Zines by Alanna Why

Alanna Why is a 17-year-old from Ottawa, Canada. She makes the zines “Puker Nation”, “Backwaves” (about Richard Simmons, and “Scoopin’ Times.” Check out some excerpts of her zines below! (Also check out her articles on zine history and how to make a zine!)

Check out Alanna’s tumblr.


Interview: Supercute!

By Sophie Rae

Supercute! is a band from Brooklyn, NY composed of members Rachel Trachtenburg, Julia Cumming, Olivia Ferrer, and Jacqueline Russo. Supercute! started in 2009 and have since released an EP and toured twice with singer-songwriter Kate Nash. I’ve had the honor of playing tons of shows with Supercute! over the past few years and was so excited to meet Rachel and Julia for milkshakes a few weeks ago to ask them some questions.

How did you meet and start playing together?
Julia: My dad used to play bass for Rachel’s dad so we used to hang out when we were younger. Then when Rachel was fifteen, she asked me if I wanted to play in a band with her. So I asked my friend June if she wanted to join and we all started playing music together. And it’s been like that since 2009!

How would you describe your music?
Rachel: We call it psychedelic-indie-bubblegum.

You have such a unique sound. What are your influences?
Rachel: Julia and I are both very influenced by our parents’ tastes, we both grew up with a lot of classic rock, psychedelic, and glam. So we’re definitely inspired by stuff from the past. But we’re also really influenced by things that are happening in New York with local artists.
Julia: I think we’ve really stuck with the original idea of the band while letting it grow, too. Like, we’ve kept the ukuleles, but turned them into a more respected instrument and tool for songwriting. All of that adds to the sound we’ve created.

What is the response generally like to your music?
Julia: It really depends, it’s very mixed.
Rachel: Yeah, like we have super fans and then people who think we’re a joke.

Are there any trends you’ve noticed?
Julia: Well it can be a lot of…
Rachel: Don’t say 50 year old men.
Julia: Yeah, I was going to say creepy old dudes (laughing).
Rachel: It has a wide range, from 2 year olds to like, 80 year olds. But mostly I think it’s stoned out college kids, those are the real fans.
Julia: Yeah, cause they can kind of get into the weirdness and understand all the different levels.
Rachel: And they get the dorkiness.

What’s been your favorite experience as a band?
Rachel: I think the Kate Nash tour was my favorite. We toured twelve countries in Europe with her on a double-decker tour bus. That was a total dream. We played for anywhere from 500 to 3000 people.
Julia: Whenever we get articles that’s really great too, cause you know you’re reaching a lot of cool people.
Rachel: Yeah, we’ve had big features in Bust, Nylon, and the Times, and those are really exciting.
Julia: But every show is really just great. We’ve played a lot of different kinds of shows. For a while we were in the comedy circuit, when we were writing more theatrical songs. We became friends with Jeff Garlin and some really cool comedians that were doing shows here.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a band?
Rachel: Being in a band (laughs). You know, being in a band as a teenage girl can be tough sometimes.
Julia: Yeah. When June left the band, that was really hard. There were just so many layers of confusion and sadness. But Rachel and I really pulled it together to stick with our dreams for the band. But it was hard, losing a friend like that, who we haven’t been able to stay in touch with. And also just balancing life can be hard. But we get better at that as time goes on.
Rachel: We’ve had some big bumps in the road but I think that’s a struggle that every band goes through where you just become like a family. You know, you’re pursuing creative career paths and growing different ways but you’re still best friends. You get so emotionally invested.
Julia: It’s like, the love is unconditional, but you have to keep figuring out how to grow and work with it.

You said before that it’s hard to be a teenage girl in a band, why is that?
Rachel: Well, it’s just hard to be a teenage girl. (laughs).
Julia: That’s how I felt when I saw the teenage girls in the Olympics and they have all these cameras in their faces and every moment is on them and it’s just hard enough to be 17 and then to be in front of the whole world… to make yourself an object of ridicule…
Rachel: Or like when you write a song and by the time it comes out you’re so beyond that. Like our song, “Not to Write About Boys”– songs that we put so much love into but then you hear it a few months later and you’re just like, “ew”.
Julia: It’s like, everyone says that kids should stop being so lazy and then you put something out there and get ridiculed for it. But at the same time you know you’re doing something really special and cool.
Rachel: Yeah, it always pays off once you’re onstage. All the booking shows and dealing with all that stuff, being on stage makes everything worth it.

Why don’t you like your song “Not To Write About Boys” anymore?
Rachel: I wish that song had never been written.
Julia: It got us a lot of things, put us on the map in a lot of different ways. And I guess it’s not a bad song…
Rachel: It captures that moment.
Julia: Yeah, that’s what’s important. It’s just about realizing like, this is what was going on then and now that’s not going on anymore, and that’s ok. Making peace with your silliness.

What are the goals of your band?
Rachel: To be touring a lot. Just to travel and see the world and show our art to people, that’s the goal. But there’s school and there’s parents, there are things that hold us back in certain ways. We just want to grow as artists and develop a fan base that’ll stick with us as individuals as we move forward.
Julia: To be able to make cool art together and live a cool life of doing amazing things for yourself and for the world.

Would you identify your band as feminist?
Rachel: That’s a very complicated question.
Julia: We consider ourselves a politically active band and we think about a lot of different causes.
Rachel: We want every song to have a deeper message, whether it’s about society or animal rights. Feminism is definitely something we think about a lot which comes up a lot for us.

It’s something I’ve thought a lot about for myself, whether to identify as a feminist musician or not, or if that takes away from what you’re doing in a certain way.
Rachel: Yeah, like I say that we’re a teen girl band every day, but does that detract from it? It shouldn’t matter.
Julia: Just by being a chick and putting yourself out there, people are going to expect certain things of you. It’s like, either you’re a feminist musician or you’re not. But it’s not just black and white.
Rachel: But we have played some really cool shows with feminist organizations, like Permanent Wave, and every time we get involved it’s really amazing and inspiring.

What are you guys working on right now?
Julia: Well, we recorded our first album last October, so a long time ago. We’ve been working on mixing it and getting it done as soon as possible, which has been delayed by a film project we’re working on.
Rachel: We’re also working on writing for our second album, which we’ll hopefully be working on with Stevie Moore whose like this low-fi veteran god. We’re huge fans.

Do you have any advice for young musicians?
Rachel: Just do it, and don’t look back. One of my favorite quotes is, “It’s better to be a has been than to be a never was.” So you just have to do it and have fun and know that it’s what you want to do.
Julia: Don’t apologize for it, or regret anything that’s made you the way that you are. Just take it, and make great art out of it.

Interview: Tavi Gevinson

By Sophie Rae

Tavi is a fashion blogger (Style Rookie) and the founder and editor-in-chief of Rookie Magazine, an online magazine for teenage girls. She is also the editor of “Rookie Yearbook One,” the recently released print edition of Rookie Magazine, available here .

How did you first become interested in fashion and blogging?
My friend’s sister had a fashion blog and I admired her confidence and was bored of the stuff I liked and how I dressed, so she showed me links and magazines and I wanted to be a part of that community!

When did you become aware that your blog was successful? What did that feel like?
It was pretty scary at first, since in the beginning it kind of only existed in this vacuum of other people who were doing the same thing I did, and I wasn’t prepared to hear from people who didn’t understand it. In a way I still keep myself in that vacuum, though I read Rookie feedback since Rookie is not about me doing my own thing but about giving the readers what they want to see.

Why did you decide to start Rookie? How is Rookie different from your blog?
I started Rookie because I was becoming a teenager and I felt like there wasn’t anything happening right now that I related to, and I felt like the things that are are pretty static instead of a real conversation, and I knew from the comments when I wrote about this on my blog that other people felt the same way. My blog has always been a place for me to figure stuff out at my own pace, write about whatever intrigues me and just chronicle my changing interests. Rookie is different because it’s not only also about our staff, but also about our community and readers, and serves a purpose beyond my own bubble of interests.

Have your thoughts on fashion changed since you first started blogging?
My thoughts on fashion and style change pretty often, and blogging was a really nice way to document all that. I know that I’ve always believed fashion should be fun and a tool of self-expression and self-love instead of a stressor.

What’s been the greatest challenge of your career so far?
Balancing everything is still a challenge, but it’s worth it.

What’s been your favorite experience?
I can’t decide! I really cherished the L.A. leg of our Rookie Road Trip, making an installation that was just our dream world and sharing it for a week.

What was the Rookie road trip like?
Sensory overload the whole time. It was really special to meet so many of our readers and get to have a really amazing road trip experience with friends at the same time.

How did the Rookie yearbook come about? For those that haven’t seen it, what is it?
The Rookie Yearbook is a print version of the best of our content from our first school year in existence, from September 2011-May 2012. I always had it in the back of my head that I wanted to do a print component to Rookie, and since we’re for teens, yearbook-style made sense. One of our editors is friends with Chris Ware, and he put us in touch with Drawn & Quarterly, who became our publisher. We spent May-July compiling, editing, and designing the content. I narrowed down the content along with our editorial director Anaheed, commissioned original works from Rookie friends, and acted as art director.

What are your top 3 things right now? Books, movies, music, fashion stuff, whatever!
Solange’s new music video for “Losing You,” Chris Ware’s new book “Building Stories”, and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”

What’s next for you? What are you working on right now?
Right now we’ve been doing events to promote the yearbook and bring all our readers and staff together in New York and Chicago. Toronto and L.A. are coming up.

Women at the Western Wall

By Sophie Rae

This summer, I spent 5 weeks in Israel with the Bronfman Youth Fellowship, studying and traveling with 25 other Jewish American teenagers. I learned about many aspects of Judaism and Israeli society and politics, from Jewish philosophy to the African refugees in South Tel Aviv. One topic that was especially interesting to me was the issue of gender inequality in Israel, an issue that pervades many aspects of Israeli society and takes many different forms. While Israel is primarily a secular country, Jewish practice is overseen by the Ministry of Religious Services, which is currently controlled by Ultra-Orthodox (also called Haredim), rabbis. The fast-growing Haredi population makes up approximately 10% of Jews in Israel and typically do not accept the more progressive forms of Judaism that are more common in America, like Reform and Conservative Judaism.

I first became aware of gender inequality in Israel when we visited the Western Wall (Kotel) in the Old City of Jerusalem—the last remnant of the 2nd Temple. Arguably the most sacred Jewish site in the world, the Wall has been a site for Jewish prayer and pilgrimage for centuries. Today, the Wall is controlled by the Ultra-Orthodox.

Since 1967, there have been two sections, one for women and one for men. It is common practice in Orthodox places of prayer to have separate sections for women and men with a divider called a mehitza. But at the Wall, unlike at many more progressive Orthodox prayer sites, the women’s section is significantly smaller than the men’s section. While men praying at the Wall have plenty of room on either side of them, many women have to wait about five minutes to find a space at the Wall. When I asked a Haredi rabbi why the women’s side was smaller, he said it was because women go to the Wall less. But from the picture below and from my experience there, it was fairly obvious that there were just as many women as men there, maybe more.

Perhaps more problematic than the size of the women’s section, are the restrictions placed on women praying at the Wall. Reflecting Orthodox practice (which legally dictates what is permitted at the Wall) women are neither allowed to read from Torah, nor are they allowed to wear a prayer shawl (talit). They are also not allowed to pray aloud as a group (though the police have never arrested them for this). Unfortunately, these limitations do not acknowledge that many Jewish women who come to pray at the Wall come from other Jewish traditions in which women reading Torah or wearing prayer shawls is accepted. An organization called Women of the Wall, which began in 1989, is working to make the Wall more egalitarian by, according to their mission statement, “achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall.” The organization holds monthly prayer services on the women’s side at the Wall; unfortunately, these women often incur very negative and threatening reactions from others at the Wall. When I went with my group to a Women of the Wall service, for example, a man shouted over the mehitza that the women praying in the service were worse than the Amalekites, a biblical enemy of the Jews– that they were the people that Jews were obligated to kill.

The threat that these women face is not limited to angry voices from other side of the fence; often, women who take part in these prayer services are arrested for wearing prayer shawls or singing too loudly. According to Vanessa Ochs, one of the directors of the International Committee for Women of the Wall, “The police are there to keep the women safe by keeping an eye on those who choose to cry out hatefully as the women pray. But the police are also the ones who decide if and when the women will be harassed and arrested.”

Just two weeks ago, four women were arrested at the Wall for wearing prayer shawls at a Women of the Wall service. Having attended a Women of the Wall service myself, I was very troubled by this news. The women who pray at the Wall are not disrupting anyone—standing at the back of the women’s section of the Wall, they sing quietly and respectfully, their voices drowned out by the singing of the men on the other side. They take their prayer shawls off when the police ask them to. They no longer read from the Torah. All they are doing is what is asked of them by their religion: to pray. The Wall is considered to be the holiest site for Jews and is thought of as a place to connect to the history of the Jewish people and to God. But in this place, women are silenced. As I stood at the Wall, watching a woman tie her talit into a scarf at a policeman’s request, I wondered how a place so unequal could ever be truly holy. How a person could ever really feel the presence of God in a place that discriminates against half the people in the world. Now, back at home in Brooklyn, I still don’t have an answer.

Zines: A History Lesson

By Alanna Why

Now that you are a bona fide zinester, let’s take a look at how zines originally started and developed. Fanzines are most commonly thought to have started in the 1930s with an early emphasis on science fiction. What most people generally recognize as the first zine, The Comet, was quickly followed by other publications devoted to similar material such as Time Traveler and Science Fiction. Zines like Scienti-Comics, a twenty page science fiction comic, followed in the 1940s, while underground newspapers like New York City’s Rat and Vancouver’s The Georgia Straight rose to popularity at the height of 1960s counterculture. Zines, however, really exploded during punk’s initial blast at the end of the 1970s. The punk aesthetic and ethos was crucial to the development of zines. Inspired by punk’s DIY philosophy, many realized that if they had something to say they could just write it down, photocopy it, and get their message out there. Some influential punk zines include the UK’s Sniffin’ Glue, Michigan’s Touch & Go, Los Angeles’ Slash and San Francisco’s Maxiumumrocknroll, which continues to be published today (they are currently at issue #352, an impressive feat considering most fanzines stop after issue #1!)

In the 1980s something new developed in the world of indie publishing: zines that were devoted
solely to reviewing other zines. Factsheet Five was one of the pioneers in terms of review zines and proved to be a great resource for zinesters in an age where the internet was just a dream (there are still several zines like this today, check out Zine World or Xerography Debt). Throughout the decade,
zines were given away for free, to friends, traded with fellow zinesters and pen-pals through the mail or sold at independent shops. Zines exploded for a second time in conjunction with the greatest by-product of the 90s: Riot Grrrl. Riot Grrrl gave women a voice for their frustration, confusion and alienation in the male-dominated landscape of the zine and punk rock worlds. Several prominent women of the Riot Grrrl era made zines, including Toby Vail (Jigsaw), Allison Wolfe and Molly Neuman (Girl Germs) and Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill, April Fools Day). Moreover, major contemporary feminist publications like Bust and Bitch originally both started out in zine form during the 1990s.

Zines, however, have seen a decline with the rise of the internet. For most people, it simply isn’t
worth it to spend hours handwriting, photocopying, stapling and folding a zine that might only reach thirty people when they can simply blog about it for free to a potential audience of millions. Moreover, trading zines with pen-pals has virtually become non-existent due to the death of the mail system and letters as a whole.

But not all hope is lost! The zine community still continues to thrive in the modern world, just in a
different way. There are still zine fairs, zine libraries and zinesters all around the world continuing to
contribute to indie culture. For example, Canzine, the largest zine event in Canada, features over 200
zine makers and countless workshops at its celebration of independent publishing each year.
Moreover, The New York State Library has a collection of over 10,000 zines. And lastly, We Make Zines, an online forum for zinesters, is a good example of how the internet can help the zine community. So keep calm everyone, support indie culture and read zines. Whether it’s the latest issue of Doris or a copy of Kurt Cobain Was Lactose Intolerant, there really is a zine for each and everyone.

Alanna is 17 years old and lives in Ottawa, Canada. She makes the zines “Puker Nation”, “Backwaves” and “Scoopin’ Times”.

How To Make a Zine

By Alanna Why

Ever walk into a record store and find a bizarre pamphlet with collages, crazy anecdotes or insane comics? Congratulations! You found a zine (pronounced “zeen”).  Zines are usually photocopied mini-magazines or booklets made by whoever wants to make one. They tend to be either autobiographical in nature or devoted to some sort of passionate fandom.

Anyone with a pen, photocopier access and a little imagination can make a zine, including you. LET’S GET STARTED!

PART #1: Content

Now that you’ve decided to make a zine you need to decide what to write about. Is there a particular local band you admire? Call them up and interview them! Do you absolutely love the movie Ghost World? Write about it! Do you like to draw? Do some doodles and make a comic! With zines, the only limits are the ones you put on yourself. Write about absolutely anything and everything you want to. It doesn’t matter if it’s a little bit out there, in fact it’s probably better. Go ahead and express yourself.

PART #2: Format

You’ve got content; now you need to put it all together. Formatting is critical for zines and there are a lot of different ways to do them.  You can make a mini-zine, a quarter-size zine or even a zine without staples (see video below). Whatever size you choose to go with, make sure you leave wide-enough margins around each page. This makes sure that none of your content gets cut off by the photocopier (I had to learn this the hard way when I first started to make zines). You also need to decide some other crucial details. Do you want to type your text out on a computer or do you have an old working typewriter up in your attic that you could use? Another way of doing text is to hand write it. This adds a nice personal touch to your work. Whichever way you decide to write out your text make sure it’s legible! There’s no point in spending a lot of time writing great content if no one can read it. Also note what photocopies well and what doesn’t. Pencil marks and highlighters do not photocopy well, but india ink, markers and fine-tip pens all do. Experiment with different mediums (pastels, crayons, etc.) to find out what works and what you like visually.

PART #3: Making Copies

This is definitely the trickiest part of making zines. Ask around and see if you know anyone that would be able to make some photocopies for you. If not, you’ll have to pay for copies. Find a cheap copy shop, make a couple copies of your zine and go from there. Be nice to the staff. If you’re having problems with the copier (this WILL happen) or are unsure about anything, ask them to help you out. Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know how to make double-sided copies.  It’s always better to ask for help than to fumble around on the photocopier wasting your time and your money. If you’re making a zine that needs to be stapled you’re probably going to need a long-arm stapler (the regular sized ones will be too little). Most copy shops have one and they will most likely let you use it if you ask nicely.

PART #4: Distribution

Yay! You’ve made your own zine! Bask in your creativity and then give them to all of your friends. You can also sell your zine at either a local craft/zine fair or punk flea market. A general rule for pricing goes like this: the amount it takes to photocopy it, either doubled or rounded to the nearest fifty cents. As well, a nice thing to do is to simply leave your zine in public places for people to find. Leave copies at the library, the dentist’s waiting room, a vintage store, a record shop or on the bus. Someone’s day will definitely be better when they read about how much you love Buffy The Vampire Slayer and what your top ten albums of the century are. Now go get started on issue #2!

Additional Resources:

Stolen Sharpie Revolution by Alex Wrekk – This is a great intro to making zines, filled with tons of handy tips for novices and zine pros alike. (http://www.stolensharpierevolution.org/)

Global Mail’s “How To Make A Zine”- An extremely comprehensive (and free) guide to making zines. (http://www.zinebook.com/resource/zinetips.html)

Whatcha Mean, What’s A Zine? by Esther Watson – A solid book filled with handy resources and advice from long-time zinesters. (http://www.amazon.com/Whatcha-Mean-Whats-Esther-Watson/dp/0618563156)

Alanna is 17 years old and lives in Ottawa, Canada. She makes the zines “Puker Nation”, “Backwaves” and “Scoopin’ Times”. 

Interview: Emma Orlow

By Sophie Rae

Emma Orlow is a 17-year-old blogger living in New York City. Her blog is called The Emma Edition. She also writes for other publications, such as Refiner29, BUST Magazine, and the Huffington Post.

How did you become interested in fashion and in fashion journalism?

I’ve always been interested in fashion. My grandmother used to take me to the windows at Macy’s– she went to fashion school– so I think that was always ingrained in me. But in terms of fashion writing, I think I first got into it in 5th grade. That’s the first time I remember loving fashion magazines and actually wanting to turn that love into a career. If you could see my collage walls, they’re filled with my favorite moments from fashion magazines past.

When and why did you start your blog?

I started my blog in middle school. One of my friends had one and she got me into the idea of expressing my ideas and style. I started it February 2009. I did it because my middle school experience was not great, I was not the most popular girl. It was a great way for me to express my love of fashion and my love of New York. I wanted to be able to talk about New York from a teenage perspective.

What is the goal of your blog?

The goal of my blog is to highlight different parts of new york through style, culture, and art. I like to call it a love letter to New York. Ultimately what I want to achieve with my blog is for people to see a different side of New York through it and also a different side of me through it. Feminism is a huge part of it, and so is nostalgia. I love to collect things like old pins and dresses that I get from vintage stores. What I love are not only the places I get things but the stories of the people there. Tying in all my interests through the blog is really cool.

What has the response to blog been like?

One of the greatest parts of being online is that I’ve been able to write for a lot of different outlets, different magazines and websites. I don’t think a teenager would have gotten to do that before the internet. Even more exciting is that I’ve been able to meet people that I’ve met on the internet through twitter or through my blog. A few months ago was the first time that I spent a lot of time with people that I met online. A while ago people would have thought it was creepy that I hung out with people I met online but that’s so indicative of the internet now, that you have all these people that you know have similar interests to you and that you can really connect with them in person.

Can you talk about your new project, the Do Not Enter Diaries?

I started the project with my best friend Emily in January 2012. As a blogger and writer and artist, I spend a lot of time in my bedroom. I collage my walls, I keep different collections and have tons of choker necklaces and art. There are lots of different things that I love about my room, I’ve created this hideout for myself where I can write and do art. I know a lot of my friends have really cool bedrooms too. So Emily came up with this idea of a project called the Do Not Enter Diaries, in which we would highlight teenagers’ rooms through video. And I just thought it was such a good idea because teenagers’ bedrooms especially are so interesting because it’s the one place in your house that’s really yours. So we’re launching in January 2013 and we have backlog of all these rooms we filmed when we went to India and when we went to L.A. It’s so cool that no matter where we go there are these themes in people’s rooms like feminism and collections. Another thing we’re exploring is if kids have divorced parents, how that works out in terms of their rooms and how they cultivate their style.

What other projects are you involved in?

I’ve been consulting with some clothing companies and I’ve been working a lot with Bust Magazine. I’ve been blogging for their website which is really exciting. I think that Bust is one of the few places that established early on that you can be a feminist and be interested in fashion, that they’re not mutually exclusive. I think people forget that a lot of the time and think that a feminist has to have hairy armpits and not wear a bra. But a feminist can be anyone, a feminist can be male too. So I’m excited that Bust is trying to redefine that.

What are your 3 favorite things right now? Music, fashion, art, anything.

I really like the 60s right now. I love the Kinks. As far as fashion, I recently came from a school trip to India where I got to learn about the different types of bindis so I have all these packs of bindis I brought back. The most inspiring film for me right now is Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion!