Meet the zinesters

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First Posted: 6/3/2013

In the Information Age, data is transferred through the speed of the Internet and cell phones keep the public in constant contact, so why does print still exist?

Some readers hold on out of tradition; others just prefer the feel of ink and paper in their hands. For zinesters, it’s a personal connection to the content they create and the art of their creations. Zines are self-published magazines produced with a photocopier, small press, or individually by hand, and if there is one thing zinesters enjoy more than crafting them, it’s sharing them with others who understand the need for physical art in a digital world.

Who are these old souls in a new age? The Weekender interviewed five zinesters who will be attending the Scranton Zine Fest on Saturday, June 8 at New Visions Studio & Gallery (201 Vine St., Scranton), including the organizer of the third annual free event.

Jessica Meoni

The smiling, sociable Jessica Meoni may seem nice, but she’s known for being “Ruthless.”

Well, at least her old zine is. “Ruthless” ran from 2008 until 2010, but the 23-year-old West Scranton resident said that people still talk about her independent outlet for local teenagers to be heard on art and activism. Now 23 and pursuing her Master of Fine Arts degree at Marywood University, she’s working on two new zines: “Piper at the Gates of Dawn,” a poetry chapbook with corresponding collages, and “Razzle Dazzle,” which is based on historical music references.

“I love collecting physical artwork. So much for our lives are on screens now that we forget that we’re actually making an impression – a memory – in our brain when we use our sense of touch. Today is also so about compacting and minimizing our lives, categorizing and organizing every small detail, from the clothes we wear to the food we eat and so on, and we brazenly expose that to the world,” Meoni emphasized.

“Making a zine allows you to be anonymous and public all at the same time – something people poorly attempt at doing on the Internet.”

Inspired by the 2010 Philly Zine Fest, Meoni, along with her friend Dana Marie Bloom, founded the Scranton Zine Fest the following year, gathering zinesters from across the country to sell and exchange their publications next to zines from as far away as the U.K., though she saw more zinesters sign up from Scranton, Olyphant, Peckville, and Allentown this year than ever before, a sign that the local community increasingly shares her passion for print.

“I hope people get so excited that they make their own zine, and I think the (growing) fest is proof of that reaction.”

Iris Johnston

Iris Johnston has been sharing her “goofy little dorky” habit in secret since she was 19, but the Scranton Zine Fest gave her an opportunity to present her creations in a friendly and welcoming environment.

“Zines are a great way to say things that are too brief or too niche to fit into other formats. You can express very intense emotions, share controversial information and then also reveal deep intimacies,” Johnston, 28, said.

“Additionally, I’m drawn to the recyclable potentials in zines. All of my zines are printed on paper taken from discard bins in offices, and I work hard to make them as cheap and portable as possible. It’s a refreshing change from the masstige culture we find everywhere.”

The Sweet Valley native behind diverse zines like “Poetry for People with Good Eyesight,” “LitAccs,” “1 Billion Reasons Why,” “Nonsense I Read in Magazines,” “Things I Have Worn,” and “Fake Chinese Proverbs” has strewn her work all over bathrooms, libraries, cafés, and parking lots, receiving “amazing feedback” from many random readers she never would have reached otherwise.

“I love walking up to a table crowded with tiny little treasures, seeing the artwork and funny titles, and then opening one up and getting treated to something wholly original, the representation of a hope or an idea tucked into a few sheets of waste paper, ready to be sent all over the world,” she mused.

“I hope my readers get treated to a few moments of whimsy and serenity. If they find something inside my zines that they find beautiful, like a jewel, then I’ve been successful.”

Rachel Casiano Hernandez

Hailing from Frederick, Md., Rachel Casiano Hernandez doesn’t believe zines are in competition with modern media – they simply serve a different purpose.

“A blog you can update quickly, so you can use it to talk about events coming up or talk about very recent news. It’s easier to put in hyperlinks to refer to news articles, other blogs, or what-have-you. But most personal zines don’t necessarily cover topics that are likely to change very quickly – someone might recall a story from their childhood or their feelings about a large systemic issue, for example,” Hernandez, 23, pointed out.

“You can do these in a blog, too, but I prefer putting my more personal thoughts in zines because zines are generally more intimate. If you want to give feedback on a blog post, you can write an anonymous comment; if you want to give someone feedback about a zine, you have to go through the trouble of writing or e-mailing that person, which you can’t do anonymously. It forces you to remember you’re talking to a real person, which I think can sometimes be lost on the Internet.”

Her zine “Vital Signs” is “about being a nursing grad student, dropping out, and picking myself back up again,” chronicling different schools, nursing stereotypes, and personal health issues, among other topics she just wanted to get “down on paper.”

“What do you do when you’re this high-achieving student and you’re told that this is what success looks like but you’re not achieving that success? I know that there are other 20-somethings in this position right now, and I wanted to reach out to them,” she continued.

“I also noticed that there were a lot of people questioning my desire to become a nurse, so I wanted to clear up some misconceptions about the field of nursing.”

Heather Enders

Heather Enders of Boston, Mass., learned about zines from a summer program at the public library when she was in elementary school, instilling in her a love for creating books.

The 24-year-old now uses zines to share her drawings, mainly of animals and nature; those exposed to her work often say they “had no idea what was happening to these poor animals.”

“The ‘Save the Last Buffalo’ zine came out of a Mass Art homework assignment, and after I learned about the poor struggle of these buffalo, I wanted to help them out. After raising around $50 for the buffalo, I looked up other endangered animals I wanted to spread the word about through drawing,” Enders said.

“I’d like for people to realize that there is more going on with the natural world than they realize. Plants, animals, and beautiful pieces of nature are being destroyed, and once they are gone, we cannot get them back.”

Invited via Etsy, a website for selling handmade items, Enders will bring her buffalo and desert tortoise zines to Scranton Zine Fest along with small paintings and an “Exquisite Corpse” zine that will make its debut at the event.

“(I’m looking forward to) meeting other people who make and get excited about zines in a place that I have never been before. I’m coming all the way out from Boston with ‘The Chubby Behemoth’ just for this, so it’ll be quite the adventure.”

Joseph Carlough

Already a dedicated writer, Joseph Carlough, 26, was making zines before he even knew what they were, preferring to skip the submission process and publish his own work immediately.

“Zines are kind of an all-access pass into your creativity. I have zines that I’ve absolutely made just for myself. In fact, my partner Katie and I created a zine, ‘Scenes from the Attack on the Castle of Love,’ which was just filled with essays of our plans for the upcoming summer. We never sold a copy, just printed them for ourselves. And you get a really rewarding feeling from making something with your hands,” Carlough explained.

“Lately, a lot of my zines seem to center around nostalgia and collections. I feel like when something is nagging someone, they need an outlet. Writing about things helps me not to become too weird. I get it out before it digs in too deep.”

A participant in last year’s Zine Fest, the Frenchtown, N.J., resident “got a real kick out of Scranton.”

“It’s my kind of zine fest. There’s a different pressure in cities – the zine fairs in New York and Philly are filled with people who do everything it takes to be ‘punk’ or ‘hipster’ …There’s a lot of posturing sometimes, a lot of zines about how scary it is to move out of your mom’s house or weird illustrations of celebrities. Not that there’s anything wrong with all of that; in fact, I’m kind of one of those people,” he noted.

“But in Scranton, you get the real kooks, the people who are making zines about really interesting things, like backyard wrestling and electrical rewiring to build your own stuff. It’s people who are being themselves.”

His “big haul” this year includes his zines on record collecting and Latin roots, a 5-inch lathe cut record of two of his songs, and even a card game he created called Collector Mentality.

“I love meeting new people at zine fests. Also, this time, I’m staying in the Poconos for the night, so I’ll be able to stick around after the fest and go exploring in Scranton. I’m excited to see what the city has.”

Zine out loud

In addition to zines, the Scranton Zine Fest’s tables will be filled with handcrafted jewelry, art, VHS tapes, records, buttons, and more, though there’s more to the festivities than just wares.

Following a workshop on independent versus self-publishing with Brooklyn, N.Y., author M. Craig and a letterpress demonstration by Inkplate Press’ Jeremy Chapline, local author Brian Fanelli will again host a poetry and zine reading from 5:30 p.m. until 7 p.m., featuring Andrea McGuigan, Rachael Goetzke, Jim Warner, Steve Keating, Stanton Hancock, and Maggie Craig.

“I have been involved with Zine Fest since its first year, and I like how this festival bridges the art and literary community. This year, the festival has really grown. There will be more local artists and zinesters and more folks coming in from out of town to showcase their work,” Fanelli said.

“We also have a few more readers this year compared to the last two years. It should be a fun, jam-packed event.”

Many of the readers, including Fanelli, have a past or present affiliation with the punk rock scene, so tying in zine culture with the reading wasn’t a difficult task for the “Front Man” author.

“I’m most looking forward to stopping by everyone’s table and purchasing some new art or zines. I picked up some cool stuff last year, and I can’t wait to see what’s available at this year’s event.”