DiStill Life

Pre-holiday shopping had me hitting up some local craft fairs. Handmade scarves, hand-poured candles, check. Fine art photography and letterpress cards — the list goes on of all the crafted items I encountered. But the Rogue Holiday Handmade Market in Reno delivered something I never expected to find: a table full of zines. From musings on awkward love to funny illustrations, the handmade booklets shot me straight down memory lane and back to that Anti-Flag punk song that inspired this column’s title. I don’t think I’ve touched a bona fide zine since high school. How sad. Where have all the zines gone?

Go For Broke Collective, which was manning the booth and cohosting the Rogue craft fair, hopes to keep people from asking such a question. They’re supporting Reno zine culture, and representing the Biggest Little City in zine conventions nationwide.

They even made a zine titled ‘Make-a-Zine: A Little How-To,’ which I took home to learn a thing or two about the craft.

This zine about zine-making packs loads of info into its 4.25-by-5.5-inch, eight-page, staple-bound package. First and foremost, it defines zines as ‘noncommercial, nonprofessional, small circulation magazines which their creators produce, publish, and distribute by themselves.’ It explains why zines are so important (mass media alternative, outlet of expression, no censoring), where to begin, binding, printing, distributing, and networking.

I must admit, it was hard to get started making my first zine as an experiment for this column. I usually vent and share on my blog — as I imagine most people with opinions do these days (blogs ate zines, essentially). But after a little brainstorming and fundamentals insight from ‘Make-a-Zine,’ I set off on my first zine-making adventure. My creation was spawned not from some great political ideology or revolt against any system; it was instead born of a need to share an amazing item: a set of animal figurines whose heads snap off, a 2009 Christmas gift from my brother. Why? Why not.

‘It’s freedom of press to the ultimate core,’ says Sarah Lillegard, Go For Broke’s cofounder and project coordinator. Lillegard touts the entire independent process of zine-making, noting you pick everything down to the paper you use, your printing medium (letterpress, photocopier), and where you distribute your zine. Blogs, on the other hand, are often templates taken from mass platforms (Blogger, Tumblr, WordPress), and your content goes as far and wide as the Internet wants to take it.

Yet because of this selective dispersal, it’s a bit hard to find zines. I guess you can chock it up to their underground nature.

But what a thrill the find is. If you want to see some zines in the flesh, you’ll have to head to Reno; my research didn’t find any Truckee/North Tahoe zines or zine writers. Lillegard says that Holland Project has a small library at their office on 30 Cheney Street, and that Never Ender Indie Boutique next door has a small selection that’s growing. You can also browse websites like microcosmpublishing.com or quimbys.com to take a look at the many zines in circulation today. You’ll notice quite a bit of angst in some titles (like ‘Paranoia,’ a Reno punk zine started in 1980, ‘The Color of Dissent,’ ‘Resistance Against Empire,’ and the like), all very true to the zine stereotype, but lighthearted gems await, too.

Speaking of lighthearted, if you want to check out my finished zine, ‘The Incredible, Impossible Zoo,’ look for it on the Truckee Book and Bean community board; I’ve stashed a few copies there. Otherwise, check my blog for a look at the finished copy.

And why should you make a zine, too? ‘They’re a really accessible way of expressing yourself, and in the end it’s just really fun,’ says Lillegard, whose personal zines include ‘These Here Are Crazy Times’ and a series based on her family, ‘Blood Is Thicker Than Water.’

That’s the beauty of zines: They’re fun because they can be anything you want. Long, short, illustrated, pages upon pages of prose or poems, nothing but photos, stapled, saddle-stitched, folded — nobody tells a zine what to do. And they’re so tangible. There’s something satisfying about designing your own little booklet, which you’ll then distribute to the places you want, not just throw it out into the tangled web of the Internet. Just ask me, Tahoe’s newest, proudest zine-maker.

Contact Go For Broke Collective at go4brokecollective@gmail.com, or appropriately break out your pen and paper and write to them at PO Box 7084, Reno, NV 89510.

~ Are you a Tahoe/Truckee zine-maker? Let us know! Comment on this column online at moonshineink.com. Check out Lis’ zine on her blog, blanksmith.com.