Meet Lily Pepper, a local whose passion for zines (and Apt613!) has led her to launch YOW! a zine about Ottawa in all its glory. Because yes: Ottawa deserves some praise in the form of words, illustrations, comics and other expressions of love on paper.
“People living in Ottawa tend to talk this city down,” says Pepper. “What I want to do with the YOW! zine is to get people talking in different ways about Ottawa, talking about what the city means to them, recounting memories of special Ottawa times, telling about their favourite places in the city, and sharing their reasons for staying here instead of moving to Toronto or Montreal like we’re all always threatening to do. I’d like people to tell me about their friends and their community and things here that they’re jazzed about.”
It’s true. I’m guilty of it. Always threatening to leave for Montreal on account of the art and culture and music.
“I want to help develop a mythology or a sense of romanticism around Ottawa. Ottawa is seen as a prosaic, businesslike city, rarely as someplace dreamy and subtle and fun and weird, though it is definitely all of those things as well!” Even though she’s only been living in the city for the last five years, she sees Ottawa with eyes that inspire.
Could it be that Ottawa has everything Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver have to offer, but on a different scale, with a unique flavour, with a sense of authenticity that’s easy to overlook?
I’m willing to trust Pepper’s point-of-view that Ottawa’s beauty is somewhat overlooked. Could it be that because of its unpretentious, quiet nature, some cool events like zine launches get overlooked? Or is the fact that I’m labelling Ottawa as “unpretentious and quiet” the very label Pepper is trying to challenge?
As something of a zine connoisseur, I think Pepper’s perspective on the issue is uplifting. “Zine culture in Ottawa is flourishing! There’s a wonderful event that runs a couple of times a year, the Ottawa Zine-Off, which is run by Maxx Critical, who writes a zine called The Reverse Cougar Years, and JM Francheteau, who writes a zine called Nightshift. There are tons of great local writers making zines, like Alanna Why, who writes a zine called Finale 95 about her experiences growing up in Orleans and starting in the journalism program at Carleton.”
If you want to pick up some copies of the works cited above, Pepper runs the zine racks at Pressed Café and Gabba Hey. Zines have been a part of her life since childhood. Growing up in the Ottawa Valley, it was her connection to urban life.
She says, “When I was in grade school, my punk older sister made a zine that helped her connect with people outside of the rural area where we lived, and I sometimes contributed illustrations. I thought it was really awesome that she was part of a community that connected people worldwide through these cool objects. Through her, I learned about classic zines like Cometbus and Doris.”
In zine culture, being an amateur is the point. Anyone form anywhere can do it. That’s what makes it such a democratic medium: its accessibility. As Pepper explains, “The aesthetic of zines values imperfection and looks askance at professionalism. Effort, sincerity, and earnestness are valued, and nobody acts too cool for school.”
Everyone is welcome to submit to YOW! The zine will come out sometime in autumn. As for the submission guidelines, Pepper is open-minded: “I’m looking for writing, particularly personal non-fiction prose, but I’m open to other types of writing as well, and art or comics about Ottawa.”
Submit by email to email@example.com by the end of the summer. Check out her blog, Zine Reviews, for some inspiration.