An Interview With The Creators Of The Brooklyn Zine Fest


The Brooklyn Zine Fest is taking place this Sunday at Public Assembly in Brooklyn, NY. If you’re one of those rare birds that enjoy reading and fun, you might want to check it out. Zines have been around since at least the 1930s and, in some ways, are at least a partial ancestor to websites like Thought Catalog. However, they are also different in many ways that are worth discussing. I talked to the event organizers, Matt Carman and Kseniya Yarosh, about the fest, zines and, of course, cage matches. Zines!

TC: What is a zine?

Matt Carman: A zine is a self-published magazine. It can be collaborative or solo, color or black-and-white, photocopied or professionally printed. Writers, artists, researchers, comedians, and storytellers create zines, and plenty of people read them once they find out what a zine actually is.

TC: What is the first zine you ever read? How did it make you feel?

Kseniya Yarosh: I have no idea what it was called but the zine was something about two sisters traveling around the West Coast — printed on pink paper that you had to cut through to read. It was hidden on the lowest magazine shelf of the local Tower Records and the discovery was a revelation. I didn’t know anyone else who was making zines (or knew what they were), and it was the first time I realized that self-publishing was an option.

TC: Zines seem to be about pretty specific topics; it seems like one could make a zine about almost anything. What are some of your favorites?

KY: The zines I like most have a component of fact and personal experience, like The Prince Zine by Joshua James Amberson. It’s a history lesson that contextualizes Prince and his music while also keeping the writer’s specific outlook and tastes in the picture.

TC: You guys make one of my favorite zines and not just because you’ve included my writing in the past (though I guess you’ll never really know for sure). As zine publishers, are there any topics you think people should avoid making zines about? Are there zines that you’ve hated?

MC: The only zines we have disliked are either shoddy, poorly written, or clearly put together without an eye for quality. This isn’t to say that everything has to be clean and polished — there are plenty of rough-looking, cut-and-paste zines that I love because the content is so great.  But we spend a lot of time and energy working on I Love Bad Movies and our other projects, and we like to read zines with similar levels of passion and determination.

TC: Is it difficult to break into the zine industry? What are some of your favorite new zines?

MC:Putting a zine together does feel like a factory process — arrange, fold, staple, repeat. It is one of the easiest industries to get into, though. All you need is a copier or printer, some paper, a general sense of design, and the desire to tell a story.

I’ve really been enjoying Paper Radio (formerly Signals) by soundwave enthusiast DJ Frederick and In-Between by Aijung Kim.  And I haven’t read either of these yet, but I’m looking forward to picking up The Worst by Kathleen McIntyre and Get it Together by Lauren Denitzio at the Brooklyn Zine Fest.

TC: How does a zine publisher measure success?

KY: The way most people measure success — fan letters! An active zine maker may sell and give out hundreds of zines per year; and if even one of those readers then takes the time and sends you a compliment, consider that an accomplishment.

TC: What lessons have you learned from organizing this?

MC: We’ve learned that when you’re doing something fun, big, and interesting, people will step up to help. Our friend Rachel Kowal of SonicSmörgåsbord is DJing and running the raffle table, we’ve had help from some great people. People [helped] with printing and promotion, and tons of Brooklyn businesses and creators were eager to donate prizes to the raffle (over $1,700 worth!) Organizing has been stressful at times, but it’s been amazing and kind of heartwarming too.

TC: What is the nature or vibe of the Brooklyn Zine Fest with respect to other fests (i.e. craft fests, film fests, apple fests)? Will there be delicious food and beverages? Games? Prizes? And more? I’m always intrigued by “and more.”

KY: The Brooklyn Zine Fest will be one of a kind — empanadas, drink specials, raffle prizes that include everything from a pizza dinner to a pair of glasses, and… new friendships, of course! I think what distinguishes zine fests from other fests is conversation. You’re sitting there with a stapled bundle of work that you did after your latest trip or break-up or whatever, and that can lead to a more intimate exchange with a fest visitor than, say, a scarf or a doily. I love all forms of DIY, but zines specifically can be quite personal, so get ready for some laughter and tears as you make your rounds through the BZF.

TC: What kind of response has the Brooklyn Zine fest produced?

KY: The response to the fest has been great — an interesting mix of people who used to love zines in the ’90s and are excited for a revival and others who are new to the concept but are curious to see it in person. We’re excited to meet the nostalgics and the newbs!

TC: If a zine were to anthropomorphize and cage match a book, who would win?

MC: Zines are small and scrappy, and I’d imagine they fight dirty. I have no doubt that a zine would tear a book apart, page by page.

TC: Can zines and The Internet be friends?

MC: Yes! The Internet is a necessity for getting the word out about a zine. If people can’t find it, how could they read it? Every zine maker should at least have a blog, if not a website or store, with their contact information and a description of their zine. The Internet is also helpful in creating zines, by making it easy to find great writers and artists who want to collaborate.

Still, zines are just way more fulfilling to read than a blog or a website.  No offense to all the blogs and websites, but until we’ve burned the last sheet of paper as computer fuel, I’ll be sticking with printed matter.

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image – Brooklyn Zine Fest