goals. For me this was also connected to planning and printing things out well.

3. Organization will really help you create the product you want. I knew I had to have certain elements, logos, and text in the zine, so I made sure that if I didn’t want to use my own printer and ink to get to campus or the library early.

4. Embracing a “gritty” look, or not being adverse to such, will help when you need to make copies and end up at a copier that is less expensive.

5. Making edits after first run is not as frustrating as it could be, especially if the zine has a “gritty” feel and various fonts. I had to make 3 changes and each was easy since I cut up another one and made the edits and copied them.

6. Sometimes big corporations who specialize in copying and printing mass quantities are worth the extra pennies per page. I tried to make copies low budget at first but the machine kept breaking and the paper getting caught. It took me almost 15 min to make 50 copies of one page. Then I went to Staples, added money to my copy card and made 50 copies in less than 5 minutes of all the pages of my zine! It costs more, but it was worth it to save time, have folks there to help, and know what I’m paying for is quality and these services.

7. Text and typography are important to keep in mind especially if you want to reach many folks and make an accessible zine. For example, I knew I had to save some space, and I know my zine has small lettering, so folks who have vision differences will not be able to read my zine as well/quickly as folks who don’t have vision challenges.

8. Make sure to credit folks, especially if you use their artwork and text. I included an acknowledgement page that helped me to also identify folks who were helpful in the process and needed to be included.

9. Keep a master copy for yourself and file it away. Also keep one copy for yourself as well. My zine was not for sale, but if you are selling your zine keeping these makes additional copies useful and helpful.

10. Give yourself credit. It wasn’t until Erika said “plug yourself - you are making it” that I thought to write that I had created the zine.

What are some things that you have learned as you have created your zines? What are some things you’d like to know about zines (for my media makers salon with Aaminah)?

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