The Ottawa Zine-Off took place at Pressed on Wednesday, and I was there. I missed out on a lot of zines because I was skulking in a corner instead of mingling, but still came away with a respectable haul. Below are some quick reviews each of the zines I read. It made me really happy to see a wide variety of people making and sharing things, and I’m already looking forward to the next edition.
Because I Said Sew!, anonymous
This mini-zine gives fun tips and advice for aspiring embroiderers, some practical (a list of equipment you’ll need) and some questionable (“Pro tip! Borrow yer friends’ clothes and embroider dicks on ‘em. It’s an annoying and impermanent way to mess with them.”) Plus, I’m a sucker for puns, so she had me at the title.
Greyhound, by Rachel Gray
I wholeheartedly love Greyhound buses, because or in spite of having criss-crossed the continent many times on this finest form of transport, so I’m always pretty excited to read or hear bus stories. Rachel’s tale of traveling with her sister from California to South Carolina on the people’s chariot did not disappoint. It’s beautifully written and illustrated, and describes several of those moments of intense human realness that one encounters when in close quarters with a bunch of other people all going a long way on the cheap. I would love to read more of Rachel’s writing.
G-zine, by Amanda Earl
The author of this zine came up to me at the Zine-Off, asked if I wanted to trade zines, and said, “Come by later and get one of my G’s”, gesturing towards a table on the other side of the room. Understandably, I was a little confused, until I received my G. The author assembled collaged images, handwritten text, and scraps of print into a G-shaped zine. The woman beside her stood up during the introductions and said she’d never made a zine before, and wasn’t really sure what to do, so she’d made a zine that folded out of a matchbook (unfortunately, I didn’t get a copy of that one). All I can say is, we’d all better step up our game.
I Feel Fine, Issue #1, by Sharon
In this zine, Sharon delivers an urgent pep talk for sad or anxious readers. It functions as a workbook, inviting the reader to list things that they’re afraid of, as well as “things that make [their] heart swell”, and delivering her lists of same. It’s a really sweet, thoughtful zine.
Life with the Cat, by Suze Shore
Suze’s contribution to the zine swap was a quarter-size zine of cute, anime-style slice-of-life cartoons about… well, it’s pretty self-explanatory. Her art is has a loose, casual feel well-suited to her slice-of-life comics. You can see more of her art here.
Pancake, by Sacha K.W.
Despite weighing in at a slight 9 pages, Pancake is a really fun read. Sacha interviews some bands, talks about Arboretum, and reviews some choice items from his parents’ cassette tape collection, including “Sounds of the Womb”:
“Favourite songs: Sounds of the Womb (the tape’s sole track, I believe)”
I’ll be stocking Pancake, and a forthcoming, as-yet-untitled compilation of Sacha’s interviews and other writings at the Pressed zine rack.
The Reverse Cougar Years, Issue #5, by Maxx Critical
Maxx is one of my favourite Ottawa zinesters— I wrote about some previous issues of her zine here. However, Issue #5 is definitely my favourite one yet. In this issue, Maxx writes about her experiences with online dating. It’s candid, funny, and moving. I am totally in awe of anyone who makes themselves this vulnerable in their writing; it’s brave as fuck and it’s what makes personal writing interesting to read. I’ll have copies of this issue soon at the Pressed zine rack, and I highly recommend it.
Shyt I Learned the Hard Way, by Alanna Why
Alanna Why, some of whose previous zines I’ve written about here, and with whom I was recently interviewed on CBC, contributed a full-colour (!) mini-zine to the Zine-Off. In it, she lists some important life lessons she’s recently learned, such as “People can like punk music and still be raging assholes” (that is an important one). It’s fun, edifying, and also pretty fun for your eyes, what with all them colours.
Take Care: A Zine on Anxiety and Self-Care, by Steph Meunier and friends.
This zine aims to be both a primer for people who don’t have anxiety and an aid to those that do. Impressively, it does both really well. Usually, I find a zine’s either a good primer on its topic for those not in the know, but a little scant for someone who is, or it goes into a level of detail that satisfies someone who knows about its topic, but excludes non-experts. As someone who is definitely an expert on anxiety, I highly recommend this zine. The lists of symptoms of anxiety and of coping strategies are different from the ones you usually see, clearly drawn from experience and reflection, and totally on point.
This is a great zine and one I’ll keep around. It also comes with a sparkly self-care themed sticker, which, way to my heart.
The Triumph of Our Tired Eyes, Issue #3, by Amber Dearest
Oh man, I’m a really big fan of Amber’s writing, and I was so excited when I heard she’d be coming to the Zine-Off with a new zine, and even more so when I saw how long it is (61 pg. at quarter-letter size). It was a joy to sit and talk with Amber, who is a lovely, smart, kind person, and when I left Pressed, I couldn’t wait to get home and read her zine. Her writing just keeps getting better. In The Triumph of Our Tired Eyes #3, she writes about how she spent her summer on tour with some friends. Topics include reclaiming space for non-dudes at punk shows (so important), drinking 140 different types of soda, and her love of karaoke.
I feel like I say this all the time, but I can’t stress enough how much I love zines where the writer describes how they have struggled their way up to having self-confidence, a fun life, loving friendships and relationships. Life-is-hard-but-rad-and-worth-working-for is not a recognized genre as far as I know, but would that it were so I could find all the wise, ardent, and strong-willed writers I need. This one should be available soon from Fight Boredom Distro, and get it get it get it.
Where They Will Sit: Prophecies in Modern Office Furniture Design, by Craig Calhoun and Catherine Belshaw
Where They Will Sit is a dystopian tale told entirely though descriptions of office furniture, which satirizes office life without being, y’know, Dilbert. As a cubicle dweller, I found this zine’s bleak observations about office life (“Human beings would rather face the wall than their others”), regrettably, quite on-point.
- Lily Pepper