On Tuesday, September 20, comics journalist Sarah “Shay” Mirk led a journalism workshop in the Zine library in Millstein, Barnard College. She was introduced by the director of the Barnard Zine Library, Jenna Freedman. 

What are zines? For Sarah “Shay” Mirk, making and creating zines is a lifestyle. Mirk claims that creating, sharing, and reading zines helps us acknowledge joy, sorrow, sacrifice, and cruelty as well as our stress. 

Zines are ways to spread our power and agenda!

Zines put our feelings and ideas out into the world!

 Zines let us follow our curiosity!

During the “Creating DIY Journalism with Zines and Comics” Workshop, Mirk elaborated on these ideas and taught us what zines are, what they are used for, where we can find them, and how to make our own.

Mirk has worked as a reporter at sibling biweekly newspapers The Stranger and The Portland Mercury. The Portland Mercury and The Stranger are located in Seattle and Oregon respectively, but both work with politics and different forms of art and media (including cartoons). Mirk also worked at Bitch, a magazine that had its last issue this April. Bitch was advertised as a “feminist response to pop culture” and similarly covered a range of topics that included politics, artwork, and other forms of media. Here, Mirk worked as an online editor and podcast host while making comics on the side. Although Mirk enjoyed these experiences as a reporter, news editor, and more, Mirk described feeling as if they were “writing for an audience that already agreed with me.” 

After leaving Bitch, Mirk decided to branch out into another field where they could reach different kinds of people. Through zines, Mirk continues to share insight on politics, gender, sexuality, and everything in between. What started as a passion project for Mirk is now a central aspect of her life and career. “Zines are independently made multi-page works published for passion, not profit,” Mirk explained. Mirk currently works as a writer, editor, and comic artist. She also leads workshops that inspire others to use, share, and create zines.

Zines help us give our perspective on a variety of topics and issues. Mirk described what zines allow us to share with four words that all start with the same letter: Collaboration, Community, Curiosity, and Cultural Change. “I make zines to engage in the world, as a form of activism,” Mirk says.

Early zines in the US started in the ‘30s and were created by science fiction fans. Before the rise of the internet, fan-fiction, and ao3 (a site that is home to most fan-fiction written today), science fiction fans shared and created zines for their fandoms. Over time, zines became a form of media that could be used to touch on a variety of topics as complex as the different kinds of fingerprints or as simple as things that are difficult to draw. Mirk explained that by using a creative commons license, people are free to print, share, and photocopy their zines so that they can reach a variety of people all over the world. Through zines, Mirk explores her journey with gender, queerness, political issues, and current events. “Zines are political. Self-publishing is always political! You’re adding your voice to cultural conversations and sharing something that’s important to you. You’re creating your own narrative and sharing that with the world. If the media doesn’t represent you… make your own media!” Mirk said.

Luckily, our very own Milstein Library is home to one of the best zine libraries in the US. You can buy, publish, and browse zines without stepping off campus. Another great zine library in the city worth checking out is Printed Matter at Chelsea Market. Many zines are also found online and then later printed and distributed. You can check out a variety of talented zine authors right from your mobile device.

After hearing so much about zines, you may be tempted to create your own. Here at Bwog, we have some instructions and inspiration from Mirk herself to help make your very own one-page zine. Mirk gave a guide prompt and layout for the zines we created at the workshop. Feel free to try something similar at home.

Prompt: A significant item of clothing

Cover: Draw the piece of clothing and pick a title for your zine

Page 1: What was the item of clothing?

Page 2: How did you acquire this item?

Page 3: How did you feel when you wore it?

Page 4: What was something unique about it?

Page 5: How did this fit into your style or your general sense of self?

Page 6: What do you think about the item of clothing now?

Back Cover: Would you wear the same thing now?

I found it helpful to plan the basic layout of the pages before I drew them. I included some of my brainstorming for reference.

And that’s it! It’s that easy! There is a lot more you could try, such as finding more stickers, tracing your work, and coloring it in (preferably NOT with just pink and blue highlighters but you do you). Suppose you are struggling with making your zine or just want to bounce some ideas off someone just as passionate about them. In that case, you are free to visit our zine library in Millstein and book an appointment with our awesome librarian and zine specialist on campus, Jenna Freedman. 

If you’re interested in reading some zine collections, Mirk has recommended some you may be interested in; Queer Zine Archive Project, Because the Boss Belongs to Us: Queer Femmes on Bruce Springsteen, POC Zine Project, Black Women Matter, Indigenous Action, and The Small Science Collective

Some zines you can check out that belong to these collections include Queer Love Stories, 500+ years of Indigenous Resistance, Colonization and Decolonization: A Manual for Indigenous Liberation in the 21st Century, and Defend the territory!: tactics and techniques for countering police assaults on Indigenous communities.

You can also check out Mirk’s website, Patreon, and graphic novel Guantanamo Voices.

Mirk also sported a bolo tie made up of colored pencils to the workshops. Perhaps Mirk’s next workshop should also include how to make our very own rainbow pencil Bolo ties. Mirk, if you see this, please share your secrets.

Zines via Bwog Archives

All Bold Beautiful Zine Production Photos via Viviana Pereyo