All things zine

Portland State will host the fifth annual Portland Zine Symposium, August 5-7 – a free, three-day conference designed to share information and skills related to zine culture and examine the role and effect of all types of zines in underground and mainstream culture.

A zine is a self-published magazine produced by one or more people, using commonly available techniques. Zines are an offshoot of the “DIY” (do it yourself) revolution. Events will include workshops, a potluck, karaoke night and films about zines and independent media.

“DIY and zine culture revolve around making something happen, rather than waiting for others to do it for you,” said Theresa Molter, organizer of the Portland Zine Symposium. “Nobody wants to publish your article? Well, make a zine and you’ll be a published author!”

The Portland Zine Symposium is special in that it is one of the biggest independent publishing conferences in the United States. “Most zine conferences are one-day events – kind of like a zine flea market,” said Molter, adding that the lengthier Symposium allows for more in-depth activities.

“You never know who’s going to show up,” said Pablo DeOcampo, executive director of the Independent Publishing Resource Center, an organization that provides support and workspace for people who self-publish. “I’m always excited to find someone I know who’s come in from out of town, and see what they’re tabling.”

The history of zines probably goes back to the development of the printing press, Molter said. The 1950s and ’60s yielded a particularly significant body of sci-fi zines, featuring plot lines and reviews of favorite science fiction stories and comic books.

But the real action began late in the twentieth century, when zines hit pop culture.

The mid-1990s saw an explosion of zines, mostly centering on the Riot Grrl movement, a series of zines put together in bedrooms via communications by regular mail. Since then, zines seem to be everywhere, fomented by the internet and the ease of hands-on, desktop publishing.

“Zines are booming in Portland,” Molter said. “We’re not sure if it’s because the community is so supportive of zines that there are so many zinesters in Portland, or if because there are so many zinesters here, the community supports it. I think places like Reading Frenzy, Q is for Choir and Independent Publishing Resource Center make zinesters flock to Portland.”

Within the zine community, “zinesters” are those who create zines. For zinesters, gatherings like the upcoming Symposium are a kind of creative Mecca. “People are coming from all over the country and even from outside the country to trade and buy independent comics, zines, cookbooks, you name it,” said Molter.

Some of this year’s workshops include bookbinding, stenciling, cookbook-making and special lessons to teach kids how to make zines.

“We’re going to have a table for the old-timers: zines from people who are 30 and over and who’ve been making zines for a long time,” said Dex Flowers, employee and volunteer at Reading Frenzy, a local bookstore participating in the event that specializes in small press.

Several big names from the greater Zine community will attend the Symposium, including Amber Gayle from Evil Twin; Siue Moffatt, of Lickin’ The Beaters vegan cookzine and Rhonda Baker of ZuZu and the Babycatcher.

Many local celebrities will also participate. Reading Frenzy, a local shop devoted to supporting, promoting and disseminating independent and alternative media, will have a table of information and wares. Calvin Johnson of K records and Joe of Microcosm will teach a workshop on zine touring and promotion. The Symposium also features workshops or information tables from Food Fight and PonyBoy Press.

“All over the USA and the world, zines are flourishing,” said Molter. “I think they’re here to stay as a viable form of media. With so much media turning corporate in the USA, more and more people are turning to independent sources.”

In the 2005-06 school year, organizers who are also PSU students hope to incorporate the Portland Zine Symposium as a student activities group at Portland State.

For a complete workshop of the Portland Zine Symposium, see the web site at All events are free to the public and wheelchair accessible. Pre-registration is not required. All ages are welcome, and childcare is available on-site.