Creator Q+A | False Start

Throughout the month leading up the the SFZF we will be running daily mini-profiles of some of the many zinesters, cartoonists, and other creative types who make the Zine Fest what it is. Today's creator is Meredith Wallace of False Start Independent Books & Zines. Stay tuned for more!

Q. What inspired you to get into small-press/DIY publishing?
A. My love affair with zines began about 10 years ago, when I was 12 years old. I was a total internet dork and would spend hours looking at websites made by girls my age and reading the message boards they would write on. Through those message boards I found out about Bikini Kill, feminism and zines. Reading zines quickly became an obsession and shortly after discovering them, I jumped right in and started my own zine distro, named Supernova, that I ran until I left for college. There was something so immediate and honest about these perzines I was reading. As an incredibly shy and anxious teenager, it was freeing to read the words of young women just like myself, women who were able to write down the words I couldn't speak. Zines were incredibly life-changing for me.

Q. When did you create your first zine or similar project? Can you describe it for us? When you look back, are you proud, embarrassed, both?
A. I made my very first zine when I was 12, and it was absolutely ridiculous! It was your average hideous cut and paste zine filled with rants, lists, and pictures of the Smashing Pumpkins. Luckily I was only 12, so I have age as an excuse. My first really serious zines were done when I was 16 and 17 and are short fiction/memoir. Looking back on them, some pieces are pretty cringe-worthy, but I'm actually surprised that they really aren't all that bad. I'm surprised that I had such a strong style and voice as a writer at such a young age. I'm also proud of having the balls to just go for it and self-publish as a teenager. I've been sitting on what I know is a great piece of writing for a year now, just because I'm too nervous to publish it. I'm working on getting back that teenage fearlessness.

Q. What is your all-time favorite zine/comic/etc (by someone other than you)? Who is your DIY hero?
A. This is such a hard question! Brainscan by Alex Wrekk is a classic, and she is someone I completely look up to for her DIY spirit and work ethic. She's a pretty amazing person. Truckface, by LB, is another long-time favorite of mine. There's something really beautiful about her writing. It's emotional, honest, smart, always makes me laugh and sometimes wanna cry. That's a rare combination. As for recent discoveries, I'm obsessed with Manderz Totally Top Private Diary. I could read each issue a million times and still never get bored of it.

Q. If you have been to the SF Zine Fest before, do you have a favorite/exciting/cringe-worthy memory?
A. No, I haven't! Which is insane considering I grew up in the Bay Area. I use the fact that I grew up in Marin County, the land of Volvo station wagons and soccer moms, as an excuse though. Without a license it's tough to get to San Francisco, and after going to Ladyfest with my mom when I was 13, she wasn't too keen on me going to any sort of 'fests' again for awhile. I think all the butch dykes did her in. It only made me love San Francisco even more.

Q. What would you like to see more of in the small-press world?
A. This is a tough question. I would like to see more short fiction, but mostly because that's what I write and it seems to be underrepresented. And I'd love more diary comics,for no good reason other than that I'm totally obsessed. Shotgun Seamstress, a zine by and for feminist, queer black punks, is also really amazing and probably the only one of it's kind. So more zines like that, please!

Q. If you could give advice to an aspiring DIY creator, what would it be? What advice do you wish you had gotten when you were starting out?
A. Stick with it! Don't get discouraged if people aren't into your project at first, but don't be too lazy about it either. Doing it yourself really is hard work, which is why most people get others to do it for them instead!! My main problem has always been staying motivated and on top of things. It's hard when you're juggling your day job, social obligations, remembering to feed yourself, etc., but if it truly is your passion, you'll make it work. That's just the way things go.

Q. What do you think the general public knows or thinks about small-press? How can the zine/comics community reach a greater segment of the public? Or is it better to keep the small-press scene more tightly knit?
A. When I'm tabling at an event I love nothing more than when someone who is completely new to zines picks one up, is totally blown away and starts asking me questions about it. I feel like the zine world can be a little intimidating if you've had no experience being a part of a subculture or a creative community before. I'd love it if zines were more accessible to people who don't venture into independent bookstores, or look online for distros. I feel like zines are kind of like a gateway drug to so many possibilities -- learning about alternative living, activism, feminism, anti-racism, sexuality, mental health. You get to read the stories that never get told. I would love it if somehow we could figure out a way to get zines into the hands of people that aren't out there looking for them already.

Q. What are you working on now? What are you gonna do next?
A. Right now I'm organizing the return of super*MARKET at Meltdown Comics, a little comics fest they put on a few years back. I'm making it a little more zine-oriented this time around, and am getting some really amazing bands to play (some members of which are writers, distro owners, or zinesters themselves). I'm really excited for it, but also beyond nervous! If you're in Los Angeles on August 14th get your ass down to Meltdown from 2-7 PM! Aside from that, I might be collaborating on publishing an anthology of one of my favorite zines. It's still in the works though and isn't a sure deal yet, but I'm hoping publishing will be False Start's next big thing!