Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Zine Queens and Wannabes, or The Girl in The Cupboard: Part Two

Some bright summery spring day in 1999 (I remember it being a rather lovely warm spring), a big box of books arrived on my doorstep for the first time. There were more books than I’d ever seen in one place since my mom’s former student, who worked at Scholastic, sent her a big box of books in gratitude for all she’d taught him/her. Mom kept the letter; I got the reading material. Anywhoodle, I put them all in a circle, spun around, and picked one. The chosen tome?
e Zine Scene.

I’d done a smidge of research on my own: zines were self-published and pasted up by hand, they featured art and writing and observations and occasionally something screen printed or embroidered, and the creators were so much cooler than I am. The Zine Scene was printed up in the rough, naïve fashion of the day, illustrated with vintage ephemera and beauty queens and random words in a much messier, grittier style than you’d see amongst collage artists and zinesters today. The writing was inviting, real, and full of description bombs of the sort I never knew I’d been in love with.

I fangirled excerpts from Sweetheart and The Catbox Room the hardest; the former was a sweet fantasy life ditty turned volcanic eruption by Robin Crane, the latter a quirky little comic by Lisa Maslowe. Indeed, I took their style to heart, adding interesting details to my own drawings (which I’d started working on improving at around the same time) and writing bits and pieces here and there, purpling my prose a wee bit, That didn’t hurt it much in the long run, since I’d always had an…odd…sense of humor, to balance it out—not to mention that for the most part, the Girl in the Cupboard remained there, terrified of her peers because of her refusal to play by their rules. If you weren’t going to play the right way, she reasoned, you might as well not bring attention to it.

Later that year, two things happened that turned my steady if boring course into strange seas full of phosphorescent jellyfish and blue-haired sirens—and no, they weren’t transferring schools and accidentally happening upon the love of my life kissing another girl. I bought a copy of Girl Goddess #9, and joined the Witchbaby mailing list. The book was the best thing that happened to me that year; here was a little pocket-sized paperback with heart-shaped hands on the cover, and between the covers were stories that felt like they were written just for me. These tiny, purple-y fairytales started their own tiny, purple-y revolution. I created more, saw more, experienced things instead of just walking by them and waiting for the day to end. Things that I thought were weird or evil, like being gay, became just another human characteristic. Once I became a lurker on Witchbaby, these horizons stretched even further. Here were dozens of girls—mostly, D.an and Mookie were the only males I knew of—just like me, creating and living and loving and loosing and writing about it, with more flair than I had, but that would come in time.

Eight years later, Witchbaby is gone, but I’m friends with the former mod (who scared the hell out of me at the time, it’s really a funny story) and a few of its members. I still create and live and love on a daily basis, around searching for an internship and helping run a household. Maybe it wouldn’t have happened without this book and those dozens of posts per day, maybe they would have. Either way, I’m happy with how they turned out.

Sometimes, I even let the Girl out of the cupboard to play in the sunshine.


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