i was talking with my friend jessika rae the other night on the phone. she lives in detroit, where the 2011 allied media conference recently happened. she told me about a few workshops she had attended, & how her role in the new zine library in detroit has been going. she mentioned a topic that gets brought up a lot when we talk about the allied media conference–the fact that i have been completely written out of its history.
back in the fall of 1998, i was attending college at bowling green state university. i had just ended a horrible, abusive relationship with someone who had hated the fact that i was into zines. she repeatedly encouraged me to throw out my zine collection, insisting that they were a fire hazard. when i told her i had decided to major in creative writing because i wanted to be a writer, she cried. once that relationship was over, i really wanted to do something to get involved in the zine community in a significant way again. i started sketching out ideas for the zine that would, a year & a half later, become “a renegade’s handbook to love & sabotage” #1, & i was reading bucketloads of zines ordered from friends & (the beloved, departed) pander zine distro, which i’d just recently discovered. a lot of the zines i was reading were still in the riot grrrl vein, even though riot grrrl was pretty much over by that point. pretty much all of my pen pals were women, & all the zines i was reading were by women.
i had never had the chance to attend any riot grrrl conventions back when they were happening (my parents said i was too young to travel to other states & stay with strangers–which is fair enough, because i was like 14 when they were happening). i knew conventions had happened in places like omaha, nebraska. i thought, “why not bowling green, ohio? & why not focus on girl zines?” i felt that girl zines were super-marginalized within the larger zine world, & a girl zine convention could give us a chance to get together & address some facets of that marginalization, network with each other, & also work on the issues that were coming up again & again in girl zines, like body image, abuse, & sexual assault.
i was mulling this idea over one day while walking across campus on my way to work. i bumped into jason. he had gone to BGSU for his undergrad & lived in a punk house a few houses down from where i lived with my parents when i was 15 or 16. back then, i was a high school drop-out & my main job was organizing local all-ages shows at the VFW hall every sunday evening. jason was in a punk band with his roommates & he ran a small distro for punk/anarchist zines. he & his friends were five years older than me–too old to be my friends, really, i thought. my mom considered herself a punk & helped with the shows (she’s the one who made a deal with the local pizzeria where she & my dad had met in 1973 so there was always free pizza on hand for the shows). she & jason became fast friends, & before long, they were best friends. they spent all their time together, to the point that it threatened my parents’ relationship. jason took my mom home for the xmas holidays several years in a row, rather than his girlfriend. they were a hot topic of gossip all over town as everyone speculated exactly what their friendship was all about.
then jason left to go to grad school in wyoming. he & my mom had fallen out of touch, but he called to say he was coming back to work on a PhD & to ask her to contact some of her real estate friends to help him find a house. but we hadn’t heard that he was actually back in town already, so it was cool to run into him. we chatted briefly, & i said, “i had this idea to maybe do a girl zine conference here. what do you think? do you think people would actually come to a zine thing in bowling green, ohio?” jason said, “yes! definitely! but why stop at girl zines? why not make it all zines?” i tried to explain my feeling that girl zines were marginalized within zine culture & this could be a forum to work on those issues a little bit, but he said, “i have to get to class. here’s my number. call me. i’ll help you!”
when jason & i met up to discuss the idea more a week or two later, he was totally on-board. he had big ideas for a regional zine conference–all zines. i kind of weakly protested that i was really into the girl zine idea, but the concept of having someone to help me plan the whole thing–someone older, someone from a different area of the zine community, someone who knew people i didn’t know, & especially someone who seemed so confident that we could pull this thing off–really appealed to me. so i said, “if you’ll help, we can make it for all zines.”
we got in touch with the american studies department (which was jason’s area of study) & arranged to make the conference organizing an independent study project for the spring semester. we both had to turn in a big writing project to get the credit. i have no idea what the details were for jason’s credits or his writing project, but i would get credit for one class in the american studies department & my writing project was a 150-page exchange of letters with my friend nicole solomon about the role of girl zines within zine culture, the political legacy of riot grrrl zines, & the connection between d.i.y. cultural production & feminism. i wish i still had that project, but i recycled it long ago.