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Sonya Mann's active website is Sonya, Supposedly.

NSFW Femme Zine

I compiled a zine for the SideQuest Gallery show Femme 4ever. Originally it was going to be printed in glorious color, but then I made a hasty ink-purchasing decision and screwed that up completely. ($45, down the drain. Four and a half hours of my life. ARGH.) Luckily, color is cheap on the internet, so here’s a digital version:

femme zine

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Book Review: Stolen Sharpie Revolution (Plus, Short Interview With Author Alex Wrekk)

My boyfriend and I recently got back from a road-trip through the Pacific Northwest. My favorite place that we went on the trip was Portland Button Works, which is a zine distro as well as a button-making business. I had never seen so many zines in one room! It was thrilling! The shop is run by Alex Wrekk, author of the perzine Brainscan and the book Stolen Sharpie Revolution, an introductory guide to zine-making.

Serendipitously, the day before I visited Portland Button Works, I got an email from Alex’s publicist asking if I wanted to review the new edition of SSR on my blog. I picked up my review copy in person, which was cool! Meeting Alex had me a bit starstruck, because she’s such a renowned underground author, second only to Aaron Cometbus or Cindy Crabb in terms of longevity and recognition. She also bravely exposed Joe Biel of Microcosm Publishing as an abuser and manipulator. (You can read about that online if you’re interested in the ethics of your reading material—which you should be.)

Stolen Sharpie Revolution Blog Tour Banner

Stolen Sharpie Revolution is the perfect gift for a weird, moody teenager, or even a kid in middle school. Beyond the practical how-to stuff about page layout and wrangling photocopiers, what’s important is the emphasis on taking control of your own story. Alex writes, “We all have stories to tell and no one is going to tell them for us.” The next step, after figuring out how to tell your story, is to publish it. Zines are an under-utilized way of sharing your words with the world.

I have to go off on a quick tangent here. As a beginning writer, it’s tempting to throw your hands up and say, “What’s the point? Everything has already been written, right?” To an extent that’s true, because the basic human conflicts and emotions haven’t changed since Homer recited the adventures of Odysseus. But every generation has to write the stories again. A young voice can make an old story accessible to new ears. Human stories deal with ancient themes, ancient archetypes and problems, but the language and the social mores are changing constantly. Don’t worry that it’s all been done before. It hasn’t been done by you, in the here and now.

Aesthetically, Stolen Sharpie Revolution is like a traditional cut-and-paste zine, done with a typewriter, scissors, and glue. It’s a great introduction to zine culture, and the only thing that I think it lacks is a section on desktop publishing using computers. However, that would also be vastly complicated to include, since not everyone has Microsoft Office or even the basic technical skills needed to format a zine using a word processor.

The review on Books and Bowel Movements kind of peeved me off, because Cassandra implied that Alex wrote her book like it was THE ONLY, MOST DEFINITIVE guide to making zines. In fact, Alex explicitly says that she’s just sharing what works for her. Stolen Sharpie Revolution should be seen as a window into what some zinesters do, and a starting point for learning more.

Speaking of learning more, I asked Alex a couple of questions, basically just because I could. Flora’s Forum did a more in-depth interview. Anyway, here’s my dialogue with Alex:

Sonya: How do you deal with “activist burnout”? I ask because this is something that I wrestle with, feeling hopeless and exhausted by the hugeness of the bad parts of life, and I would appreciate counsel from someone who’s held onto punk/anarchist/DIY ethics for a long time.

Alex: I have a couple of strategies but I’m not exactly sure they work for everyone. The main one is to let others do the heavy lifting sometimes. You can’t take on everyone and everything if you don’t have some space and time for yourself, so be good to yourself.

I also like to look at things in small chunks to avoid the hopelessness of drowning in the big picture. What can you do to make your house better? Your neighborhood? Your community? Recently I became a member of the advisory board of my credit union. I knew nothing about what I was doing there but I was putting myself in a new space and learning new things, like the actual difference between banks and credit unions. I was about to apply this new info to my personal feelings about capitalism.

Be an ambassador for your ideas in places you didn’t know you could. When I first moved to Portland I worked at an arcade. After after a few months my boss said, “You’ve made me punk friendly!” and offered to give me May Day off and the next day “just in case you get arrested”. Also, you can drop out sometimes and come back to your work later. Knowing AND expressing your boundaries in activism is really important. I don’t feel like I do as much as I used to, but that’s okay. I needed to learn to be okay with that. I’ve built relationships and communities where I am comfortable but also where there is room for growth.

Sonya: Near the beginning of Stolen Sharpie Revolution, you explain that we all have the opportunity to tell our own stories. Do you remember when you realized this, personally? Have you always been a writer?

Alex: I don’t think I ever really consciously thought about it until 2003 or 2004 when there was a camper I had taught at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp For Girls who was interviewed afterwards and said something like, “In the zine class we learned that we can tell our own stories because we can’t expect other people to tell it for us,” and I was like, “Wait, I said that in that class? I did say that!” To me, there wasn’t really a barrier there, it was just something I knew. I joke that I’m “DIY by Default”. I’m always looking at stuff and going, “How can I make that?” I think I got that from my mom. Getting involved in punk when I was 15 in the early ’90s was a vehicle for that. Once I found zines I thought, “I can make these too!” And it gave me something to do with all the notebooks lying around with ideas and lists in them. I don’t think I’ve always been a writer, but I do think I’ve always been a storyteller.

Zine Review: Witches, Midwives, & Nurses

I bought Witches, Midwives, and Nurses: A History of Women Healers from Pioneers Press for $4. They are currently out of stock, but you can buy a copy directly from Last Word Press, and it appears that you can read the entire text on Anarcha Library.

At first I didn’t connect the Barbara Ehrenreich who co-authored this pamphlet with the Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed. She explains on the biography page of her website:

“With the birth of my first child in 1970, I underwent a political, as well as a personal, transformation. Bit by bit, I got involved with what we then called the ‘women’s health movement,’ advocating for better health care for women and greater access to health information than we had at that time. This new concern led to the ‘underground bestseller,’ a little pamphlet called Witches, Midwives, and Nurses: A History of Women Healers, co-authored by my friend Deirdre English.”

Whaddaya know, huh? I assume that Last Word Press reprinted the zine without permission from the original authors, especially since there’s an Amazon listing as well. But I haven’t verified that so don’t quote me on it. Regardless I feel okay-ish because there’s no way that Last Word is making a profit. However, I wouldn’t have bought the pamphlet if I realized that it was a bootleg.

Anyway, parts of my review are directed toward this particular printing:

  1. Need. Bigger. Font. NEED BIGGER FONT. Generally I won’t even read something smaller than 12-point Times New Roman (sorry, Dangerous Damsels), but I made an exception because I was really interested in the content of Witches, Midwives, and Nurses. Plus I already bought it. But the small text still annoyed me.
  2. The pictures would have been much more informative if they had been printed larger and captioned consistently. I don’t know if the images were added by Last Word Press or if they were part of the original zine, but either way my comment stands. An illustration is pointless if I can hardly see it.

As for the main content, Witches, Midwives, and Nurses was well-researched and fascinating, with a delightfully anarchist slant. The zine examines the intersection of patriarchy and medicine, focusing on “two important phases in the male takeover of health care: suppression of witches in medieval Europe and the rise of the male medical profession in the United States” (according to the blurb). Recommended, as long as you have a magnifying glass to aid in your reading. My only complaint about the writing is that I wanted more of it; specific examples from individual lives would have enhanced the academic narrative.

Another zine related to witches and reproductive health: Little Cloud #1, “Borders, Boundaries, and Barriers”, available for $2 at Portland Button Works. Different vibe but same general topic.

Zine Review: Friends, Get Wayward

I just got back from my road trip. It was supposed be an epic journey and for the most part, the trip held up its end of the deal. Last night I came home from driving through hundreds of miles of America, telling Alex to look at the mountains. I said that over and over again: “Alex, look at the mountains!”

Then I asked him to change the music and hand me a potato chip, another potato chip, another potato chip please. Alex was great. We listened to HP Lovecraft stories from LibriVox and it was great. (Example: The Shadow over Innsmouth.)

So anyway, last night I tore into an order from Pioneers Press that arrived while I was away. I had a lovely stack of mail to open and the Pioneers package was what I couldn’t keep my hands off of. After watching Big Love with my mom, I climbed into bed and raced through Becoming the Media: A Critical History of Clamor Magazine (informative) and Daring to Struggle, Failing to Win: The Red Army Faction’s 1977 Campaign of Desperation (brutal).

I had a hell of a time getting sleepy, so I also finished the novel On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee, which was like The Windup Girl meets Brave New World. EXCELLENT.

Can you believe that I haven’t gotten to the point of this post yet? Just now, drinking tea, I read Friends, Get Wayward. The author, Adam Gnade, might be famous. It’s kind of unclear to me, the way it always is with these indie-publishing kids. Adam Gnade reminds me of Daniel Vaccerelli but with a totally different shtick. It’s the dedication to an aesthetic, I guess.

Friend, Get Wayward is a zine by Adam Gnade
Selfies are the pictorial soul of my generation, lol.

Friends, Get Wayward was very stream-of-consciousness. The best parts were vignettes of encounters with strangers, whether direct collisions or conversations that the author overheard and recorded. He mentioned typing on his phone at the airport, and gosh, it was endearing because I do the same thing all the time. On this road trip, I lugged my paper journal with me, but mostly I have iNotes to retrieve from my email and sort.

I gotta complain about one thing: I’m sick of sad-guy writers going on about other classic sad-guy writers. The Beats, especially Kerouac, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, thankfully not Hemingway. I would never deny that these men were geniuses, but UGH, is this how y’all feel when I adulate Sylvia Plath?

I’m not doing a good job of explaining that I liked this zine. I’ll leave you with the quotable quote that stuck in my heart:

"It's a symphony of shit. It's a beautiful life. It's all we get." Original background photo by Daniel Krieg.
Original background photo by Daniel Krieg.

Ain’t that just the nature of existence? The zine costs $4 at Pioneers Press.

Zine Review: Many & Various

Nope, I am not reviewing a zine called Many & Various, but rather I am reviewing many and various zines, plural.

Before thinking about it today, I had some ~ideas~ about zine reviews that prevented me from actually doing them. Previously I felt that a zine review ought to be accompanied by a picture. When there’s a photo, blog visitors can get a sense of the zine’s aesthetic as well as its contents. Each review ought to be thoughtful, length of 300 words or more. If someone sent me a zine specifically to review, I would probably still give it that treatment.

However, as usual, the cool thing about zines is that there are NO RULES beyond common courtesy. Even politeness is optional in such a punk-dominated subculture! (Disclaimer: I don’t know a single stuff about punkness. Additional note: being kind is always the best policy and that applies here too, but no one will make you stay nice.)

What follows are approximately four million reviews with varying levels of “completeness”. This is not a comprehensive list of zines that I’ve read recently, since I send a lot of them off in trade packages, or to friends who I think will like them. (Example: Party Boyz #1, a “lifestyle zine” about Portland’s DIY music scene, which I mailed to Paul Renn along with Balm Digest #2.) Anyway…

Psychometry zine

I enjoyed Psychometry. Creator Olivia M describes the zine better than I could: Psychometry deals with “LARPing, my first multiple sclerosis flare, high school, college, religion and atheism, asexuality […], and my mother, all in relation to found objects and ‘relics’ of past events.” I love that concept, talking about the associations of specific ephemera and trinkets. SYMBOLS ARE COOL. The reading experience was aesthetically pleasing and fun in that “window into someone else’s world” kind of way. Absurdly, I am reminded of Miss Marple.

Olivia is on vacation for three weeks, but after she gets back you can get this zine on Etsy, Storenvy, or by emailing about trading. There is also a blog to follow.

haiku zine
haiku zine

I found INK through Tumblr and printed out the first issue to read. The whole thing is FREE on Scribd, which is just so cool; I love free stuff! Issue #1 focused on haiku, and I learned some things about this traditional Japanese form of short poetry, both its historical and modern usages. Apparently #2 will be about ee cummings.

zines by Brandt Schmitz

Following Deer Trails was one of the first zines that I bought with genuine dollars, at Pegasus Books in Berkeley, and it remains one of my favorites. Author Brandt Schmitz sent me Flying Into the Chandelier after I emailed him to ask where I could find more of his writing. Brandt gives exquisite attention to everything around him, making sure to appreciate life vividly. In turn, I appreciate the reminder to bring that loving focus to my own experiences.

Probably the best way to get ahold of either of these zines is to email Brandt ( or write him a letter: Brandt Schmitz // PO Box #401 // Berkeley, CA 94701 // United States. However, the zines are also floating around the web to varying degrees. I found Flying Into the Chandelier listed for $2 at Quimby’s.

Cometbus #51 The Loneliness of the Electric Menorah

Cometbus is legendary in the zine world, one of the longest-running underground publications out there. Aaron Cometbus is a Bay Area native; he grew up in Berkeley. I’ve read a few issues but I particularly loved The Loneliness of the Electric Menorah because it’s a detailed history of Berkeley’s independent bookstores and the LARGE personalities of the people who started them. This zine made me want to wander around Telegraph Avenue like I used to do in high school before I discovered any kind of interesting counterculture, except now I would have a small idea of what I was looking at.

eating in bed, poetry zine by Jacqulyn Ladnier

I have a hard time reading poetry casually, but Jacqulyn Ladnier’s eating in bed was the perfect impetus for a quiet, reflective moment in the midst of life being busy-busy-busy like it always insists on being. The zine came with a personal note. Probably I ate my copy in bed! (See what I did there? But I promise you, I just read it. I haven’t eaten paper in years.)

Blunt Letters zine
Blunt Letters zine

The Blunt Letters #5, bizarre “absurdist” zine is classic cut-and-paste scribbly style, by Micaela Superstar and Elle Lectrick. This issue was themed “pills”, more broadly addictive substances. One of the few zines where I liked some of the content and hated the rest. Here’s what I liked: an essay called “maybe it’s the pills” about crazy-making birth control, “The Joe Shmoe Interview” about drug abuse at work (this guy was so hopped up on Adderall that he tried to murder someone!), the essay “Caffeine Love”, and the various recipes, especially Breaking Bad-themed cocktails even though I don’t watch Breaking Bad. I hated: the “Whorescopes” and “People With Problems” sections, which were just CRUEL, the barely-decipherable comics, and the section that was mean about Kim Kardashian, going so far as to call her then-boyfriend Kanye West the “poor man’s Jay Z”, which is wrong is at least three ways. I do not recommend this reading experience, but if you’re interested you can hit ’em up on Facebook or check out their blog.

And now for the reviews without pictures!

“Goodbye to All That” by Wren Awry, AKA The Seams & The Story #1, was great. It’s a zine about New York, about a person growing up and becoming punk, about 20th century anarchism, and could probably be summed up by this sentence near the end: “if you ask me if there is a time and place I wish I could have lived through, I will tell you that it is the Lowest East Side in this 1980s, when squatters were opening up rusting tenements and defending them against the police.” Exactly the kind of history that I am HUNGRY for. Idealism thrives and idealism stokes the fire of my own soul! To obtain this zine, email, or print a copy from the PDF. Be sure to check out Wren’s blog for more writing.

Dreams of Donuts #2, a comic-form diary by Heather Wreckage: in a word, charming! I got to meet Heather the other day and she has mermaid hair. Beautiful aqua-green mermaid hair! Again, charming! Let’s pretend that I wrote the Maximum Rock’n’Roll rave review, which Heather posted on her blog. Basically, it’s a lovely zine with lovely poignant stories and especially relevant if you live in the Bay Area. The last line in the acknowledgements section is, “No thanks to cops, bart, techies, & landlords.” LOL + HYFR. To obtain this zine, email Heather ( or just go ahead and send her cash: Heather Wreckage // 5867 San Pablo Avenue // Oakland, CA 94608 // United States.

Cup & Saucer Chronicles #3, “Winter”, is kind of travel diary about going to East Coast zine fests. Also includes an interview with Raymond Pettibon, who is apparently related to Black Flag in some way? IDK. Interesting nonetheless. I intend to email the creator about trading for more issues, and you should too:

GOODNESS. Okay, that’s it for now. I have a couple more zines in my to-read pile, but I doubt that I’ll get around to writing them up before I leave on my road trip. L8r g8rs!

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