Shout Out to LAZF for a Great Show

While sitting in the corner of Melrose and Heliotrope, across the street from L.A. City College, a stranger walks up to me. He tells me he was walking through Hollywood without a plan, and stumbled into a line of people. He then said he was a screenwriter, a filmmaker, a designer. I smiled politely, but in my head I thought, “Of course you are.” And as I listened to this man’s outlandish stories about making it in the film industry, I laughed to myself at how familiar the scene felt – how I missed it - and I relished every lie. I looked at the line of people waiting to enter the Ukranian Cultural Center, with a new understanding: people waited an hour to walk into a sanctuary for honesty and L.A. Zine Fest was it.

As a Los Angeles native living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I often find myself defending my hometown. The stereotypes of a fake, glitzy L.A. do not hold up to L.A.’s complexities, its irony, sense of humor and personality.  L.A., a geographically and thematically divided city, is more than a mecca for the entertainment industry. While you have a combination of tacky and pretentious Hollywood, you also have a hard-working and real South/East L.A. On one hand, you have a world where everyone is trying to be somebody. On the other, you have a world where people are simply trying to exist. The question is: How do you survive? In my personal experience, the answer to that question has always been art. And had there been an L.A. Zine Fest while I was growing up, the question of survival would have never came up.

The Festival started with a reading on Saturday at Footsies in Highland Park. It featured 12 artists and three bands. Some of the readers included Esther Pearl Watson, Yumi Sakugawa, Gabrielle Gamboa, Tomas Moniz, Nicole Georges, Zack Soto, and Cassie Sneider, all traveling from areas in Southern California, Northern California, Portland and New York.

The following day was the main event at the Ukranian Cultural Center, where nearly 100 exhibitors showcased their work.  The artists presented such a lovely survey of DIY culture they attracted people from all over L.A. County.  Even well-known animators, cartoonists, and musicians circled the area. And if the art legends weren’t seen walking through those aisles, they were seen at the Moth Theater as guest panelists.

One of the highlights of the weekend was listening to a panel with Allison Wolfe, Drew Denny, and my personal hero: Alice Bag. This panel represented all of the things that were unique to L.A. Even though L.A. is famous for being home to many celebrities, it’s also home to many artists who thrive for more than a celebrity status. Here were three women who volunteered their time and energy to be a part of a Zine Fest panel, simply because they wanted to support the fest and the community they believe in.

Every panel had rich content and was well thought-out. The L.A. Zine Fest organizers took every resource L.A. had to offer to make the most out of this event, and to make sure everyone knows a strong community of independent artists exists in Southern California. L.A. Zine Fest showed L.A.’s true character. It was able to combine the glitzy, the gritty in the artist. It was everything I love and miss about L.A., and even more...

Your weekend plans: attending LA Zine Fest!

Calling all west coast zinesters! LA is on the loose and ready to shake things up in the zine scene with the freshly minted LA Zine Fest, happening this Sunday, February 17th. I sat down with three of the five core organizers – Meredith Wallace, and Bianca Barragan -- and asked them about the burgeoning DIY movement in SoCal, how the LAZF came together, and what it means to be a zinester living in LA.

Can you give SFZF readers a little bit of back story about the LA Zine Fest?

Rhea: I've been organizing events and playing shows at alternative venues in Los Angeles like Echo Curio, Pehrspace and The Smell for the past 5 or 6 years. While working for an independent business that had a studio for artists and crafters, I decided to start a zine club. Meredith and Bianca were pretty much the only people who showed up! That was a big conversation starter for us: we knew there was a community of zinesters, but the issue in this city is always establishing centralized locations where people can connect and meet.
Meredith: That was back in 2010; we started putting together small DIY/zine related events. We were struggling to put together a show of mini zines, but couldn't find a space to host it. Around this time, Bianca and I attended SF Zine Fest to table. We had an absolutely amazing time and met so many awesome people, but left wondering why we had to drive 7 hours for a zine fest. We knew there were tons of people in LA who made zines and comics, but there wasn’t a cohesive zine community. We wanted a more connected self-publishing community to foster collaboration. We also wanted to give writers, illustrators and cartoonists an alternative to flashier, more expensive events like Comic Con.

Do you feel that the LA zine community is different than SF bay area zine community?

Meredith:It wasn't until I was living in LA that I really got involved with the zine community. I think the SoCal and NorCal communities are similar in a lot of ways, but I see a larger crossover between various DIY communities at LAZF. Many local zinesters are also musicians, artists or creators in other capacities. That's one thing about LA: there is never a shortage of creative overachievers! It's been great to be able to use LAZF as a platform to promote various DIY communities in LA.

Bianca: Everyone always complains that L.A. is super-spread out. It is, don't get me wrong, but something I just realized is that it's not a disadvantage all the time. I think that it's made a lot of us very tolerant of traveling long distances to go places we really want to get to.


For this year’s LAZF, what can attendees expect – is there any one thing that you’re excited about, from an organizer’s standpoint? 

Bianca: Well, I'm psyched the Fest is spreading out. This year our Zine Library will be across the street at a shop called HRLDRY, an art gallery and vinyl shop. Panels will take place at The Moth Theatre on the other side of the street. We try to use our event to draw attention to great neighborhoods and help local businesses. This year, it's going to be a block party.

Rhea: Each year we aim to curate a unique event that highlights the diversity of zines and local DIY culture. We have some exceptional women leading discussions and workshops this year, which is awesome. There’s a ton of badass ladies in the self-publishing and DIY movement! We’re also anticipating ten times the amount
 of hugs and high fives this year.

As organizers of the LAZF, do you feel that a “zine renaissance” is currently taking place? Small press publishing seems to be everywhere these days. How has this awareness of DIY print culture helped get the LAZF off the ground?

Bianca: I think people have a hard time finding each other on the basis of liking zines. I did at least. At last year's Fest, everywhere I looked, I was thinking, "Who ARE these people?" I thought it was going to be, like, my parents and my best friends. But I think L.A. was just waiting. I like to think that we LAZF organizers are carrying a torch that's been passed to us from Jessica Gao and organizers of Super*market at UCLA, and the organizers of the Golden Apple Zine Fest before that. It goes back decades. L.A. has always loved alternative And I'll be honest: people have been so receptive and that’s something that makes me feel like all the work I do for LAZF is doing something. The more I pay attention to what's going on, the more excited I am to be part of something like this.

Rhea: It's really exciting to have one year of organizing under our belt. Presenting this opportunity for people to connect and share their work with each other has led to collaborations and events throughout the past year that may not have happened otherwise. Writers and artists who didn't imagine zines as an additional creative outlet are now coming out of their shell, turning blogs into print and creating some really incredible


Any other tidbits to share?

Bianca: Thank you so much for doing this interview--what a great idea! I hope we can return the favor closer to September and SFZF.

The LA Zine Fest takes place on Sunday, February 17th at the Ukrainian Cultural Center, 4315 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles CA. 
For more information, take a look at their blog:

First timer at the East Bay Alternative Book and Zine Fest

I’m pretty new to making zines. Having made a couple and forced them into the hands of friends who didn’t burn them or chuck them in the trash, I wanted to venture out to the wider Bay Area zine community. The East Bay Alternative Book and Zine Fest (EBABZF) seemed like the ideal place to do that, given that it seemed accessible to a newbie like me and half a table was $15.

Getting a friend to go into the Berkeley Community College to drop off my registration form and money (apparently he managed to get in to the office and leave it on someone’s chair. Is that creepy? I can’t tell,) meant that I actually had to start taking this a bit seriously and getting things photocopied and put together. For a novice, this is pretty scary. How many zines are too many? What if there aren’t enough? What if NO-ONE buys them? Why does everyone get upset when you say you want to sell your zines for 50c? Also the repetitive cutting and folding void when you realize you have 24 hours before the zine fest and you’ve got 100 bits of paper to fold. Ahem.

December 8th rolled around and I found myself trying to set up half a table with an oversized rug and my weird poetry zines in the bowels of the Berkeley Community College. The EBABZF crew were really friendly and stopped by every so often to check on you, something they did throughout the day which I really appreciated. In fact, I think the guy from Rad Dad even bought one of my posters, which was an unexpected cool moment.

People were ridiculously friendly, from neighboring tables (a big shout out to Marisa de la Peña who I sat next to for the day. You should check out her stuff here: to anyone who stopped by my table for a chat. I managed to trade for a load of awesome zines and people ACTUALLY bought my zines, despite my complete lack of sales banter. I’ve noticed there are lots of people who are very good at this. I am not one of them.

Given my hyper-excitement and inability to relinquish my table to anyone for longer than 5 minutes (I was forced to take a lunch break by concerned friends. Berkeley Farmer’s Market. $8 crepes. Discuss,) I missed all of the speakers, panels and workshops. Reliable friends and housemates tell me they were excellent, especially the silk screening workshop and Adam Mansbach’s reading. I did get to have a quick wander round the other tables though and was bowled over by the amount of creative people making funny, political, thought-provoking and beautiful art.

SFZF at Treasure Island Music Festival

For those of you attending the Treasure Island Music Festival this weekend, we're happy to announce the SF Zine Fest will be hosting a Zine Reading Room (well, technically "Reading Tent") at the event. If you need a break from the sun, wind, or happen to be walking by, please stop by! The Zine Tent will have a collection of hand-crafted books, fanzines, and comics, for you to admire. Hope to see you there!

SFZF 2012 Wrap Up

Whether you were an attendee, exhibitor, or volunteer, we would like to thank everyone who participated in this year's San Francisco Zine Fest. We're happy to say that it was a huge success. Not only was it well attended, but the general vibe was warm, friendly, and it felt like a solid community. The feedback we received has been purely positive. Even though we, organizers, worked hard to put this together, our efforts are only a small part of what SF Zine Fest so amazing. Its success is truly based on the people who exhibit their work, attend our events, and volunteer their time and labor to make SFZF happen. This year has been really rewarding, and that is thanks to you.

Download the 2012 SFZF Program!

This year's Zine Fest is only a few days away and anticipation is through the roof. We want to make sure our attendees are fully prepared for all the exhibitors, panels, and workshops going down this weekend, so we're making this year's Fest program available digitally as well as in print. You can pick up a print copy at the Fest, but if you're looking for a sneak peak click the link below to start the download!

Click HERE to download the 2012 SFZF Program>>

Photo courtesy of Cindy Maram, Dig In Magazine

SF Zine Fest After Party @ Mission Comics

Celebrate the fun and excitement of the SF Zine Fest at our annual Mission Comics after party, happening Saturday September 1st, at 7pm!

Mix and mingle with some of the Bay Area's most talented creators and meet the team that makes the Zine Fest happen. There will be food, drinks, and even a few DIY-themed party games where you can win some seriously cool prizes.

Don't forget to join the event on Facebook, and as always, admission is FREE!

Cartoon Carousel: A Cartoonist Slideshow Reading

The SF Zine Fest and The Cartoon Art Museum are proud to present Cartoon Carousel: A Cartoonist Slideshow Reading, at the Cartoon Art Museum on August 30th, from 7pm to 9pm.

A diverse lineup of small-press cartoonists will read from their respective works, accompanied by a special Keynote presentation. The lineup, consisting of artists exhibiting at this year’s SF Zine Fest, consists of Eli Bishop, Amy Martin, Gabrielle Gamboa, Ric Carrasquillo and this year's SFZF special guest, Sarah Oleksyk. The suggested donation for this event is $5, although no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Zinester Spotlight: Gabrielle Gamboa

The greatest thing about conventions is that they bring artists together. And these artists are not only talented craftsmen, they are also amazing individuals. Gabrielle Gamboa is no exception. I had the privilege of meeting her at the Latino Comic Expo, when she and I were on a Zine panel, alongside Jaime Crespo. Honestly, I don't know why I was asked to be on that panel, because my knowledge and experience with comics and zines paled by comparison, and I had little to add to that conversation, so I ended up asking them more questions than the audience did. How could I not? I wanted to know everything about these artists.

Gabrielle talked about her love for music, and how she stumbled into Punk fanzines in the late 80s. She "fell in love with the immediacy of zine publishing, and the intimacy of being a zine reader," so she created her own. Gabrielle became a part of the Puppy Toss Comics publishing collective in the early 90s. She hasn't stopped creating comic zines since then. I am always deeply moved and entertains when I read her zines. Her work has a strong narrative aspect to it. The visual work only makes her story-telling stronger. She takes people, and all of the things she loves - music, film, literature - and packs it into a tight little 24 page package. Each page is so rich, that words and images will stay with you throughout the day.

What roles do music and literature play in your creative projects?

Older generations had mythology. Since the advent of mass media, we have pop culture. I have absorbed and synthesized the media I grew up with into my own personal narratives. In some ways, all of that is just as real to me as events that happened in my life. I was also a library nerd who would spend all summer gorging on novels. When the dvd happened, I became that way with movies instead. I don’t think it’s laziness, I just think that to a visual person like me, cinema is very seductive.

Your characters vary from teenage rock stars to writers. How do you choose the people and stories you want to illustrate?

When I find myself thinking constantly about an idea, I know I need to make it happen. Other times, I just work with whatever obsessions I am geeking out on at the time. I think I choose to focus on creative people for characters because I can relate to them. I also find that the older I get, the more I enjoy narratives about the creative process, so my work deals with that topic more and more.

One of your zines, Miss Lonely Hearts, is based on Nathanael West's novel. Why did you choose this novel?

I adore this novel because it asks the big existential questions, offers no real answers, and yet is darkly funny. I find it comforting. To adapt it into a comic, I have to remove or reinterpret West’s stunning prose. That is just the nature of the medium.

What is your current project?

I am continuing to adapt and publish Miss Lonelyhearts chapter by chapter. I am also working on an original graphic novel, the most ambitious project I’ve ever taken on, which is both exhilarating and terrifying.

What do you like most about SF Zine Fest?

I love the sense of community and collaboration that Zine Fest creates. This is something we could have only dreamed of back in the Factsheet Five days. Factsheet Five was a zine from the 1980's and 90's that reviewed zines and gave contact information on where to get them. It was one of the few ways to find out about new zines in the pre-internet days. Getting your zine listed in it was key in those days. The bad part is that there is so much great quality stuff at Zine Fest that I can’t buy it all. But I’ll probably still try.

To check out more of Gabrielle's work, make to visit her online at:

SFZF is also happy to announce that Gabrielle will be at the Cartoon Art Museum this Thursday, August 23rd for the Latino Comics Expo's "Noche de Latinas." We hope to see you there!