Paper Is Personal and Political: D.C. Zinefest at St. Stephen's Church

20110728-wp-zinefest-250.jpgAfter a week feeding your blog, Facebook page and Twitter stream, putting your thoughts down on paper to photocopy and hand out to strangers might seem a bit antiquated. Not for fans of zines —┬ásuch as Jenna Brager, who organized D.C. Zinefest, coming to St. Stephen’s Church in Mount Pleasant Saturday.

Think of a zine as an independently produced mini-magazine; the term can apply to any self-produced paper publication not made for profit. “Paper” is the key word however, Brager says. Blogs serve their own ends, “but you can’t read a blog in the bathtub, and a zine has a weight and warmth that digital media doesn’t,” she says.

After attending zine festivals in Chicago and Philadelphia, Brager, 22 — who runs a community-service program with AmeriCorps at the University of Maryland, College Park — started organizing D.C. Zinefest in February in an effort to rally a community here. More than 30 writers and illustrators (about a third of whom are based in the District) will present and discuss their work Saturday and also lead workshops on such topics as zine-making and screen-printing.

Presenters include the folks behind D.C.-based indie music zine Give Me Back and Chicago-based writer Jami Sailor, who produces a “perzine” (short for “personal zine”) called Your Secretary. The publications represent two ends of the zine spectrum: Perzines tend to be folded-and-stapled efforts by a single writer, while more established ones such as Give Me Back might have multiple contributors, subscribers and even ads.

Independent zine distributors, or “distros,” will also be represented at the fest. New Jersey-based writer Erin Hawley, who details her experiences as a disabled person navigating the working world in the latest issue of her perzine, Driving Blind, runs Things You Say Distro, a grassroots zine distribution operation. From her home (and through Thingsyousaydistro.com), Hawley coordinates sales and trades of zines from all over the country. “Most distros probably take a loss on their sales,” Brager says of Hawley’s work. “But these are people who love zines and want to make sure people can get hold of them somehow.”

If that sounds like activism, it is. “Zines embody ‘the personal is political,’” Brager explains, referencing a catchphrase from the 1970s feminist movement. “It’s not about, ‘You should support this cause,’ or, ‘You should vote for this person.’ It’s a place for people to tell their own stories, and that has a political impact.”

Zinespeak: A Glossary
»Zine: Comes from the term “fanzine,” which dates back to fan-produced science-fiction magazines of the 1940s.

»Perzine: Short for “personal zine,” a diary-style publication depicting events in the writer’s own life.

» Distro: Short for “distributor,” a grassroots operation connecting zine purveyors with reader.

» St. Stephen’s Church, 1525 Newton St. NW; Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m., free; Dczinefest.com. (Columbia Heights)

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