Interview with Mary Higgins, Zine of the Month coordinator

Congrats on being the new Zine of the Month coordinator!



Since a lot of people classify the word in different ways, how do you define the term “zine?” What in your opinion is definitely/definitively a zine? Is there anything that definitely/definitively isn’t? And how and why do you make the distinctions that youdo in terms of what is and is not a zine?

I guess I go by the literal definition of a zine, which is a lo-fi, low budget, low circulation, DIY publication with few contributors/authors made about a specific (usually obscure or niche) subject. I think zines can be glossy, multi-page or single page, big, little, bound, or stapled, but they differ from magazines and other periodicals based on their circulation and fan-base, and usually they don’t turn much of a profit.

I’m curious where your interest in zines initially came from—do you remember the first zine or zines that really entranced you/ made you want to make your own?

I learned to hand-sew/bind books from my great-grandmother when I was a child. I spent the summers living with her, and she only had one channel on television (PBS),so we spent a lot of time doing crafts together, and book making was one of the things that fascinated me. I would write and illustrate a story, and then we would bind it into a book together.

In high school I would sew and bind my own journals. It wasn’t until I was in college that I learned what a zine was. Some of my friends collected them, and I was always so jealous of this fancy mail that they got, so I started looking around to collect my own. I even made and distributed a small literary zine around campus.

My senior year at Bennington I took a “Zine, Blank Books, and Comics” course with Mary Lum, and I loved not only the chance to get to make my own work, but to see the work of my classmates as well. We even did a collaborative zine and each person got to make a page for it. At the end of the semester we Xeroxed and distributed it. It was an awesome experience.

Who are you favorite zinesters currently? What do you specifically like about what they do?

I love Liz Yerby’s zines. I feel like everything that girl makes is just so amazing. I also like fellow IPRC volunteer Hannah Mizar’s zines. Both combine art and narrative to make really great journal type zines. I am also a fan of Lily P.’s zine, Queer Sailor Moon Fanfiction Saved My Life, because I love the idea of finding who you arethrough the fandoms you have. And while it may not be a paper zine, Rookie is one of my obsessions.

In your opinion what’s more important—content or presentation? Are you interested in zines as artistic artifacts in and of themselves? Or more interested in the content contained within? Equally interested in both aspects? Or?

I think the most important aspect of a zine is that it conveys something about the creator. What makes a zine different from a large-audience periodical is that it is usually a hands-on project that takes immense time. Whether it is done on a computer or simply copy and pasted, I think what makes a zine so charming is that somebody took the time to make something—instead of just sending it out to be made. That being said, content is still a very important aspect of a zine. If it’s not interesting, or well thought out, or has something to say, then it’s kind of pointless.

In terms of submitting to the IPRC’s Zine of the Month club—is there anything you’relooking for specifically? Are there certain genres you gravitate to more than others? Equal opportunity employer?

Personally I love hand-drawn graphic zines and political/social awareness zines, but I think it’s important that the zine-of-the-month portray a variety of zines about a variety of subjects from a variety of genres. Zines are all encompassing; they can be collections of recipes, journal entries, poems about cats, or personal comics. There isso much to choose from and I don’t think I could possibly stick to one type. Besides, no matter how much you love a certain kind of zine, it gets boring if that’s the only thing you ever read. Mostly I’m just looking for well-made zines about a range of topics.

The Zine Library at the IPRC has over 10,000 zines, in almost as many disparate genres. As a longtime IPRC supporter I’m curious if you’ve delved deeply into the Zine Library—and if so how it impacted your desire to make zines/be the IPRC’s ZOM coordinator?

I am in love with the zine library. On slow volunteer shifts I go through there all the time, just to see the things I can find, and I think we at the IPRC are so lucky to have such a large collection. I’ve found things in there from the early 90s, addled with slang, and it makes me nostalgic and cracks me up. I can’t believe we talked like that and dressed like that. There are some real gems in there, and I encourage everyone I meet to go through it to see what they can find. Just being at the IPRC is very motivating and inspiring. People are always making stuff here, and everyone is so helpful. It makes finding new zines for the Zine-of-the-Month easy and fun.

If you had to name your top 3 favorite zines ever what would they be? And what specifically do you like so much about them?

Only 3! You are so mean!

Jigsaw by Tobi Vail: This zine changed my life. I know that’s really cheesy, but it wasn’t until I found this zine that I understood the idea of the punk-rock DIY ethos and how big of a part it played in the zines of the Riot-Grrrl movement. I’ve been in love with punk since I was in high school, but until I read this zine I just assumed zines were things that girls made in their bedrooms when they were bored. This zinechanged my perspective on that, and gave me a lot more respect for zine-history.

I (heart) Amy Carter by Tammy Rae Carland: This zine is so rad. It’s basically about Tammy’s crush on President Jimmy Carter’s daughter Amy Carter, and how that helped her to identify as queer. I like it because I can relate to the idea of finding something or someone, becoming insanely obsessed with it, curating research and information around it, and then amassing it into a zine with a personal story behind it.

Stolen Sharpie Revolution by Portland Zine Symposium Organizer Alex Wrekk : This zine belongs in any zinesters library. It’s a how-to for making zines. There is so muchto be learned from this tiny book. It’s currently in its 5th edition. So find it and buy it and support a local PDX zinester!

Thank you Mary—you rule!

You rule too, Jeff.