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Support Local: Zine rack birthday bash at Pressed

By Joseph Hutt on October 13, 2015


One of the events on course for this month of Support Local is the third birthday celebration of the Pressed zine rack!

On top of zine readings from special guests and local writers, the zine swap is another of the evening’s festivities to look forward to. Zine enthusiasts are encouraged to dust off old favorites from their collection, or even copies of their own zine, for this social exchange.

And what kind of birthday doesn’t have cake? It just so happens that you can expect a special vegan birthday cake from Strawberry Blonde bakery!

The bash takes place at Pressed on Oct. 20, and goes from 7-9pm. So be sure to clear your calendar!

Lee Pepper, founder of the Pressed zine rack and lead organizer for this upcoming event, has taken the time to answer a few questions about the zine rack’s formative years and to give us a taste of what to expect at this celebratory event.

Apt 613: How did the Pressed zine rack come about? What was the initial intent behind it?

The zine rack at Pressed was inspired by a similar zine rack in Montréal, run by Jeff Miller, who is originally from Ottawa, and writes the wonderful zine Ghost Pine, at a cafe and corner store called Dépanneur Le Pick Up. I had been visiting that zine rack and was complaining to a friend about how there was nothing similar in Ottawa. My friend asked why I didn’t start one myself. While people complain about Ottawa being boring, or not having the same kinds of cool stuff as other cities, it’s really easy to get things started here: people are generally very eager and receptive to support new events or projects. Jeff Stewart, who runs Pressed, has been great in allowing me to host the zine rack and handling all the sales.

What kind of an impact has it made on local zine culture?

My hope is that the zine rack has helped people find fun, informative, empowering, and accessible writing that either speaks to their experiences, or gives them a chance to hear stories they wouldn’t have heard elsewhere.

I was also asked by the folks who run the Gabba Hey! store at Capital Rehearsal Studios to run a zine rack there, which I’ve been doing since February 2014. This fall, I also started a zine rack at Cafe Alt on the uOttawa campus. So I’m doing my part to advance the zine agenda in Ottawa.  I’ve sold about 2,000 zines so far through the various zine racks, which is wild! I run it as a mildly money-losing venture, but I’m just happy to help get cool stuff into people’s hands.

What (and/or who) has helped to keep zine rack going for this long?

I wouldn’t still be doing it if I wasn’t constantly finding out about zines that I’m really excited about and want to share with people.  People keep buying lots of zines, so it seems to be something that resonates, which is nice. When I started it I had no idea if it’d be something anyone other than me was interested in.

Ottawa has an amazing community of zine writers, and I feel very fortunate to have gotten to know so many rad and talented people through running the zine rack!  One zine I am especially excited about lately is Babely Shades, which is a new compilation zine by women and queers of colour in Ottawa. Another local writer whose zines I’m proud to distro is Isz Janeway, who writes and illustrates the zine Gay Losers [very NSFW], which is short stories about queer and trans characters dealing with trauma, intimacy, sex, families, and general life stuff.

Zine RackHow has the content/the zines evolved and developed over the years?

The thing that is most important to me about zines is that they offer a space for marginalized writers to tell their stories and build community. If you’re a person of colour, and/or queer, and/or trans, and/or disabled, or facing other types of oppression, it’s a lot harder to access work that tells stories you can see yourself in or offers resources on how to survive in a world that’s often hostile to your existence. I’m also always trying to do better at representation: for instance, doing a better job at stocking lots of zines by writers of colour and First Nations writers, for instance, so that I have zines that as many people as possible can see themselves reflected in.

I also always want to prioritize supporting local writers. When the zine rack started, I only knew a handful of people in this city who made zines, and running the zine rack has been a great way for me to get to know lots more zine-making-folks here, so I’m very pleased that I stock a lot more local content now than I did when the zine rack first started.

What are some of the highlights we can expect from this 3rd birthday bash?

The writers who are reading are all awesome!  You can see more information about them on the Facebook event page, but they are all writers I’m really excited about. For example, Layla Brown, who is one of the readers, is doing her first-ever zine reading at the event. I was surprised to learn that, because she’s an awesome writer, and with her website, is an important cultural force in Ottawa. I’m really glad and honoured she’s reading at the event.

The idea to have a birthday party came from being kind of astounded when I realized this summer that I’d been doing this for three years, and grateful that people buy zines and come out to readings and support self-published writers, so I wanted to do something fun to thank people. In addition to the readings, I’ve commissioned a vegan birthday cake from Strawberry Blonde bakery, so there will be free cake, which is exciting.  I’m also inviting people to bring old zines from their collection, or copies of their zine, to trade with others.  So people will be able to pick up some free zines at this event, so it would be great for anyone who is curious about zines, as well as people who are already zine lovers.

Three years young. What is in zine rack’s future?

Yikes, I don’t have any particular grand schemes afoot, nor do I have any plans of stopping as long as I’m living in Ottawa and it’s still something I’m excited about. Many of the people I love & respect most in Ottawa are folks I have met by distro-ing their zines through the zine rack, so my hope is to keep finding out about lots of awesome people doing important work in this city and be able to support them financially and help them get a little more exposure.

Zine Rack Turns 3! is happening on Tuesday, October 20 at Pressed Cafe (750 Gladstone) from 7 – 9 pm.  No cover. Free cake.