my history with the “allied media conference”, part four

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this is part four of a multi-part post. part one is here. part two is here. part three is here.

once we had coffee & signs up, jason reverted to being less than helpful. i don’t remember everything that happened that weekend, but one thing i remember vividly is the frustration i felt over jen’s workshop on “advertising your zine”. it was scheduled for an afternoon workshop block. i think i had just finished facilitating a double-long roundtable discussion about race in the zine community & i was wiped the fuck out. i went up to jen’s workshop room to make sure everything was going okay & there were a bunch of people in there…but no jen. when they saw me, they were all, “where the fuck is jen? we’ve been waiting for fifteen minutes! is this workshop canceled or something?”

i hadn’t heard anything about any cancellations, so i went to find jen. which took forever. i finally found her & jason shut in a different room, making out. i was all, “sorry to interrupt, guys, but jen, your advertising workshop is on now & you have a bunch of people waiting for you.”

“oh yeah, i decided that was a stupid topic so i’m not doing it,” she said.

“um. other people don’t think it’s stupid. they’re waiting for you.”

“i cancelled it.”

“did you tell anyone?”

“i told jason.”

“when?”

“like half an hour ago.”

“well, word didn’t spread, so if you could head up there & let everyone know it’s not happening, that would be great,” i said.

“um, i don’t really feel like it. people are gonna be mad. why don’t you do it?”

i kind of wanted to kill her. but i didn’t. maybe an hour later, a couple of punk women from bowling green were at the church across the street, doing a guerrilla workshop on women’s health. jen popped her head in & came out less than five minutes later. “how is it?” i asked her.

“stupid. they’re just, like, talking about their periods & stuff. who cares? who doesn’t know that stuff already?”

“some people,” i thought to myself, but i didn’t say anything. i don’t know why i didn’t say anything.

so. the conference happened & a month later, i moved to portland. a few months later, jason called me to tell me that he & jen were making plans to organize a 2000 bowling green zine conference. they were planning to change the name to the underground press conference, to reflect their expanded interest in underground press stuff since they started “clamor” magazine. jason asked if i would like to consult on the conference from portland. i declined, largely because i had no interest in trying to work with jen, but also because it didn’t really seem practical for me to try to organize an event from 2000 miles away.

it cost money to get into the underground press conference & browse tables & attend workshops. it cost money to have a table. i didn’t attend & i don’t remember how much it cost. i think it wasn’t much. i also heard that jason & jen arranged to rent a bowling alley or something so conference attendees could bowl like they had the first year. apparently the story about the midnight bowling had spread & people wanted to recreate it.

i happened to be visiting family in bowling green in 2001 when the next event happened. i don’t remember if it was still called the underground press conference or if they had already changed the name to the allied media conference. i do remember that there was only one table, in a HUGE room with at least fifty tablers in it, that was devoted entirely to zines. there were independent presses, people selling movies, people selling t-shirts & CDs & all kinds of stuff. i knew the kids at the one zine table & they told me the table cost them an amount of money that i no longer recall, but which flabbergasted me with its expense. it would be nothing to someone selling a table full of $15 books–they’d make their cash back in just a couple of sales. but it was a lot for someone sitting at a table selling zines for $1 or $2 a pop. suddenly i understood why there were so few zine tables.

i also remember i went to a workshop about gentrification in philadelphia. the room was packed–there must have been at least a hundred people in there. it was a very dry, boring slideshow about philadelphia history. if it had a connection to media or underground publishing, i don’t know what it was. possibly the guy lecturing everyone into a stupor had recently published a book about the history of philadelphia or something.

eventually the conference moved to toledo, & then to detroit. after a few years, jason & jen turned the reins over to a new crop of people, but while they were in charge, the admission price eventually rose to over $100. over $100 just to come in the door & go to some workshops. it was extra for food, housing, etc. tables also creeped up to $50–maybe more. the event became completely unaffordable to regular everyday people that work at copy shops or restaurants or whatever. the only people that could afford to go were people who could write it off as a business expense (networking for their new book of movie, exhibiting the wares from their indie press) or people who just plain had money. the organizers started offering scholarships for people who couldn’t afford to go, but seriously. parse that out. scholarships. for people who can’t afford to go. to a fucking conference that is supposedly about d.i.y. media. really? i have also heard that in the last few years, at least some of the organizers are paid to organize the event. which could perhaps explain why the event is so expensive. i have organized a lot of events in my day–from the all-ages VFW hall shows i did back when i was 16 years old to zine conferences to the boston skillshare, etc. i’ve never been paid to organize any of those events. if someone had offered to pay me, but explained that my payment would mean higher prices for people attending the event, i would have declined. i guess some people would say that makes me a martyr, but i think it’s just a basic d.i.y. principle.

i haven’t been to the allied media conference since 2001. that was also the last time i spoke to jason. it was not a pleasant conversation. i have been friends with other people who have helped organized the AMC over the years, & they are always dumbfounded to learn that i’m the one who started it, with my little girl zine conference idea. i only organized that first year, & then i moved away & never looked back, but it was my idea. not jason’s. not jen’s. & after jason walked out on the organizing, i did everything from scratch all by myself. after the success of that first event, jason & jen took the ball & ran with it. i don’t hold it against them. i would have done the same thing if jason had left & i had stayed. but they changed it & they changed it into something that has become unrecognizable to me.

i told jessika rae on the phone, “yes, i have been written out of the history of the allied media conference. but i have two big feelings about that at this point. one, this thing has been going on for thirteen years & i was only involved that first year. & while it was my idea & i did pretty much everything to make that first year happen…it was still only one year. & two, the bowling green zine conference has morphed into the allied media conference, something so distasteful & bloated, in my opinion, that i am actually embarrassed to think that i did anything to bring it into being.”

everything i have written here is from my own memory, of events that happened a long time ago. i tried to be as fair as possible to everyone involved, not making up quotes or figures if i couldn’t remember exact details. mostly i wrote it for myself, because i haven’t thought about the details in a long time, & now i’ve created at least a partial history for myself. but i also wrote it because i can’t count the number of times i have heard or read something to the effect of, “the allied media conference was started in 1999 by jason kucsma & jen angel.” no, it wasn’t. it was started in 1999 by ciara xyerra & jason kucsma talked a big game about helping & then left ciara hanging at the last second. after the 1999 was successful, jason & jen carried on with it. maybe that is a small, inconsequential detail in the overall scheme of things, but it matters to me. without that detail, jen will have been successful in her bid to “take over” the conference after i left & ensure that “everyone forgets” about me. there are a few things i have done in my life that actually make me feel kind of proud: “a renegade’s handbook to love & sabotage,” the boston skillshare, learning to leave a paper trail zine distro. i don’t have much, because i’ve never graduated from anything or done any of the usual mainstream success things like get a decent job or a promotion or anything. the bowling green zine conference was the first thing i ever did that made me feel legitimately proud of myself. so…that’s my history.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. courtney says:

    i met this guy in my grad program in alabama who went to bowling green for undergrad. when he found out that i’m a zine writer/reader, he started telling me about his friend jason who thought this whole zine conference thing at bowling green up and wasn’t that awesome. i kind of couldn’t help it but i laughed in his face. i genuinely like this guy, but i told him that he had the whole thing wrong and that actually, you started it and his friend jason cut you out, stole it from you, and turned it into something else. he was a little skeptical, but listened politely.

    perhaps i should direct him here to read it firsthand.

    also, i think this is a really interesting story in that from the beginning jason used his age and male privilege to manipulate you and also steer the conference immediately away from your original idea of having the conference focus on zines by women and girls. if he had the presence of mind to be conscious of this male privilege (even mentioning it to you at one point), certainly he must have realized that he was using it in a really fucked up abusive way, no?

    1. ciara says:

      in the interest of being as charitable as possible to jason, i think “steal” may be a bit of a strong word. after all, i did move away. i never lived in ohio again after july 12,1999. & jason did reach out to me to see if i wanted to be involved somehow in planning the 2000 event, & to make sure i was okay with him planning a 2000 event in my absence. of course, there’s no way i could have foreseen the changes he would make to the original event–changes that i really don’t like. but then again, what could i have possibly done about it? once he saw that the 1999 event was a big hit, he decided to carry on with it. i guess i could have asked him not to, but i don’t think that would have been a fair request. & i think that he could make the argument that maybe he changed things specifically to distance the ciara-less project from the 1999 event–at least on some level.

      but it does frustrate me that in remaking the event, he cut me out of the origin story. if jason ever toyed with the idea of organizing a zine conference or some other independent media conference before that day when he ran into me on campus & i told him about the girl zine conference idea, that’s news to me. i don’t want people to, like, hang a huge photo of me at every event & bow down to it, but i have heard/read a lot of versions of how the allied media conference got its start & my name is never mentioned. ever.

      i could have gone into a little more detail about jason’s politics & shit, but…yes, he was definitely aware of issues of privilege. he was a total peace punk. he had a lot to say about issues like male privilege, & he always said the “right” things. but his actions told a different story. for example, i was talking to him once about the abusive relationship i had recently left, & how the break-up had been really hard on me because my ex had managed to turn pretty much all of our mutual friends against me. i told him about how she hit me once & broke my glasses & his response was, “well, it was at least a little bit your fault, because you stayed.” while i am all for personal responsibility, i think that’s a pretty insensitive thing to say. he also once made some comment, i forget exactly what it was, about my mom’s weight. i wish i could remember exactly how he phrased it, but trust me when i tell you that it was ridiculously fatphobic in a really over-the-top way. & it’s not like he didn’t know that my mom’s weight was a function of a physical disability (she broke her back when i was 14 or 15; prior to that accident, she was really slim, like could still fit into her size 00 wedding dress slim, but she spent over a year recuperating from the back thing & was permanently disabled after that & has had pretty significant mobility issues, exacerbated by depression, which has caused her to gain a lot of weight).

      i have resisted talking about this whole “written out of the history” thing for a long time, because i can totally see the bigger picture & recognize that running around, shouting, “it was my idea!” can seem really petty. i think maybe it matters less whose idea it was than who actually ran with the idea & did something with it, & at the end of the day, i left town & jason stayed. i did try to implement my experience in helping out with the first portland zine symposium…but i also left town for most of the organizing for that & had moved away for good by the time the first one finally happened. i don’t know. did you see that thing on we make zines like a year & a half ago, when people were organizing the first chicago zine fest, & some dude was all, “i think it’s important to know your history, & there is a history of zine fests in the midwest. for example, jen angel attended a zine fair in chicago in 1996, & that inspired her to start organizing a zine fest in bowling green starting in 1999.” i was like, “um, wrong. i’m sure there was a chicago zine fair in 1996 & that jen attended, but she didn’t have anything to do with the first bowling green zine event, either in terms of ideas or organizing. that was me.” & this dude was like, “no, i think it was jen.” it’s like…dude. i was THERE. i think i know what ideas sprang from my own mind. i think i know who was sitting there at the coffeeshop drawing up lists of people to advertise to. jen had nothing to do with it. he actually argued back & forth with me about it at length.

      anyway, thanks for coming to my defense with random people who happened to rub shoulders with jason at some point in the past. i do appreciate it!

  2. Nicole says:

    weird to read all this and all the stuff that I didn’t even realize was going on. And as the person to whom Jen announced her intentions to “take over” the conference, obviously I vouch for you 100%. Good riddance, dude.

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