My First Zine



Name of first Zine: The name of the first zine I’m willing to admit to is Girl Swirl. I did a zine before that, in high school but I don’t like to bring it up.

Year of publication: late 90’s into 00’s

Image of cover? I had to google this. I found the cover of the final issue. The artwork was by my friend Cristy C. Road.


What/Who inspired you to make your first fanzine? The first zine I ever read was Cometbus & it got me super psyched on self-publishing. I had no idea that was even an option. I would fill notebooks with my writing & there it would sit. When I found out about zines I immediately started making my own & then searched for other girls making zines too. It was at the tail-end of riot grrl so there were plenty of girls making zines. They were all totally inspiring.

What was the zine about? Girl Swirl started as a women’s health zine with heavy political overtones. I was just getting into feminism & punk rock. Looking back now, the ideas in that zine were flawed but I was young & learning. As it went on it become a perzine & I haven’t stopped writing perzines since.

If you had to sum up the content/design in a few sentences, how would you describe it? Cut & paste, rough, raw, honest.

Memorable line or quote? I’m really not sure there were any. But there was an issue where the cover was a rip-off of a Sweet Valley High book. I was so proud of that. It might still be the best thing I’ve ever done.

What was the soundtrack of your life during this period? What music or other forms of art were you accessing that may have influenced your zine writing? I was pretty much listening to Bikini Kill, Sleater Kinney, Bratmobile, Tribe 8, Heavens to Betsy, Emily’s Sassy Lime, Phranc, Cold Cold Hearts & some dude punk bands too, like Crimpshrine & Fifteen.

How, or did your early zine making help inform your later art/writing? It’s all a learning process. Every zine I make is part of that process & I learn something with each zine.

Do you still make zines/chapbooks or participate in zine events? At this point, I’ve been making zines for more than half my life. I don’t think I’ll ever stop. Next year I want to table more events than any year before. So, that would be five or six zine fests. So far, I’ll be at New York Feminist Zine Fest & Chicago Zine Fest for sure.

What are you currently working on? I write a zine called Lady Teeth currently. You can read about how to get it over on


Name of first Zine: Vagabond Review

Year of publication: 1999


What/Who inspired you to make your first fanzine? It was something I had always talked about doing since I discovered my first zine. I was always writing and never knew what to do with my stuff, but I had no delusions that it would ever make it into the New Yorker or any other academic lit journals. That wasn’t the audience I was writing for anyway. I used to scour used bookstores looking for old journals from the sixties and seventies, as well as any sort of punk zine from the eighties… I used this collection as inspiration, not just to figure out how to make a zine, but also, what a zine should be. At the time, I had moved to Birmingham, Alabama, so I guess my biggest influence was a strong desire to communicate with people outside the confined world I was in at the time.

What was the zine about? It was a comp zine about traveling and living on the skids in cities, something I had done since I got out of college. I tried to enlist as many creative friends I knew who had followed the same trajectory as me.

If you had to sum up the content/design in a few sentences, how would you describe it?
Shooting for the stars and hitting the wall… but oh, what a ride.

Memorable line or quote? “Yeah, we got fire…” I was complaining to a poet friend at the time that I didn’t have enough artwork, so he drew a crude illustration of the devil with flames around his feet and wrote that at the bottom. “Here,” he said. “Now you have artwork.” I put it on the last inside page. It always made me laugh.

What was the soundtrack of your life during this period? What music or other forms of art were you accessing that may have influenced your zine writing? I was mostly listening to punk and bebop jazz at the time, with some Portishead and Flaming Lips thrown in for diversity. I didn’t have many CDs to choose from, and I was pretty secluded in Birmingham, so I just worked in a vacuum, which had its benefits because I wasn’t distracted by anything. I just used my imagination. A lot of the design was cool, though some didn’t really hit the mark. Which is to be expected in the early stages of development.

How, or did your early zine making help inform your later art/writing? It allowed me to take chances without worrying about any consequences. Like, if one were to put all this effort into a story or a piece of art and then submit it for review, either to a magazine or an arts competition, and if it were rejected, that could have a devastating impact on how that person approached creative ventures in the future. But when you have all the control, from creating content, to distributing that content, you have the freedom to screw up and then start again without feeling too bad about it. As the saying goes, “Rip it up and start again.”

What are you currently working on? Even though I haven’t put out a new issue of Piltdownlad, my latest zine, in over a year, I am still active in zinemaking. I try to go to as many zine events as possible, but these days, I’ve been swamped with work and life responsibilities. I write a weekly column for the San Francisco Examiner, and this keeps me very busy, along with my arduous schedule as a taxi driver. So I’m always writing and adding new ideas to my roster of future publications to complete when I have time. I also have a memoir that I’m trying to finish for a publisher, though I’ve blown past two deadlines already. So I try to squeeze in projects here and there, doing a bit of work on one, moving on to the next… Eventually, things get completed.


Name of first Zine: Otaku. “Otaku” means nerd in Japanese, but I probably chose the name because it sounded similar to Okara, a mind-blowingly amazing Ottawa post-hardcore band who played from 1994 to 1997. I didn’t give the first issue a number because I thought it was going to be the only one I made.

Year of Publication: The first issue came out in March 1996, almost twenty years ago. I was sixteen years old.

Jeff Miller - Otaku cover

Cover Image? I borrowed an illustration by Paul O. Zelinsky from the melancholic kids book Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary. Inside the zine I also used some of Jules Feiffer’s illustrations from Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth.

What/Who inspired you to make your first fanzine? My involvement in the Ottawa punk and hardcore scene of the mid-1990s was the main inspiration for my early zines. Zines were a big part of the music scene at that time. At shows people weaved through the crowd holding copies of their new issues and barking “Zines for a dollar!” One of the zines I bought at a show was a bilingual punk zine by Pete and Tyler called Moo in English and Meuh in French and after reading its two page article about factory farming I became vegetarian. I really wanted to take part in the scene in some way, and since I was always filling up notebooks, making a zine felt like the natural thing to do. My friend Adam who was a few years older and took me to shows encouraged me, too, which played a big part.

What was the zine about? Feelings, I guess. OMG I had a lot of them back then. I was a sixteen year old suburban boy trying to figure out what I thought about things. Mostly I tried to write about how I saw the world as honestly as I could. I hadn’t heard the term “personal zine” (or perzine) yet, but that’s definitely the category that it was part of. Even when I wrote about political subjects I did so from a personal perspective, rather than polemical. Some of the things I was thinking about were anarchism, feminism, punk rock, art, activism, how to live ethically. Just really trying to figure things out!

A review in HC punk magazine HeartattaCk described the first issue of Otaku as a “lengthy personal zine from a sincere Canadian lad full of questions about himself and the world around him. I couldn’t help but smile at his youthful idealism. Inspirational.” This completely blew my mind when I read it and convinced me to keep writing.

If you had to sum up the content/design in a few sentences, how would you describe it? It was a classic quarter-size black and white photocopy cut-and-paste zine. For the first run of thirty copies I made covers out of wallpaper from a book of samples I pulled from a dumpster. And I put photographs that I took in some of them. I didn’t keep any of those handmade ones, sadly.

What was the soundtrack of your life during this period? What music or other forms of art were you accessing that may have influenced your zine writing? DIY hardcore and punk rock was the most important, especially Ottawa bands Okara, Shotmaker, and Union of Uranus, who were all putting out records at that time. Seeing these and other bands play at punk house 5 Arlington was incredibly inspirational. They made me realize that you didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission to make art; you could just do it yourself.

I also listened to indie rock mixtapes that my friends gave me, my dad’s jazz CDs, Native Tongue hip hop. Anything I could get my hands on, really. Minor Threat. Millions Now Living Will Never Die by Tortoise and Spiderland by Slint were also huge records for me at that time.

How, or did your early zine making help inform your later art/writing? Writing the zine has informed everything I’ve written. The most important things I have learned from writing the zine are to be honest and to work hard on editing. Also getting in the habit of finishing things and getting them out into the world is a great lesson.

Do you still make zines/chapbooks or participate in zine events? Yes! I changed the name of my zine to Ghost Pine in 2001 and have published thirteen issues, along with a bunch of other one-off zine projects. In 2010 the best stories from the first twelve issues were collected in the anthology Ghost Pine: All Stories True from Invisible Publishing. The most recent issue came out in October 2014, just in time to table at the Halifax Pop Explosion zine fair. I still regularly table at zine fairs and I’ve also done lots of readings in Montreal and throughout Eastern Canada and the US in the past few years.

What are you currently working on? I’m working on several projects at the moment, many of which have the same spirit as the zine. I write for the MP3 blog Said the Gramophone, regularly publish cultural journalism and reviews, and am even writing some fiction. I’m also hoping to get a new issue of Ghost Pine out before the twentieth anniversary in March 2016, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the zine refuses to be scheduled. It’ll come out when it wants to come out.


Name of first Zine: “Drink Me”

Year of Publication: probably around…2007?

Image of Cover? I had torn out a page in my mom’s vintage copy of Alice and Wonderland and pasted the words DRINK ME over it.

What/Who inspired you to make your first fanzine? I saw an article in a magazine about zines, about Bikini Kill and the riot grrrl movement in the 90’s and my mind was just blown. The idea of doing something yourself, of hand-stitching something together and self-publishing it has always appealed to me because I’m ambitious to a fault and I love getting my hands dirty.

What was the zine about? Then, it was more of a place for me to just put down what was in my head without having to go through any sort of editing process. It was a lot of romantic prose and poetry inspired by the idea of “drink me”, drink in life, absorb everything as fast as you can because our time here is limited.

If you had to sum up the content/design in a few sentences, how would you describe it? Aesthetically just an endearing mess, and the content was very romantic, perfumey, about teenage lust and that sort of thing but I was reading a lot of classic poetry at the time so it’s structured like that.

How, or did your early zine making help inform your later art/writing? Learning how to cut and paste things together with your hands is really a process – seeing the images and text and how they fit together on the page before it’s physically there. Doing it for years and incorporating more live materials, like cigarette butts and candy wrappers, is the only way I would’ve learned to put together the conceptually complex and very heavy zines that I make now. I’m inspired by artists that use odd materials to present thoughts on life and death and love, like Koons and Hirst, in their art. Even though a zine is on a much smaller scale, it’s almost more challenging – it’s not like I’m working with a giant sculpture…I have to do it right there on the page.

Do you still make zines/chapbooks or participate in zine events? Yes. My THRILLS zine is my favorite project that I’m doing. I just put out #4, which is a perfume-scented mini zine. I sell them at and they’re extremely limited.

What are you currently working on? I’m working on my debut album, which will come out next year 2016. Each single that I release will have a zine that goes with it. I also have a grunge band. I’m just always writing, writing, writing. It’s always a pleasant surprise to see what comes out.

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