zine life

I’ve been publishing my zine Thoughtworm for about 12 years now. The consistency of my publishing schedule has fluctuated over the years, but in the past few years I’ve settled into a routine of releasing issues about once-a-year. It usually happens near the end of the summer, although an unpleasant bout with writer’s block knocked me off schedule two years ago and I’ve yet to return to a regular timetable.

Back in the zine’s heyday, I had a mailing list of well over a hundred; I sent out postcards and email announcements when new issues appeared, and traded with a lot of other zinesters. Producing and distributing the zine was quite an operation. Between the cover design and printing, the collating and stapling, and the addressing and mailing, it was a lot of work. And that was all in addition to writing, editing, and proofreading the damn thing. Of course, I had someone helping me for a long time, and she was much more efficient than me. Without her, I probably wouldn’t have been nearly as prolific. Even though it was hard work, though, it was a labor of love. I made good friends whom I still feel a special bond with. I have five binders packed full of correspondence that continues to grow, and a sprawling collection of other people’s zines and artwork. I used to receive the most interesting mail; every week the mailbox yielded several wildly decorated envelopes stuffed with a wide range of goodies and some of the most thought-provoking writing I’ve ever read.

These days I’ve scaled back a lot; it’s a much more streamlined operation. I print less copies. I trade with far fewer people. In fact, a lot of people who I used to trade with don’t even publish anymore. Zines, by their very nature, are ephemeral. Many don’t last past issue one or two. Those of us who have been publishing consistently for over ten years are members of a rare breed. Since I’m working on a smaller scale, I receive far fewer personal orders. I probably sell more copies through stores. Of course, I’m also not as thorough about sending new issues out to review publications. I guess I’m just not as concerned with getting new readers as I used to be. It’s nice when it happens, but I’ve never felt wholly comfortable promoting my own writing and it’s much easier to share new issues within a smaller known circle of readership.

Still, there is always the thrill of finding a letter in my PO Box from a new reader, especially in this age of primarily electronic communication. It’s equally exciting to discover a new zine there from an old correspondent who I thought had stopped publishing altogether. I may not find something in my box every week these days, but there’s a comforting rhythm to the waves of correspondence that do come my way. It’s these old connections that remain, and the few new ones that are forged from time to time, that are the pleasant side effects of my creative endeavor. They help inspire me, and for that I’m very grateful.

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