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Saturday, July 19, 2014

{writer's lab} zine making with kids

We have spent a lot of time the last few months making zines. Zines (short for magazine) are an inexpensive, alternative media that have been popular since the 1920's at least. Some might say that early pamphlet and booklet writers from the early days of the printing press were the first zinesters.

Typically, zines are hand written or typed, glued together, and photocopied. The accessible materials and publishing method have made it attractive to punks, skate culture and various fan fictions. The marginality lends zine writers a certain freedom in their creation. Since you are writing for a small audience and you can print issues as needed, the subject matter can be as arcane as you wish.

This highly specialized content makes zines perfect for kids to create. They can write about anything they want, include as many pages as they want, and distribute freely (or very cheaply) among their friends. 

I especially like that it is so much more physical than blogging or other online publishing methods (which I obviously love too). The actual writing, cutting, gluing, driving to the copy shop, copying, collating, folding, stapling or binding - all gift the zinester with the wonderful experience of actually participating in the entire process, in real time. I love that and think it is often missing in our lives. 

So are you ready to get started?

We started in our house with my zine making. I made a little zine for the Journal Jam lab I am running this summer. I made this because I wanted to send participants something real and tangible in the mail. I am smitten with real mail these days and this project was an extension of that passion. Making a zine was also on my TRY THIS list. 

So, the kids watched my process and then became interested in making zines themselves. They started making zine/workbooks for classes they were leading in our homeschool co op. My 8yo son, who is a big Keri Smith fan then branched out to making several zines of creativity prompts. 

We were also involved in a really cool, co op camp recently. One of my jobs was to create a zine of the experience. I had wanted to include the camp kids more but time was extremely limited. Instead, I listened for quotes, took notes and pictures, and included as much of the kids experience as possible.

The subject of your zine can be anything! It can be your poetry, recipes, journal entries, cartoons and art, fan based (My Little Pony, Lego, Harry Potter), open ended prompts, a story, tutorials and musings. Or all of it! 

You can write the whole thing yourself or ask your friends and family for submissions. 


Once you have a list of topics compiled and you have narrowed it down to one to start with, you....start!

Making a list of what you want to include in your zine is a good idea. 

I usually make a mock up first. That is just blank paper folded with page numbers and notes about what will go on each page. If you are doing front and back, folded 8.5x11 in paper, you might be surprised at how quickly it gets confusing. I constantly refer back to the master. 

Also, if you are going to do double sides pages, do them on individual pages and have the copy shop help you make a master from these. It is really impossible to draw, tape and write on both sides of paper and not have it bleed through to the other side. 

We like to use a wide variety of writing styles within the zine. I will print, write cursive, use fonts from the computer, utilize different markers, use a typewriter and find words from magazines. The variety can make the zine feel energized and alive or cluttered and hard to read, so work with finding the balance that you like.

Adding decorative touches is fun too. Rubber stamps, stickers, photographs, little drawings and my favorite, washi tape, can all photocopy in black and white nicely - so experiment and have fun.

When you have everything written, decorated, and organized, it is time to head to the copy shop. As much as I would like to do all the photocopying myself, I rely on help from the copy master. After talking with him, it was revealed to me that the copiers behind the counter have much better image quality that the ones used in self serve. The public copiers are all preset and have fewer options (this is at my copy shop - yours might be different). So, I work with the experts; they have been exceptionally helpful to my kids and myself.  Our runs usually range from 10-20 copies at a time.

Time to distribute. How will you share your work? We have given ours out to friends, sold them to friends, posted them on Etsy, and given them to community members. You might leave a few at the local coffee shop or in the periodical section of the library. You can send them to friends or even famous people in your content area. Comic shops and record stores might sell them or give them out too. It is up to you to think about where your potential readers might be. If you are a serious zine producer, you can list them on distribution sites, but we are far from that now.

Please leave resources and any experience you have had with zines in the comment section. If you produce a zine, drop me a line and I will gladly promote your work in whatever way I can. I would love to organize a kid zine swap at some point, so log your interest here and start writing and making!


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