Ama‘zine’ indie literature comes together

By Colin Shively

Chicago was once one of the printing capitals of the nation, with top magazines and newspapers published right in the city. Today, Chicago is still home to popular print publications, but a type of paper is becoming more popular in the city, and it isn’t produced by any media conglomerate. The popular publications, called zines are self-made and are a locally produced print media with low circulation, but every page is filled with personality.

On March 12, Chicago will have its first Zine Fest, where more than 95 local, small magazine exhibitors will come together to gain new ideas and showcase their personal productions. The community will be able to see the work of self-motivated individuals first hand with events at Columbia’s Conaway Center, 1104 S. Wabash Ave.; Quimby’s Bookstore, 1854 W. North Ave.; and Johalla Projects, 1561 N. Milwaukee Ave.

“The organizers shared a table at the Milwaukee Zine Fest this past November and we realized half the people there were from Chicago,” said Neil Brideau, an organizer for the Chicago Zine Fest. “We thought it was crazy that they had to leave Chicago to come to a Zine Fest in Milwaukee. We started planning a Chicago Zine Fest that night while driving back to Chicago.”

The overall purpose, Brideau said, is to celebrate self-publishing and create a social networking-style event where zinesters can meet. Brideau said with the harsh Chicago winter and spread out neighborhoods, most zinesters don’t collaborate and end up “publishing their work in their own bedroom.” The festival will allow them to come out and display their work to the community and other creators.

“The idea of self-generating content is becoming more mainstream and not such a crazy idea,” Brideau said. “People now can say ‘Oh, I have something. I guess I can just say it and not wait for someone else to say it is OK.’”

When Brideau and the other organizers started openly recruiting zines to join the festival, the rapid responses were staggering, he said. Their first participant was a zine in Toronto, causing the festival to go international, Brideau said.

The Fiction Writing Department at Columbia joined the Zine Fest to help students see what they can do while in school and past graduation. The department has worked alongside festival organizers to reserve tables so students can showcase their own literature and see fellow students’ creations. The tables are on a first-come, first-serve basis with a maximum of 10 tables.

Jon Wawrzaszek, recycling manager at Columbia, is helping the event on March 13 at the Conaway Center by managing the facilities that the Zine Fest will use at Columbia.

Wawrzaszek said the festival is coming to Columbia not just because it’s a well-known institution with a strong Fiction Writing Department, but because there are students with their own personal zines and some who want to learn more about individually made literature.

Throughout the festival, the community and fellow zinesters will bear witness to the ever-expanding trend of self-publishing through speakers, galleries and meetings

“We like the idea of connecting with students at Columbia because we love to see more people make zines,” Brideau said. “We are excited to have students and young writers involved. It will be a good fit.”