Featured Artist for SFZF 2013: Justin Hall

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We are pleased to announce that the multifaceted Justin Hall, will be a featured artist for SFZF 2013. Justin's work includes True Travel Tales, Hard to Swallow, and Glamazonia The Uncanny Super Tranny. He is also the editor of No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics, an anthology of LGBTQ comics that happens to highlight history and culture. Justin just won the 2013 Lambda Literary Foundation Award for Best Anthology, and has been nominated for and Eisner Award. Justin has been a pillar for SF Bay Area cartoonists for the past decade. It's an honor to have him as our guest. 

Zinester Spotlight: Ben Costa

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Ben Costa is a Xeric Award winning comic writer and artist who currently lives in San Jose.  His ongoing project is a historical fiction comic called Pang, The Wandering Shaolin Monk, which he updates twice a week on his website.

Where do you get your ideas?

Even though that's normally a ridiculous question, for Pang, which is historical fiction, I actually have an answer. I get a lot of ideas from reading about Chinese history. Either some factoid or story will immediately jump out at me, or I'll need to look something up for accuracy, and then I'll be inspired by another thing completely unrelated while I was looking for the first thing.

I've seen you at SF Zine Fest for the last 4 or 5 years.  What do you like about that show that keeps you coming back?

Zine Fest is a good, low key, low overhead show for me where I don't have to worry too much about anything. I just need to show up with some stuff and try to sell it. I like the fact that people can just walk in off the street. My stuff probably doesn't fit in that well with everyone else's stuff, but maybe that's a good thing.

You have a website and attend yearly shows.  What other ways have you found to advertise your work and get your books out to the public?

When I put my first book out in 2010, it got distributed to comic shops through Diamond. That helped a bit, but it wasn't like I was putting huge numbers with them by any stretch of the imagination. The webcomic is probably the best way to get my comics in front of people. In 2011, I went to around 15 conventions all over the country. I've attended way less since then so I could focus more on finishing Pang Vol. 2, but I'll be doing the gamut of conventions again when the book is out this summer.

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You won the Xeric Comic Book Self-Publisher Award and were able to print the first part of your comic Pang, The Wandering Shaolin Monk.  Tell me about that experience.  Were there any surprises in seeing your online pages in printed form?  Any Disappointments?

Winning the Xeric was awesome. I have nothing but gratitude for the Xeric Foundation. And I'm very pleased with how the first volume came out. The whole process of printing a book myself and selling it is still an ongoing learning experience. I'm still trying to figure out if I can make self-publishing work. So on that front there have been disappointments, mainly because I'm not at all close to making a living solely from comics!

Pang, The Wandering Shaolin Monk is your big work which you publish weekly on your website.  Tell me more about it.

From now until Vol. 2 is complete, the site updates twice a week! The story is set in 17th century China, and it's about a Shaolin monk named Pang whose temple has been destroyed by the Qing dynasty. It's very rooted in Shaolin history and legend, but the main plot of the story is that Pang thinks a couple of his brothers might have escaped his temple as well, so his goal is find them. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Pang, a group of Qing soldiers is after one of the books from his temple. Aside from that, the meat of the story deals with Pang's trials and tribulations as a sweet, naive monk living outside of the temple for the first time in his life. It's a constant struggle for the guy. He becomes smitten with a girl, he's constantly confronted by corrupt individuals, and he's forced to beat people up all the time!

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As a DIY comic maker, you have great freedom in the content of your books and the way in which they are printed and distributed.  If you had the chance to have 'Pang' published, I assume you'd jump at it.  Am I wrong?  Any regrets you think you might have in having to compromise with the concerns of a publishing company?

I don't know if I'd jump at the chance to be published by any old publisher. I've heard enough stories about people who get a single mediocre check from a book that, from the outside looking in, appeared to be pretty successful. I'm able to make that kind of money on my own. Of course, there's the benefit of being published to lead to other opportunities down the line. But for Pang, I'd rather just do it myself at this point, unless a large book publisher was interested. But I'm fairly certain that won't happen. And that's okay, Tom. That's okay. *cries*

For more of Ben's work, and daily Pang, The Wandering Shaolin Monk adventure, visit shilongpang.com.

Bringing Art into the Community: The Oasis for Girls and The POC Zine Workshop

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Creative work shouldn’t be isolating. Sure, you might spend hours alone in your room, working throughout the night, but does it stop there? Art is about self-expression as well communicating with other people. It is a way to project, validate voices, and bring people together. And that makes a difference, which is why Roseli Ilado (of The Oasis for Girls Program) asked The POC Zine Project to lead a zine workshop for a group of teenage girls.  

The Oasis for Girls Program serves under-resourced young women ages 11-24, and it empowers women by helping them reach their potential through lifeskills, art, and career planning. The POC Zine Project validates zinesters of color by archiving their work, and bringing visibility and awareness to a multitude of artists. Together, they build on a common goal: celebrating all the intelligence, talent, and strength these young women have to offer.

Seven teenage girls sat around a table and didn’t say a word. They watched as Roseli introduced Itoro Udofu and myself as their guests. We connected the projector, trying to ignore the fact that we were being assessed. But that initial moment of tension and distrust didn’t last long. Roseli created a level of comfort that encouraged the girls to speak and established a feeling of solidarity.

The workshop started with a brief history of DIY Culture and zines. We talked about self-publishing as a way of validating our thoughts, our communities. We drew examples from work by Tomás Moniz, Mimi Thi Nguyen, and Osa Atoe. The girls learned about a father who writes to help his daughters stay strong and true to themselves, about a Professor who started off as a zinester, and a musician who broke all expectations by creating the fanzine she wanted see.

Photo credit: Itoro Udofia

Photo credit: Itoro Udofia

The second part of the workshop started and ended with a circle. The art and spirit that came out of it surprised us all.  We asked the group, “If you could write about anything, what would it be?” They response revolved around the topics we’re told to ignore: race, sex, and poverty. Each girl had her own anecdote. Everyone spoke. Everyone listened.

The girls were supposed to create two or three minis about the most inspiration women in their lives. Most of the girls wrote about their mothers, grandmothers and friends, others wrote about the things they had on their mind.  By the end of the workshop, we went around the circle again. We shared our minis with each other, and through those small folded pieces of paper, we unveiled stories, each one of them just as unique and beautiful as the individuals in that room. I felt privileged to be a part of that circle. This workshop reminded me that while art might empower, it truly reaches its potential to change things when it brings people together. Art isn’t a solitary thing.  

For more information and contact details for the Oasis for Girls program visit them online;  for tour dates, events, and news, visit The POC Zine Project's website and Facebook page.

 

2013 SF Zine Fest Registration is Open

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We're thrilled to announce that exhibitor registration has opened for the 2013 SF Zine Fest! The show will be Labor Day weekend, August 31st and September 1st at the SF County Fair Building in Golden Gate Park.  

If you are interested in registering as an exhibitor, please visit the Registration page. There you will find further instructions for submitting your registration form and paying your registration fees.

We encourage all exhibitors to register early! A few reasons why include….

1. After July 9th, 2013 the price for tables goes up for late registrants

2. Exhibitor registration closes on August 1st, 2013. 

3. Any special requests will be honored (if possible) in the order received.  So if you need any special arrangements (e.g. power outlets, desire to be near/far from a wall, etc.) it’s a smart move to let us know ahead of time.

Once we receive your application and payment you will receive a confirmation message.

Thank you all for your interest. Keep checking our website for updates about the show, and great info on the zine + DIY community. See ya at the fest!

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
work.

 

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: http://lazinefest.com/tag/lazf/