when jason learned about the existence of the midwest underground media symposium, he panicked. he called an emergency zine conference meeting & declared that he was quitting. “what’s the point? there already is a zine conference. & it’s even in the midwest. we’re just reinventing the wheel. we’re wasting our time. this is pointless.” i pointed out that there can be more than one zine conference in the world, or even in the same area of the country, & that the midwest underground media symposium might be really different from what we were doing. but he couldn’t be deterred. he called our adviser & told him he was dropping out. he encouraged me to cancel the conference & offered to help me call & write to everybody that had pre-registered (including a few people who had already booked plane tickets) & tell them it was off.
i refused. i’d been wanting to make a zine conference happen in bowling green for almost a year, & we’d already done several months of organizing. i had friends coming in from all over the country for it. i told him he could quit, but it was still happening. he told me he’d help me pick up people from the airport & he’d pick up the coffee donation we’d gotten from a local cafe, but that was it. i was on my own.
so. i was on my own. handling all the pre-registrations, making an airport pick-up schedule, booking people into the dorm housing, picking up keys to the english building, answering questions, doing publicity, scheduling workshops…anyone who has ever organized an event like this can vouch for the fact that dealing with all the little details for the last couple of months before an event is the most time-consuming, stressful part, & suddenly i was doing it all on my own.
& then we went to kansas city for the midwest underground media symposium. & it was in fact pretty different from what we were envisioning for the bowling green zine conference. we had a zines-only focus, but MUMS featured independently-published books, comics, even some crafts. there was a film night with sarah jacobson. all the workshops happened in the main exhibition hall where everyone was tabling, while we were planning to host workshops in separate, individual classrooms away from the tablers. it wasn’t a bad event, but it was a different event.
& my enjoyment of it was seriously undermined when a friend told me that she’d been chatting with jason’s friend jen, & jen had told her, “when ciara moves away to portland, i’m going to move to bowling green & take over the zine conference & no one will even remember that she was ever a part of it.”
i had only had a couple of interactions with jen, because she didn’t live in bowling green. but the few interactions i’d had were not very pleasant. she was never outwardly nasty to me…she was more dismissive. she talked a lot of trash on other women, saying that they weren’t pretty or their zines weren’t as popular as hers so she didn’t understand why they even bothered. it was very girl hate-y & it made me very uncomfortable. so hearing this report-back from my friend did not fill me with joy.
back in bowling green after MUMS, i had about two weeks to get the final details into place. on top of finals. i was really busting my hump. the evening before the first conference attendees flew into toledo, jason called me & said he’d been thinking it over & he was ready to help out with the conference after all. i kind of lost my temper a little bit because by that point, everything was done! he’d left me holding the bag for all the last-minute details for the last month, & once the wheels are in motion, he wants to get involved again? but i agreed because i wasn’t going to turn down anyone’s help. he helped me hang signs directing people to the building from all over campus, he picked up people at the airport, he brought coffee, he re-arranged tables for the zine distros coming in. & he insisted that we show that weird negativland documentary about culture-jamming in the building amphitheatre, even though it had fuck-all to do with zines. i said, “sure, whatever.”
this conference was twelve years ago so i don’t totally remember all the details. i do remember that the conference was 100% free. anyone walking in off the street could attend any of the workshops, see the film, & browse the tables. tree of knowledge from little rock & words as weapons from ann arbor are the two larger distros i remember tabling. we didn’t charge anyone for tabling. the tabling room was a large-ish conference room that already had a bunch of big conference tables in it. we just pushed them against the walls so people could walk around. between one hundred & 150 people came to the conference. i spent the weekend running around like crazy, looking after the people staying at my house (which included my friend robin, nicole wolfersberger, nicole solomon & her friend eleanor, sam–who started plan-it-x records, & nicole wolfersberger’s friend corinna & riley, art zinester sisters who started secret sailor–now boxcar–books in bloomington), making sure people were doing okay at the dorms, checking in with people who were staying at the church, making sure workshop facilitators knew when their workshops were, hustling people into workshops, keeping the building tidy, taking people out to dinner, etc etc. it’s a blur.
at the time, i worked at the campus bowling alley, which was in the student union. i had keys to the building because i often worked the closing shift. on the first night of the conference, people seemed wired & antsy after the day’s festivities were over. i suggested that we all head over the bowling alley after midnight. i let everyone in & we all bowled & played pool for hours, for free. it was totally against the rules, i could have been fired if my boss had found it, but…i was leaving town in a month so i didn’t care.