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Proudly 'Women's Work'
Whoa! It's summertime and that means a whole of slew of festivals will be bring smiles to faces from sea to shining sea. Among them are 'zine fests, such as the enticingly titled Philly Feminist Zinefest in—you guessed it—Philadelphia. Started in 2012, the festival celebrates 'zines by women artists and writers, all in a "safer space" environment. The grand event take places on June 28th this year at Christ Church Neighborhood House, an arts and culture venue. Exhibitors include, among others, the Trans Oral History Project, Stranger Danger Distro, Werdy Girl, and, of course, Quail Bell Magazine.
Here's what Sarah Sawyers-Lovett, festival organizer, had to say about feminists, zines, and fairy tales:
CS: Why do you think Philly needed a feminist 'zine fest? How did this become an annual event?
SLL: Philly Feminist Zine Fest isn't an annual event yet, though we're trying to be. We put the first year's fest together after attending NYC Feminist Zinefest—the energy was so positive and safe. So many rad people with similar goals and priorities in one place. How could we not want to bring something so overwhelmingly amazing back to Philly?
What are some of the memories you had of the past two PFZFs? What made these memories stand out?
One of my favorite moments at PFZF was at the reading the night before the fest. There were a ton of people already on the roster, but this sweet kid read from her 'zine unprompted. It was her sixteenth birthday, and I think it gave everyone in the room a serious case of the swoons. Her writing was so good, and it was especially special that she chose to celebrate her sweet sixteen by reading it to all of us.
Other zine fests: My first year at Chicago Zine Fest, I traveled there on tour with some friends. We were coming back from post-fest karaoke and we wound up missing the last bus. We were all tired and kind of cranky, but JC (who writes Tributaries and compiles the zine Collide), sang John Cougar Melloncamp songs to me all the way back to the place we were staying. I was already deep in friend love with her by that point, but it cemented for me that we will be friends until we're cranky old punks.
Which 'zines did you first discover at a past PFZF?
The first PFZF was the first time I got to spend any amount of time speaking with April of Fluxxii Distro. I love her 'zine, and I think her distro is super important. I feel really lucky that she is an organizer this year. I also picked up Giving it Up By Sarah Mae, which is a 'zine about intentional celibacy and is as beautiful and smart as the author.
What are some of your all-time favorite 'zines?
All time favorite 'zines: I'm a big fan of Doris, Truckface, Brainscan, Hoax, List, and Invincible Summer. 'Zines like that have been around for so long that they're part of punk history and I really admire that kind of dedication and longevity. I'm really into the 'zines that Polianarchy makes (Beer Jawn, Philadelphia Freedom); Rothesberg Castration Society is one of my recent faves. I have been a huge fan of Sassyfrass Circus since I first read it in 2008. I love Deafula, Secret Bully, and Malcriada. I am leaving out about a billion 'zines, but this list could go on forever. Keep in mind that if you asked me this question in a week or six months, it would be a totally different list. These are titles that are fresh in my mind.
Do you think feminists approach 'zine-making differently than other demographics? Is there anything inherently feminist about making 'zines?
I can't speak for other feminists—I only have my lived experience to call on, but for me, yes. As I've gotten older and developed a better understanding of my feminist identity, I feel like I put more of that into the things I write and draw. I'm a feminist writer. Without exclusion, my writing is feminist.
The biggie: What's in store for this year's fest? How will it be different and how will it be the same?
The fest is a bit more organized this year, I hope. There will be a reading at Wooden Shoe Books the Friday before the fest and workshops and shares at various places around the city the day afterward. I think that will be better because people won't have to leave their table to take part in any of the other festivities, and out of town guests will get to see more of Philly than they otherwise might. We have a ton of really awesome raffle prizes and whatever money is raised that way benefits Project Safe, which is a harm reduction organization serving sex workers in Philly.
Last but not least: Which fairy tale character would be the most likely to make a 'zine? What would it be about?
Whoa. What an awesome question. I'm pretty taken by the idea of Baba Yaga. I think she's probably one of the most obscure and enigmatic characters in fairy tale lit. She's neither a princess or a witch, not exactly. Or if she's a witch, she doesn't conform to good witch/bad witch stereotypes. She has complex motivations and has more agency than a lot of traditional stories, so I think she'd have a unique perspective. Plus, can you imagine a better 'zine? Full of potion recipes and tips on homesteading your own chicken leg house?