It’s almost impossible to pinpoint exactly when zines began. Some might even go back as far as Thomas Paine’s revolutionary call to action, “Common Sense.” For most, zines represent the punk years — a pre-World Wide Web, DIY era, when fringe-dwelling scribes still trafficked their ideas in print. In recent years, the self-published periodicals have been acquired through online mail order, the odd record store or music show, or stumbled upon at festivals and bookstores in big cities — how Tampa resident Philip Bloom enjoyed them.
The 36-year-old librarian and Free Skool organizer hadn’t written a zine but was a “fan of the art form,” purchasing them at out-of-town shops like Chicago’s Quimby’s. That is, until he went to Olympia, Wash., for a job interview three years ago. The facility had a zine library housed within, and like Bugs Bunny in that aisle of giant carrots, he was awestruck, immersing himself in DIY literature for hours. It was a life-changing experience that inspired to Bloom write his own humor and perzines (zines with personal stories) and to join forces with others to make zines more widely available — zinemaking compatriots who have helped Bloom coordinate the first-ever Tampa Zine Fest, taking place at the Roosevelt 2.0 this Saturday at 7 p.m.
Around 30 zine creators will hawk their lit as special mini-events take place throughout the night. At 7:30 p.m. Mitzi Gordon, owner of the Bluebird Books Bus, will lead the Zining 101 workshop. At 8 p.m. attendees can learn about blockprinting with Stephanie Hurst, owner of Chirping Bird Press. Readings take place at 8:30-9 p.m., followed by a prize drawing and live music from Cats In the Basement and Y Los Dos Pistoles — whose frontmwoman, Shae Krispinsky, is one of Tampa Zine Fest’s main organizers. The CL contributor, musician and zinemaker is working with Bloom and Cole Bellamy, a creative writing instructor at St. Leo’s University, Tampa Free Skool organizer and author of the recently published book of poetry, American Museum; Amanda B. Reckonedwith, organizer of Tampa Free Skool’s Feminist Film Club, and Morgan Abdallah, proprietor of Tampa Upcycle.
The group received support from across the bay too — a refreshing revelation for cynics used to a lack of cooperation between Tampa and St. Pete enclaves. Last week Rosey Williams, owner of Ramblin’ Rose Upcycle put on an exchange at Star Booty, encouraging local artists to produce zines for the first time. The “sort-of a kickoff” to this week’s Tampa fest distributed fliers and gathered items for a “basket of St. Pete zines,” with content as wide-ranging as chickens, canning, art, silk screen and letterpress. Kelly Steele, coordinator of the St. Pete Zine Fest — a success last year at the Venture Compound — helped out in an advisory capacity, showing Bloom “how simple it was to get this together.” With Steele’s tips on online promotion, Tampa Zine Fest has become one of the most effective word-of-mouth events to be presented locally.
“Zines offer a sense of community,” Bloom explains. “When you pick up a zine at Tampa Zine Fest, you’ll be meeting the artists that made them, people that may have handprinted the cover with a linoleum cut, or bound their zine with twine. They also offer an ease of access and a chance to get involved; several of the people tabling at Tampa Zine Fest have never previously produced anything in this format, but used the upcoming fest as an impetus to jump in. I’m anticipating amazing things not only from these artists, but from everyone getting involved in the growing local zine scene.” Collaborative efforts include the second issue of the Tampa Free Skool zine, a collection of essays and notes by instructors who have taught classes with Free Skool, a compilation by Wordier Than Thou, and tomes on radical sex education and the Trayvon Martin tragedy.
Tampa Zine Fest organizers are also starting a public zine library, using Tampa Zine Fest as the jumping off point. Donations are requested to form the basis of the collection, and anyone who wants to contribute will be entered into the raffle Saturday night.
Judging by the fervent enthusiasm around Tampa’s upcoming event, they should be off to a good start. Zines aren’t receding to the dusty shelves of indie shops anytime soon.
“As great as the Internet is, there can be something of a human disconnect in the midst of all the online connection,” Bloom said. “I think zines are appealing for the same reason that vinyl records have made a comeback: They’re tactile, they’re labors of love that you can hold in your hands, and they’re art objects; someone took the time to make the content and assemble it by hand.”