zine breakthrough!

why didn’t anyone ever tell me how easy it is to make a zine on a computer? i spent the last few days revising my new zine, which will be called “ella funt”. sarah rose, of “tazewell’s favorite eccentric” gave me exhaustive & incredibly helpful editorial feedback on the draft. i didn’t incorporate all of her suggestions, but i used most of them & they really helped me clean up the writing, restructure the flow, & make it pretty much as close to perfect as zine writing can really be. i don’t doubt that i spent more time editing this thing than some people spend on their actual books (judging by how shitty a lot of books are).

then i downloaded some nice fonts into my word program, including a typewriter font that is nearly identical to the way my typewriter looks. i know, i know–it’s bad enough to make a zine on a computer, but then to employ a typewriter font? that’s straight up poser bullshit (channeling 1999 here–i think that was around the last time anyone used the word “poser” sincerely). i switched the whole thing over into the typewriter font & it looked fucking gorgeous.

i also found an interesting rubber stamp-style font for “chapter headings” or whatever you want to call them. the whole zine is one long narrative & it probably didn’t need to be broken into sections, but it might be a little more fun & readable that way. i still have a set of rubber stamps i bought back in 1997, but it’s time-consuming to work with them & there are two main reasons i am using a computer to make this zine:

1) it’s quieter. my typewriter is electric, but it’s still pretty noisy. ramona is, of course, a NICU baby, so noise doesn’t bother her too much, but she is becoming more & more sensitive to it as she gets older. if she’s sleeping fitfully, small things like a person coughing in the next room will wake her up. it’s probably better not to chance a typewriter.

2) it’s faster. one a really good day, ramona will nap for maybe four hours while i’m on a ten-hour “shift” with her (split into two or three naps). this sounds like a lot, but in that four hours, i’m trying to cram all my personal care stuff, like brushing my teeth & eating lunch, pumping, washing bottles, putting away laundry, paying bills, keeping up with current events, phone calls, etc etc etc. it doesn’t leave huge amounts of time for big, messy projects. if i make a mistake doing computer layout, i can just delete it & fix it. with a typewriter, i have to get out the wite-out, wait for it to dry, type over it, etc etc…everything is more complicated.

sure, there’s a certain authenticity to the extra work involved in using a typewriter, but i have a baby now. that’s a whole different kind of authentic.

this morning, i went through my draft & marked the different sections & came up with titles for them. then i downloaded a quarter-page template into open office. i had to edit it a little because it had black borders, but i changed them to white & started pasting my draft in. undoubtedly there was a less laborious way to do this, but i am new at making zines on the computer, so i was cutting & pasting paragraph by paragraph to make sure everything fit properly, & then i added page numbers to each individual page. i blocked out a place for visual interest every few pages & sat back & admired my handiwork. it seriously looks stunning & it’s just text! i love it.

but what to put in the spaces i left for images? i got all kinds of suggestions. photos of ramona were a popular one, but this zine is about struggling to get pregnant & the first part of my pregnancy, before ramona was born. it didn’t seem to fit thematically. & i didn’t really have other photos that related to the text that i could drop in instead. some people suggested using images from the ramona quimby books, since i named ramona after ramona quimby & the named “ella funt” is a reference to ramona quimby’s stuffed elephant toy. but i’m hoping to make this zine a series & i want there to be visual consistency going forward & there just aren’t enough images from the ramona books for me to keep using them for like six issues or whatever. the obvious choice would be to draw something that relates to the text, but i’m not a great artist. i’m okay, but i’m really not visually-inclined at all & am not imaginative enough to come up with especially clever ideas.

i was getting pretty frustrated because this visual part is the part i’ve always hated most about making zines (there was a reason why the first four issues of “a renegade’s handbook to love & sabotage” were text-only, maybe with a few photobooth pictures scattered it), & it’s all that’s standing between me & a finished zine. jared was making dinner & i decided ramona could probably use a snack too before we sat down to eat.

i was sitting on the couch giving her a bottle when i came up with the solution: remember that quilt i started making for ramona last summer? before i even knew if she was ramona or if she was iggy? i decided to use the fabrics from that & paste a square into each of the spaces i left & an image of ella funt from the ramona books super-imposed over it & photocopy that. then i will make a little fabric bag for each zine with the title & issue number printed on a piece of cardstock sewn to the front. the zine inside the bag won’t have a traditional cover. there will be a band around instead (& it will be stapled, obviously).

making the bags is going to be pretty time-consuming, but i think it’ll look really pretty & special, which is what i want for the zine. & obviously running a sewing machine is going to be as loud as using a typewriter, so i may only be able to work on it on weekends when jared takes ramona on outings, but i like to sew & i got pretty fast at it while i was making that quilt. it’s all kinds of a throwback, eh? remember in like 2002 when everyone did something special like this with their zines? (or so it seemed.) i think this will be really fun!

i’m happy to accept pre-orders. $4 to learningtoleaveapapertrail@hotmail.com or ciara xyerra, 307 e. 8th st., lawrence KS, 66044. if you send it via paypal, try to send it as a gift so they don’t take fees. i’m aiming to have it ready to go no later than may 30th, but now that i know what i want to do, i might be able to finish it as soon as this weekend. i’m going out first thing tomorrow morning to pick up more fabric, & jared can usually be counted on to do extra baby care on the weekends because he’s not spending all day at school, leaving me with extra time to work on this thing. i’m excited!

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

7 thoughts on “zine breakthrough!

    1. don’t bother. i’ll just send you a copy when it’s done as a thanks for helping so much with the editing. though if you wanted to consider picking up more copies for your distro &/or the wooden shoe, i would love that…

    1. i try to set the price at something where domestic orderers will make up the cost of extra postage for international orderers, so you don’t have to do that. but if you WANT to throw in an extra buck or two, it’s your call.

  1. Pre-order sent! I’ve been wondering for a long time when the next Ciara-zine would be happening.

    Most of my Telegram zines are made on a computer, and I use my manual typewriter for 24-hour zines, or for headers and small pieces in other zines. While lots of computer layout zines are ugly as fuck, there are also some very pretty ones, of which I count my own, and from the photos I’ve seen on Facebook, yours looks pretty rad, too.

    When I started making zines, I refused to use a typewriter because it seemed so cliché, and also, my sister was using the typewriter our mom had received as a high school graduation gift, and we wanted to have different stories & different aesthetics. The first few issues of Telegram were actually made on a word processor my mom had stolen from a storage closet at her work, and it was so fucking loud. I could type everything quietly on that tiny, tiny screen, and there was only one font and one size; when I pressed ‘print’, the whole thing was banged out quickly and hurt my ears.

    I like using a computer to lay out my zines now, because editing & changing stuff is so much easier, plus I can write in smaller fonts, thus cram as much text into a zine as possible while still keeping postage and copy costs down. Text-heavy zines forever!

    1. i think my zine is pretty, even though it was made on a computer. using a typewrite font, even. i’m pretty sure i wrote something in 2000 or so about how it’s bad enough to make a zine on a computer, but it’s just salt in the wound to use that computer to employ a typewriter font. not that it’s news that 33-year-old ciara probably wouldn’t get along very well with 21-year-old ciara.

      i used a typewriter for my zines for a long time because i didn’t actually have a computer. i sometimes used roommates’ computer to go on the internet, but that was just for email & stuff–not big, personal projects. i also went to the library almost every day & used the computer there, but you know they have time limits. i think someone gave me a massive desktop computer they found in the trash in…2003? it broke in 2007 & i replaced it with a cheapo laptop. that broke in 2009 & i replaced it with my current computer. but i still don’t have a printer. i use jared’s.

      i agree that making a zine on a computer makes it so much easier to edit, & since the quality of writing in a zine is still the most important thing to me, that’s a pretty big selling point. that typewriter look appeals to me aesthetically, but you can really tell when someone is just banging some shit out on a typewriter & pasting it into their zine without even reading it over again. i mean, that’s fine, it’s one way to do things, but it’s maybe not my favorite approach.

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