Reasons

So, I don’t really know why I make zines or why I’m so obsessed with writing. For all intents and purposes, I am a logical, rational, pragmatic person. I work in accounting. Why would any logical, rational, pragmatic person be so attracted to such a cruel, cruel activity as creative writing? I mean, writing makes you so vulnerable. You are taking your thoughts and ideas – things that spring from the rawest parts of your brain and heart – and you are giving them to other people to read, dissect and judge. It’s so excruciating. Why can’t I just take up mountain climbing or tennis and be done with it? What I do know is that when I’m not in the midst of writing something, I feel awful. One of the most depressing periods for me was last winter when I was working way too many hours at an accounting firm, barely finding time to read a few paragraphs in a book, let alone trying to write one. To put it mildly, I cried a lot. So even though writing isn’t the most logical of interests, it’s a passion, an obsession, something I have to do, etc. Faulty brain wiring, talent or not, I’m stuck.

But making zines again reminded me of one good reason for being obsessed with this stuff. Admittedly, it’s pretty selfish: zines give me an excuse to connect with people I think are cool, people I admire, people I like. As I sat and handwrote little notes to old friends and new friends in faraway cities to include with the zine I was mailing to them, I realized that if it weren’t for the zine, I probably wouldn’t be writing them at all. I wanted to, but there never seemed to be a good excuse. But now I have something, a reason to say, “Hi! This is my way of saying I really like you and I’m happy to know you” or some less cheesy variant thereof. And by doing that, I get all these sweet responses in return. I love that.

Another example: Dave Eggers. He was in Montreal last night, giving a talk about the 826 Valencia project and his latest book, What Is The What. The talk was wonderful – funny and informative – and he had a sweet quietness about him that I didn’t anticipate. At the end of the night he was signing books, and because I had forgotten to bring any of the 4 books of his that I own, I got him to sign the November 28 section of my Moleskine planner. I’m not super keen on book signing stuff (although I’ve gotten some good ones recently), but it’s a nice souvenir. Mostly I wanted to say hi and thank you, and I wanted to give him a copy of my zine. It was a good feeling to see him thumb through it and ask me about it. It’s nice, you know?

So yes, writing (or at least the unshakeable desire to write) is painful, but every so often it’s worth it. I guess.

Stealing Genius

Expozine was as overwhelming as I’d expected it to be, but still so satisfying. I came home with a book, some Endless Banquet apricot pansy jam, some wonderful zines (like, QSL USA, a fascinating collection of CB radio calling cards by an old zine friend) and a pair of amazing typewriter key earrings by Misssoka.

Did you get a copy of Stealing Genius with your copy of Matrix? Lesley and I met on Friday evening at the Gare Centrale, plunked down at a table, pulled out some scissors, tape and old copies of Choose Your Own Adventure books and put it all together. We chose the Gare Centrale because of its proximity to a copy shop, and we managed to get the zine done and copy it within 10 minutes of the place closing. Success!

Stealing Genius

Stealing Genius is a collection of various writing from most of the members of the QWF Workshop lead by Jon Paul Fiorentino between September-November 2007 (Albert Cohen, Anurag Dhir, Bettina Grassmann, Josh Levy, Julie Mahfood, Kristina Mainville, C.J. Miller, Lesley Trites and Teri Vlassopoulos). There are excerpts from novels and short stories, poems, even a bit of a screenplay, and an introduction from Jon. Our group is pretty diverse (in ages, professions and writing styles), but I’m really proud of this little collection. If you’re interested in getting a copy, drop me a line.

QWF Awards

Went to the QWF Awards last night and was happy to see two of my favourite books from 2007 win awards – Heather O’Neill’s “Lullabies for Little Criminals” and Neil Smith’s “Bang Crunch”. The book nominees read excerpts from their novels while Sherwin Tija quickly sketched accompanying drawings on Illustrator (projected on a screen onstage). It worked well and one of the nicer moments was when Heather O’Neill read a very short excerpt from her book. The passage was about first kisses – the adult kind of first kiss – where she compares the feeling to a game of Russian Roulette, and from a series of scribbles the image that came together was the barrel of a gun loaded with heart shaped bullets.

But oof, while $3 wine may seem like a good idea at the time, it’s definitely not. A sobering walk home in the beginnings of the first snowstorm of the year wasn’t much help either.

Expozine

The collating problem from the other day has been solved, and mail will be going out tomorrow. God bless those train rides from Toronto to Montreal.

For those of you in Montreal, this weekend is Expozine, the small press/comic/zine fair. I’ve never been, but zine fairs are always fun and overwhelming and there are always lots of cute people walking around or selling stuff. So you should go spend your pocket money on zines instead of fancy coffees or jeans or drugs or whatever.

I won’t be tabling, but I will walk around with copies of my zine to trade and give away, so if you see me wandering aimlessly, tap me on the shoulder and say hi. But this is more exciting: back in September, Lesley and I decided to sign up for a Quebec Writers Federation workshop lead by Jon Paul Fiorentino. The workshop turned out to be wonderful and most of us in the workshop decided to quickly slap together a group zine for Expozine called “Stealing Genius”. I’ll post more details about it later on this week, but just so you know, Jon will be giving away copies of it with Matrix Magazine and while you may not want to pay copies for our workshop zine, you definitely want to spend cash on Matrix.

Collating

This is where I con Andrew into helping me put copies of my zine together while Archer the cat watches on:

The Tweehouse

And this is where Andrew says, “WTF, Teri, stop taking stupid pictures of your feet and help me put this thing together!!!”

WTF

Cement, Flour, Saints

Back in the mid-nineties I was one of those angsty teenage girls who wore blue corduroy pants and cardigans and listened to a lot of Eric’s Trip. I was in the suburbs, looking for people to relate to, easily awed by the idea of a City. I first heard about zines in Sassy (god bless Sassy), and then, after following the zine review column in Canada’s monthly music rag, Exclaim, finally sent out a few quarters and stamps to strangers in Canada for their fanzines about Sloan. I read these photocopied booklets, and figured I could make something too. I sat on my bedroom floor with a felt-tip pen and an electric typewriter and wrote this vague, emotional, blurry zine. Melt the Snow #1. It was so embarassing. I mean, the thoughts of any 17 year old are inherently embarrassing – go read your high school diaries if you don’t believe me. That’s why non-teenagers are the best writers of coming-of-age novels.

So, I made 13 issues of Melt the Snow, and then I started another zine called “The Second Part”. I made 4 issues of it before quitting zines in October 2004. I guess “quitting zines” sounds a bit extreme.

I “quit zines” because at the time I wanted to concentrate only on writing fiction, and fiction in zines always seemed a little awkward to me – sloppy editing, releasing work before it was really finished. And there’s that whole stigma of self-publishing your own fiction. Making a zine suddenly seemed too rookie for me. I wanted, you know, the major leagues. And I was working too many hours at an accounting firm anyway to keep up with zine stuff. I hated collating, and I never had enough time to write people back. So I stopped making zines altogether.

And then, a few years passed. I did work on my fiction. I still work on it. And, as time passed, the snobbism I had built up towards zines melted away. Suddenly I remembered how much I loved zines. Their sloppiness and heart, the smudgy uneven tones of a photocopier, all of it. I wanted to make another. So I did.

DSC03218

Cement, Flour, Saints is not the most creative of titles given that the zine is made up of 3 parts (cement, flour, saints). It’s mostly words and a few poorly photocopied photos. You can read about a holy stream in Nova Scotia, about watching fireworks from the roof of an abandoned brewery, and you can bake a plum crumble from a recipe I’ve included. It’s small and square and fits in the palm of your hand. You should read it.

This is how you can order the zine:

The easy way: Paypal me $2 CDN, along with your mailing address so I can send it to you.

The hard way: Send me something as a trade. A mix CD, your own zine, a postcard, a map, your first born, etc etc. If you want to clear the trade with me first, go ahead and email me, but I like surprises too. Email me and I’ll send you my address.

Zine in process

Making a zine kind of looks like this:
Sunday afternoon work

The most important tool on that table is the glass of red wine, followed closely by the Boy Scouts manual.

And near the end, it looks like this:
DSC03165
This is when you start to see the appeal of doing things on the computer.