Chicago Zine Fest Emphasizes the Community and the Creative Process

IMG_20160430_155858Papers, pamphlets, and publishers filled the auditorium of the Plumbers Union Hall last weekend. Writers, artists, and readers celebrated the community and spirit of self-publishing at the seventh annual Chicago Zine Fest last Friday and Saturday.

Nearly 200 zinesters sold self-published works — including zines, books, and mini-comics — at Saturday’s exhibition. The festival organizers scheduled different workshops throughout the day. Food trucks and free HalfWit coffee fueled festival-goers. While there were plenty of Chicagoans in the crowd, many others traveled from father away cities like Antiquated Future from Portland.

The festival felt like half arts and crafts fair and half trade show. Everything from comic books and whimsical postcards to prose chapbooks and guides to cultivating your own garden filled the event space.

These self-publishers emphasized the DIY spirit, but they also made it clear that their work is more than just creating books together: it’s about creating community. And a lot of activities reinforced the do-it-together spirit, too.

When the comics collective Ladydrawers hosted a workshop, they also passed around mini-comics for attendees to jot down drawings or text, which they later archived. The artists from Ladydrawers advocate for social change through graphic journalism by working as a team to divvy up research, writing, and illustration.

Lumpen hosted a live radio session. He interviewed one of the festival’s organizers, John Wawrzaszek (aka Johnny Misfit), who said he continues to work with zines to connect with something larger than himself. “This isn't me and my friend, it's about community — a bigger thing,” he said.

IMG_20160430_164339 Lumpen Radio interviews one of the CFZ organizers, "Johnny Misfit."

Comic book artist John Porcellino connected his background with punk to self-publishing. “It’s the desire to express yourself and to connect to a community. It’s finding a way to communicate in your own terms.”

Porcellino said, "the way we tell our stories is the way we live our lives,” and publishing comics or prose leads to carving out one's narrative.

Chicago Zine Fest emphasized the importance of the creative process as much as the product that results. And meeting the artists behind meticulously written or illustrated work gave the sense of connecting to something larger than yourself. Because it’s about more than just books.

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Colin Smith

Colin Smith thinks that Chicago right now is the place to be for music. He works for Illinois Humanities, is a freelance writer, and plays psychedelic-pop songs with his band.