High school was a long time ago, but one thing I remember well is getting introduced to zines. As an aspiring writer, I was excited to come across a publishing format that didn't involve being an adult, finding a publisher, or even learning computer layout! I still have copies of the first zine I ever purchased and the first zine I ever made in my collection, and I'm excited to share them with you today.
The first zine I bought: Doris #22
I picked up this zine at the Brooklyn stop of Plan-It-X fest's tour in 2004, and it made me a huge fan of Doris, written by Cindy Crabb. I bought new issues whenever I could (usually by keeping an eye out for them on the Bluestockings zine rack), and own both Doris anthologies. Issue #22 is printed on thin paper (almost like newsprint) and includes interviews, articles, and essays about friendship, crushes, living in the woods, anarcha-feminism, queerness, health, and Crabb's own memories of high school. One of my favorite sections includes two pages of animal jokes ("What do you call a bird that can't remember the words to its own songs? A hummingbird!"). Crabb wrote issue #22 in Asheville, and reading it was the very first time I'd heard of that North Carolina town--I'd go on to live there for a couple years in my early twenties, and even know some of the people mentioned in issues of Doris! Re-reading Doris #22, I'm struck by just how much contained in it--about organizing, feminism, community, and more--still feels so relevant and on point today. I also always notice, whenever I return to Crabb's words, how much her writing has impacted my own: her zines showed me that I could write about my own experiences in ways that tie them to a larger sense of politics and the world.
While I was fifteen when I first read Doris #22, it grapples with a lot of tough topics in a straightforward way, and may not be the best fit for readers below high school age.
The first zine I made: 914 Zine
This collaborative zine, which I edited in 2007, doesn't technically have a name (I think I was trying to be super edgy or something!), but I call it 914 Zine because it contains writing from the punk scene in the suburbs north of New York City, where I grew up and where everyone has a 914 area code. The cover is a photograph of the Star Diner, which was around the corner from where a lot of punk shows were held, and where friends and I loved to hang out and drink way too much coffee. Inside the zine, there are photographs, paintings, articles, interviews, and poems contributed by friends, as well as an advertisement for YouthPAC, the youth organizing collective some of us started. One of my favorite pieces, called "Music Critics Are Children," was written by Tim Nicholas (who has gone on to make zines and films!) and involved him interviewing his younger cousins about their reactions to bands like Belle & Sebastian and local favorites No One and the Somebodies. At the back of the zine, I collected anonymous snippets from friends about what it meant to live in the 914. My favorite contribution is a single sentence: "The worst place to grow up except for everywhere else."
Wren Goblirsch is a K-12 Education Programs Manager & Community Engagement Specialist at the UA Poetry Center, as well as the coordinator for Brave Books 2021-2023: Zines & Zine Libraries.