Category Archives: life in zines

bumpwatch terror alert: week 32

look at that perfectly round baby bump!

i can’t believe i am already 32 weeks pregnant. only seven weeks to go, tops, if my doctor has her way & induces me by 39 weeks (due to the whole gestational hypertension/pre-eclampsia issue). i am now twice as pregnant as i was when i started taking these weekly photos. let’s take a trip back in time & revisit week 16…

kind of significant difference.

even though i am kind of obviously pregnant in that photo, it’s hard to remember being that small. i am now so enormous that i have to turn sideways to squeeze between the dishwasher & the bathroom doorway. i’m just waiting for the inevitable day that my belly gets wedged in there & i have to get jared to butter it so i can be free again. getting in & out of the car is like a five minute endeavor. we were going to install the car seat this weekend, but i suggested to jared that we wait until the baby is much closer to being born–or possibly already born–because we’ll have to move the passenger seat forward to fit the car seat behind it & i’m afraid that i won’t be able to get in or out of the car at all if my space is limited any further. (jared does most of the driving while we’re together so i can space out & stare out the window & change the radio stations & deal with my constant braxton hicks contractions.)

i’m thankful that i am still sleeping pretty well. a lot of pregnant ladies complain of back pain or hip pain while they are laying down & i haven’t had to deal with anything like that yet. laying down is in fact one of the few times when i am almost 100% comfortable. i just have the world’s most boring pregnancy dreams. i literally dream that i am reading studies about the efficacy of episiotomies or whatever. other women have dreams about losing their babies at amusement parks, or their babies turning into ostriches, or giving birth to their grandparents or whatever. my dreams are super science-y. last night, i seriously dreamed that i was reading the footnotes in an obstetrics textbook.

with the baby’s arrival imminent, jared is getting more & more enthusiastic about holidays. he’s already brainstorming future halloween costumes for the baby. for baby’s first halloween, he wants to dress up as professor plum & i’ll dress as mrs. white & we’ll dress the baby as mr. body, dead in the billiards room. he has this big plan to construct a billiards room in the interior of a wagon & dress the baby is a dapper little suit & lay it down in there. it’ll work great if the baby falls asleep, but if the baby is excited & wiggly, it won’t look much like a dead guy. hopefully our costumes will help people understand the concept.

this is going to be our first xmas flying solo as a couple. usually we fly back to boston to spend xmas with jared’s family, but we can’t do that this year because i am too pregnant. so we’re going to get ourselves a tree & jared is teaching himself how to make origami cats with which to decorate it, since we don’t have any ornaments & don’t really want to buy any.

starter cat.

he wants to make them our of white paper & then paint them to look like calicos. i really like this idea. i think the calico coloring will look nice on a green tree, i think the cat idea is unique but in keeping with our tastes (we love cats!), & i am always a fan of not having to buy stuff. but once we have a tree, the pressure will be on to put some gifts under it, & jared & i are just terrible at buying presents for each other. neither one of us ever really wants anything, & if something does capture our fancy, we usually just buy it for ourselves. i could maybe use a new winter hat & the 2013 nikki mcclure calendar, & i’m looking forward to maybe a new sweater or pair of jeans once i’m not pregnant anymore & can go back to wearing regular lady clothes, but other than that, i’m all set. jared has been talking about wanting a meat grinder for years, but we now have two food processors & a food mill, so i don’t know if that’s still topping his list. (he wants to experiment with making his own sausages.) i have been thinking for a long time about buying a digital photo printer, but it’s hard to justify, because it’s such a large upfront purchase & then a money pit as time goes on, replenishing the paper & ink.

we don’t even need much more stuff for the baby. i guess you can never have too many cloth diapers, & we could maybe stand to pick up some toys at some point–a rattle, maybe a nice set of blocks. but if the baby was born today, i think we have everything we need to get started.

i keep toying with the idea of making a zine before the baby is born. obviously it would be mostly about pregnancy. it’s been interesting for me to think about how different it is to be the pregnant lady, compared with everything i thought i knew from midwifery school & doula training. i’ve had so many weird experiences i was unprepared for, like pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel, symphysis pubic dysfunction, pregnancy rage (which is apparently a real thing–in some cultures, the hormonal feelings associated with pregnancy translate to “the mean feelings,” rather than socially-sanctioned american weepiness, which i’ve not experienced at all)…to say nothing of my pregnancy getting hijacked by high blood pressure & turning into this carefully monitored high-risk situation. i haven’t made a zine in over two years. we will see…

vote for me for mayor of mopetown!

i’ve really got my grump on today. my new typewriter ribbons arrived in the mail, so i was able to finish writing the letter i was working on the other day, but unfortunately, it kind of turned into a screed about how much i dislike someone that both the correspondent & i know. then i checked my e-mail & saw that i had a critical comment from someone in response to a book review i wrote & i got surprisingly pissed off. i don’t know if i am reacting to the fact that it’s storming again for the fifth day in a row & i’m totally over the clouds, or if i’m having a low blood sugar moment, or i’m just naturally even more grouchy than i thought. but if anyone reading this has ever wanted to get on my bad side, it really wouldn’t take too much effort today.

i hope i snap out of it tomorrow because jared & i are planning to go to kansas city to see our friend ellen. i don’t think i have ever hung out with ellen without spending all day chain-smoking. not because she stresses me out or anything, but because ellen is like a cheap domestic beer on a hot summer day–a cigarette just seems like the perfect way to complement an already enjoyable experience. but supposedly i don’t smoke anymore. even though i am totally planning to secretly buy a pack the second jared leaves for his environmental history conference next week & smoke it up for four days until he comes home. i have my doubts about whether or not jared reads my blog unless i specifically ask for feedback about something, so i feel that i can write this with impunity. i guess he will confront me about my diabolical plans if he does read it. the satisfying glow that i’ll get from knowing that he takes an interest in my activities even when i don’t ask him to will surely cancel out any need i feel for nicotine. (& it’s not a need. more like an interest. a general wondering.)

i had planned on going to bingo last night because i haven’t been in like a month & things are blowing up since my usual bingo night was profiled in the local newspaper. (seriously. every day is a slow news day in lawrence, kansas.) but then one of jared’s colleagues invited us out to dinner & i was like, “hmmm. i can socialize with an actual person, that i actually like, & take another little baby step toward having any friends whatsoever, or i can spend $40 to gamble with oldsters who clearly think that i’m totally creepy because i have knuckle tattoos.”

since i wasn’t going to bingo, i decided to use the money i would have spent & order myself some new zines from a distro. i don’t exactly have my finger on the pulse of the zine world since i shut down my distro, so there are always interesting new zines available when i remember that i should peruse some distros. because i only remember like once every eight months. when i ran my distro, i was so convinced that i had regular customers that were looking at the website, like, every other day or something, feverishly anticipating each new addition. i guess that’s how i was with distros before i started one. i’m going to admit something really embarrassing: i once printed out a distro’s entire online catalogue & cut up the print-out & made my own paper catalogue out of it so that i would have something to read in bed. this must have been in 1997 or 1998, when the internet was still new to me. & i remember in like 2000 or 2001, i looked at the pander zine distro website literally every single day. if ericka added something new to the catalogue, i was refreshing like every hour until the description was posted. it was like must-see TV for me. & i always assumed that that’s how my customers interacted with paper trail. even though i now realize that i was just especially kind of crazy & obsessive when it came to zines, until i ran my own distro for seven years & got totally burnt out & now sometimes i can’t even stand to look at a zine.

but i was in a zine mood yesterday…or so i thought. i was finding all kinds of great stuff in one distro catalogue, & i started putting together an order, & then i saw that a zinester that i once considered a super-tight bro had a new zine out. or maybe it wasn’t so new. it wasn’t in the “new additions” section of the website. it was in the regular catalogue. maybe it’s been out for months. a year, even. & this is the first i was hearing about it. this is someone that i used to e-mail with or call literally every day. we made trips across the country solely to hang out with each other. i knew i hadn’t heard from her in kind of a long time (& i am not one to impose myself on others if i get the sense that they might not be feeling it), but i guess i didn’t realize that she was still chugging along, writing awesome zines & selling them & somehow our relationship is so fractured that i had to find out about it on a distro website.

i will make another embarrassing confession: i cried. yup. kind of ruined my day, truth be told. i did not order any zines after all. instead i just bought a new bra. there’s a picture for you: i’m all sniffling & weepy, charlotte is running away from me because she finds excessive displays of emotion distasteful, & i’m measuring my rack in front of the full-length mirror to double-check my bra size. my mood was not improved when i typed my size into the “fit search” box on my favorite clothing website & all it came back with was nursing bras. way to kick me while i’m down, internet. & in such an awesome dual attack: reminding me that i am not pregnant, & that the only other people who have boobs like mine are looking for ways to avoid leaking all over their shirts. i walked away feeling both friendless & profoundly unsexy.

extortion is so punk rock

still taking a blogging break, but making a little time for an important issue. i know a lot of people who read this thing mainly know me through zine stuff, & people who know me that way are probably aware that i have been working on bringing to light joe biel’s (of microcosm publishing) history of misogynist abuse & manipulation for many years.

about a month ago, one of my closest friends here in lawrence, kansas agreed to organize an event called “dinner & bikes”. it was presented to her as an evening of vegan dinner & short films about bicycles & radical activism with some traveling presenters. she is not terribly involved with the zine community & didn’t know who the presenters were. a friend of hers (who DID know who joe was & WAS aware of his abuse history) had asked for a local volunteer to organize the event & jaimie offered.

when jaimie finally got the facebook event listing up, she invited me & i checked out the listing. that was the first time i knew that joe biel had anything to do with the event. the three traveling presenters were in fact joe (who has failed several accountability processes that have attempted to help him come to terms with his abusive, manipulative tendencies), his partner elly (who has viciously victim-blamed abuse survivors in her extremely vocal support of joe & equally vocal condemnations of any attempts to hold him accountable for his behavior), & a friend of theirs named josh, that i don’t know anything about.

i immediately called jaimie to fill her in on exactly what she’d been roped into doing. neither one of us knew what the best course of action was. cancel the event? but we knew they probably wouldn’t have too much trouble finding someone else to book them into another venue, either in lawrence or in nearby kansas city. allow the event to happen & disrupt it? but that would be really stressful for us, & there was no guarantee of being able to achieve a productive moment with lawrence community members who just wanted to watch some short films about bikes. eventually jaimie decided that canceling the event was the best course of action. she asked me to draft up an explanation of this decision that she could send out to invitees. i did so, & she passed it on to people. unfortunately, she didn’t remove elly as an administrator of the event before sending out the message, & elly immediately swooped in to delete the event from facebook, eliminating the event context for the messages. a few people were confused because they’d forgotten about the event or never intended to come in the first place, but…the event was canceled & that’s what mattered.

within a matter of days, the bikes & dinner tour succeeded in re-booking their event at a venue in kansas city for the evening they would have been in lawrence. done & done…right?

not quite. a few days later, jaimie received a message from elly, demanding immediate payment not only of the $150 guarantee the bikes & dinner people were initially requesting (for an event that never trasnpired, mind you), but an additional $150 because the event was canceled in “bad faith”. elly also requested a “retraction” of the cancellation message that had characterized joe’s abuse history as problematic & not something jaimie wanted to support in bringing into the lawrence community. never mind that elly had canceled the event on facebook, thereby eliminating jaimie’s access to the original invitation list…it’s not like jaimie was seriously going to retract anything to begin with.

jaimie has decided to make all of her correspondence with elly in organizing & canceling this event public. i’m re-posting it here because i think that anyone who is still financially supporting microcosm publishing or may find themselves in the position of supporting joe or elly in other ways, like organizing events for them, should be aware of what they are getting into. bear in mind that at least one of the women joe has been abusive to has actually requested that people boycott microcosm in order to stand with abuse survivors. if you still choose to support these people with your time, money, friendship, resources, et al, that is your choice, but consider this a gesture toward informed consent:

Aug 10th:
Hi my name is Jaimie Oller and I got your email address from Cait Giddings in a post from Ailecia Ruskin about wanting to bring your bike show through Lawrence, KS in Sept. I’d love to help set this up and was just looking for more information and the exact dates you were coming through town.

thanks so much!

In Good Health,
Devoted to creating a world where every child has the chance to meet their full potential.

Hey Jamie,
Thanks for writing! We’d love to do a Dinner & Bikes event in Lawrence, if possible. We’d be there on September 22nd, and would want to do the event from 7-9. Basically, our chef serves up a fancy vegan meal for the number of people we expect, then I give a presentation about bikes and the economy, Joe shows a bunch of super short (3 minute) movies about bike culture, and that’s that.

What we need to make it happen: A darkenable-ish place with a screen or wall to project movies on (we have a projector — and a sheet we can hang up if necessary. A place for the chef to cook — doesn’t have to be a fancy kitchen, either someone’s house works or a sink & table & place to plug in his hot plate; and a guarantee to cover food, gas, etc in case only like 4 people show up and three of them forgot their wallet (it’s happened). We usually ask for $150, and organizers usually find a sponsor (local bike shop, the library, the city) to cover it if they’re worried about attendance.

Lots more at our website:

503 810 9443


Sounds awesome! I think that $150 is totally possible in Lawrence and I know a space that has a kitchen and a screen! let’s go ahead and set this up! and I’ll make the space reservations tomorrow. if there’s anything that needs to change, feel free to email me or FB me (Jaimie Oller). I’ll touch base again in Sept just to make sure everything is a go!

thanks so much! this sounds awesome!

In Good Health,


Perfect! Wow. Thanks a ton. Let me know venue details and I’ll put them up on the website and on the fb page I just made. If you want to rsvp there, I’ll make you an admin and you can switch up whatever you like:

Likewise, if you need anything let me know.

Thanks again! I’m excited to go to Lawrence!

Also, what’s your address? I’ll send posters.


Sept 12th:
I wanted to let you know that after I agreed to organize this event I was made aware of Joe’s history and his failed attempts at community accountability. I really don’t feel comfortable bringing someone with his history into my community to discuss feminism or any other radical projects while ignoring his lack of accountability, and therefore I must cancel this event.
— In Good Health,
Devoted to creating a world where every child has the chance to meet their full potential.


Sept. 13th:

I’m floored. And stunned. That about sums it up.
It sounds like you’ve made up your mind. So I’ve crossed that one off and we’ll work out something else for that day.
Best wishes to you.


(this is the cancellation message, written by me, ciara xyerra, at jaimie’s request, that was sent to invitees of the lawrence bikes & dinner event, approximately september 13th.)

after doing the groundwork to get this event going, it came to my attention that one of the touring members, joe biel, has a long history of behaving in abusive & manipulative ways with women. he has failed mediation & three community accountability processes. i do not feel comfortable inviting such a person into our community to discuss feminism or other elements of radical activism. it’s my belief that such behaviors, particularly when coupled with a lack of accountability, help to create a culture in which survivors of abuse & misogyny are expected to take a backseat–that these issues are considered ‘personal’ & therefore irrelevant. the fact that joe’s tourmates would choose to overlook this history & bring him into communities across the country without being transparent about joe’s actions & lack of accountability calls their judgment into question as well. i don’t want to live in a community that looks the other way when it comes to abuse & misogyny, & i hope that you don’t either, so i have decided to cancel this event.

if you are interested in learning more about joe’s long history of abuse & failed accountability, here are some links:

for more information on radical community responses to abuse & misogyny, here are some links:


Sept. 25th:
Please consider this email a formal request for a retraction of your defamatory statements about Joe Biel, Microcosm Publishing, and the Dinner & Bikes Tour.
Also attached is an invoice. We had agreed to a $150 guarantee for our event in Lawrence. But because for such an event we would expect to make at bare minimum $300, and because the cancellation was not in good faith, I am attaching an invoice for the larger amount. Payment is due immediately.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions. I hope that we do not have to take this to the next level.


Sept. 28th:
I want to let you know that you have no right to send such an email to me. I in no way agreed to pay you and you, yourself cancelled the public invite to the event and then replaced that night with another event in Kansas City. Legally speaking, you have no legs to stand on and I suggest that you act more carefully in the future before threatening legal action towards strangers.
In regards to Joe, Microcosm and your Tour: I will not be taking my statements back and if anything, will be making this threatening email public to allow others to see the bullying tactics you also use. Nothing I stated is unfounded and all of it can be proven. My suggestion is if you want folks to stop pointing out how fucked up Joe’s behavior has been in the past, maybe you should encourage him to work towards fixing it.
I will be disregarding your letter and demand for payment, as well as letting all other radical organizers in Lawrence and surrounding areas to no longer support Microcosm or any other projects that Joe or yourself may be involved in.


Sept. 29th:
I absolutely encourage you to publish our correspondence. Sunlight is an excellent disinfectant.


there you have it, folks! spread the word as you see fit!

friend appreciation month

one of my primary objectives for spinster summer was to shore up my relationships with people other than my boyfriend, & i think it’s been quite a success. i have never wanted to be one of those people who retreats into a romantic relationship. i have also never been a person who is really concerned with having a huge circle of friends. i am happy having a handful of people that i can really count on. so it’s kind of a balancing act for me to do what i have to do to keep my main partner relationship happy & healthy, & also do the emotional work of building & maintaining important friendships. it’s no secret that i have no relationship whatsoever with my mom, & once a person cuts their own mom out of their life, it gets that much easier to just bail on everyone else when the going gets tough. i do that a lot. i know people that still have good friends from high school, or even elementary school. that’s not me. i cycle through friends like other people cycle through underpants. i subconsciously put people through their paces before i let a friendship happen. it’s never a surprise to me when people say, “when i first met you, i thought you were really intimidating & stand-offish.” it’s not intentional…it’s just what i do. letting people into my life is hard for me.

wah wah wah, right? spinster summer has been a very mixed bag, but it’s made me have a newfound appreciation for the other people in my life. so i decided august will be my own personal friend appreciation month, in which i reach out to new friends & old friends alike & let them know why they are important to me & what i value about them.

let’s start with miss jessika rae disaster, my sister from another mother. i met jessika rae in the summer of 2003. she was 20, straight edge, vegan, & wicked fucking posi. i was 24, going through a divorce, & was hobbling around in a walking cast with the assistance of a cane thanks to an arthritis-related injury. i was getting divorced because my partner was finishing up his undergrad degree & talking about wanting to enter grad school, get a doctorate, & maybe become a professor. i was just not seeing myself as the long-term partner of an academic & a professor. i know, right? fast forward eight years & that’s exactly where i am. but in 2003, i had other goals. i wanted to travel & live in punk houses & organize anarchist conferences & go to basement shows. i wanted to make zines & get d.i.y. tattoos. the dynamics at play in that relationship made our plans seem like very divergent paths. i felt like i had to choose between doing what was expected & doing what i wanted. so i chose to do what i wanted.

amazing lady friend.

for the record, i still feel this weird push & pull sometimes. especially lately, looking at starting down the road of being a mom & not being able to predict how that’s going to change my life. i definitely feel like i am leaving my idealistic youth behind, which is sometimes a huge relief & sometimes a bummer. i also acknowledge that it’s probably a false dichotomy. there’s no law saying that having a kid means i can never get a tattoo or go to a show. i just know that it’s not going to be the same, & i have mixed feelings about that.

anyway, i was a mess the first time i met jessika rae. she had organized a zine fair in detroit & i was tabling my zine distro for the first time. but this was the weekend of the epic black-out that took out all the power in the eastern half of the united states for a couple of days. detroit is something of a post-apocalyptic hellscape on the best of days. this weekend was like something out of a sci-fi novel. no streetlights, no stoplights. the very few people milling around on the sidewalks were either setting off fireworks & shooting off guns. the zine fair was in the warehouse space behind trumbullplex, & it was lit with weird electric lanterns attached to generators & candles. everyone was riding bikes & playing spin the bottle & eating dumpstered snacks. i felt like i was a thousand years old with my cane. i cried a lot. jessika rae set me up in an empty room belonging to a traveling kid at trumbull. i went to bed at 8pm with a flashlight & read myself to sleep.

somehow, from this very questionable beginning, we forged a friendship. when i got home to boston, i wrote jessika rae a letter, apologizing for what a weepy, crabby mess i had been. she was totally unfazed. she wasn’t freaked out or put off at all, & we started exchanging lots of letters about feminism & mental health & bands & fucked up disappointing political shit & relationship issues. i went traveling the next summer & spent a week in detroit. i don’t remember much except for going to a soap-making workshop & thinking, “punks in the midwest wear overalls a lot. that would NEVER happen in boston.” i also remember sitting at the trumbullplex’s huge dining room table (used for collective meetings) by myself, listening to mischief brew & working on a zine based around “born to run” by bruce springsteen. then i played “stand by me” on the piano for like an hour. a few weeks later, i took a bus to bloomington for the first plan-it-x fest & jessika rae met me at the bus station & i just remember thinking, “yes. something about this moment is how i want my life to be.” i couldn’t even say exactly what it was. we spent a few scary minutes during which jessika rae couldn’t find the fest tickets for our little group of like ten weirdos, & i called her messika rae & she said, “i don’t like that.”

in the eight years since, jessika rae & i have never lived in the same town, or even the same state. but we write letters & call each other on the phone all the time. when i was in boston & she was living in maine, we visited a lot. i haven’t seen her in over three years at this point. but her presence in my life definitely helps keep me grounded. she’s gotten a lot less vegan, a lot less straight edge, & FAR less posi since we have known each other–all of which i appreciate very much. but she inspires the shit out of me & usually when i start feeling all fucked up about the choices i have made in life & getting consumed with crazy regrets, i think about jessika rae or i call her up & it makes me feel like, “yes. this is what i want my life to be.”

i encourage anyone reading this to make time to appreciate your friends. there are a million ways to let your friends know how you feel: call them up, write them postcards, sing them a song, go for a walk together. maybe your friendship has been plagued by drama & recriminations–it happens. put your shoulder into it & see what happens when you get to the other side. see if this is what you want your life to be & how your friends are showing you the way.

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

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.”


“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.

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

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

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.

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

this is part two of a multi-part history. part one is here.

jason & i started meeting once a week to hash out plans for what we decided to call the bowling green zine conference. we definitely tried to come up with a more clever name, but could never settle on anything. i publicized the event to my girl zine contacts, & he publicized to his punk zine friends. if we had a website for it, i have no recollection. back in 1999, the internet existed, of course, but it wasn’t the obvious publicity tool that it is now. i remember we made postcards for the event & sent them to everyone we could think of. if people requested more info, we mailed them a packet with out mission statement & registration form. we solicited workshops from people–stuff like “racism in the zine community,” “advertising your zine,” “how to start a zine distro,” etc.

we had naturally decided to have the event on the BGSU campus. i remember feeling weird when we made an appointment to talk to jim, the guy in charge of people requesting university buildings for events. jason asked to be in charge of making the appointment, & i guess he told jim that it would just be him at the meeting. when i asked for details of where & when the meeting was going to be, jason said he didn’t think it was a good idea for me to be there. i asked why & he explained, “well, you’re a woman. & you’re 19. i’m just worried that jim won’t take you seriously. i’m older & i have male privilege, so maybe it’s better for me to handle this on my own.” i thought that was weird because it’s not like i was intimidated by men in positions of authority. i wanted to meet with jim & be a part of all the conference-planning. in fact, it was condition of my independent study credits that i be part of it. we worked out a compromise is which jason would go to the meeting alone, & i would wait outside to hear how it went. with twelve years’ hindsight, i recognize that this was a pretty shitty compromise, but i was still really hung up on the idea that jason was older than me & knew what he was doing better than i did. this probably had a lot to do with him being my mom’s best friend. it was like i saw him as more a real grown-up than i did myself, you know?

the meeting did not go well. jim was a real asshole & steamrolled right over jason. it is also worth noting that my mom is an incredibly forceful, over-the-top personality who prefers to be friends with people she can boss around pretty easily. if jason & i had a contest over who can hold their own better against asshole authority figures on power trips, it’s a contest i would easily win. jason came out of the meeting & told me he wasn’t sure jim would let us have any university space for the conference. he suggested that we give up & have it at this weird super-liberal church space across the street. but i insisted on calling another meeting & being present for it.

at the next meeting, i guess jim tried to do the same shit he’d done in the previous meeting, lording his power over us, condescending to us, etc. jason was really quiet & kind of meek & wouldn’t make eye contact with jim. i stood up for the conference & showed him all the paperwork we had filled out & asked him to explain exactly what was wrong with our request. he backed down & when the meeting was over, i’d gotten us free all-access to the campus english building for an entire weekend, plus a bunch of forms to send to people who needed weekend housing in the dorms. i’d even talked jim into coming down on the dorm costs. i can’t exactly remember the details but he wanted to charge people something like $20 a night & i talked him down to $5. jason didn’t say anything during this meeting. he did high five me after & congratulate me on not being scared of jim. i remember being flattered at the time, but now that statement strikes me as ridiculously condescending & paternalistic.

during the organizing process, jason was becoming closer & closer with jen, the woman with whom he would go on to launch “clamor” magazine. jen didn’t live in bowling green at that time & wasn’t present for any of our conference-organizing meetings, with each other, with university officials related to spaces, or with our american studies adviser. i don’t doubt that jason & jen probably had private conversations about the conference & how it should be organized, but if jason presented any of jen’s ideas at meetings, he acted like they were his own.

he also learned from jen that another zine conference-ish thing was happening in kansas city, a few weeks before the bowling green zine conference was scheduled to happen. it was called the midwest underground media symposium. jen had been invited as some kind of special presenter or something & was being flown out free of charge. she invited jason to go as well. jason invited me & then backed out of driving at the last second in order to fly with jen. i drove to the conference with my friend nicole wolfersberger instead.

it is also worth noting that i decided during the organizing process that the spring semester of 1999 would be my last semester in college. i made plans to leave school (which included turning down a writing scholarship) & move to portland, oregon a month after our conference was over.