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.”
“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.