#ZineZoned3: Iloilo Zinefest 2017 experience

A zine (/ˈziːn/ ZEEN; short for magazine or fanzine) is most commonly a small-circulation self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images. Usually zines are the product of a single person, or of a small group.  A zine is a cheaply-made, cheaply-priced publication, often in black and white, which is mass-produced via photocopier and bound with staples.

Most zines revolve around a music scene of some sort, but others are dedicated to artwork, poetry, cartoons, editorials and short stories. Because zines do not have any sort of corporate backing, they are very rugged, individualized, and much more charismatic than larger, more popular magazines whose content is often dictated by their advertisers. (Definition from
Last August 26-27, 2017, the 3rd Iloilo Zinefest was held in Robinsons Place Iloilo. This event was organized by KasingKasing Press, Hubon Manunulat, Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), and the University of San Agustin Fine Arts program. I had marked the event dates on my planner, thinking I might like passing by the event, but a writer friend invited me to join with her. I had a few short stories that I thought I could use for a small zine, so we paid CPU Press to print some copies for us. Its my first try at "self-publishing" and trying to sell something, even if most who bought were only my friends and relatives!

We had to think about ideas that could make our small booth interesting to passers-by. We called ourselves #WritingLibrarians and aside from our zines, we also sold poetry! We had "Poetry in the Moment" where we let the customer choose a topic and we would write about it. We didn't expect that it sold out more than our little books. I brought a small 60-page pad and by the end of the last day, there were only 2 pages remaining! It was amusing how people wanted us to write about their problems (especially love problems) and shared their woes. They didn't ask us for advice, but we had listening ears and we tried not to judge them, and we did our best to write for them. Most of their reactions were surprise because we happened to write something near to their experience.

I got this idea of "Spontaneous Writing Booth" from Natalie Goldberg's classic book on writing, Writing Down the Bones: freeing the writer within.  The point was to try to contact our first thoughts, the original thoughts that have original creative energy. This exercise helps us let go of self-consciousness and be confident in our own minds and writing voices. I have been doing this kind of writing (for myself) since 2008, so I was confident that I could do it. Charlyn, my companion, wasn't that sure at first but also got going in writing.

We got around 400 pesos total from the poems alone and we both wrote a total of more than 50 poems! We charged 5 pesos per poem at first, but we realized it was also quite difficult to write a poem and let it go in such a short time, so it went up to 10 pesos the next day. People asked us to write about love (of course), coconuts, work, parallel universes, faith, war, and the most difficult topic was "the shape octagon related to love." The girl really wanted to challenge us!

I also got to see Manix Abrera, the author and illustrator of the Kiko Machine comics that runs in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. His talk on "Mga Malagim na Lihim ng Pagkokomiks" was enlightening and funny. He uses his real-life experience and stories from others, especially about life in UP Diliman (he was a Fine Arts student there, and my brother who's also from UPD says Kiko Machine is a funny portrayal about student life there). He also emphasized that writers and artists need to trust themselves and their own stories.

During the ArtTalk panel with Manix Abrera, John Iremil Teodoro, and Paul Marfil, anyone was invited to ask them questions. I asked them how they handle criticism. I mentioned that there's criticism that can help us improve, while there's criticism that's intentionally harsh. John Teodoro said that if we are artists, we shouldn't be 'balat sibuyas' or too sensitive - we must expect that there will be people who will dislike our work. I like how he said that we also can tell if a comment can help or not, and we also have the choice if we choose to accept it and use it on our work or not. Manix Abrera replied that its better that at least, if they criticize, it is a sign that they read your work and were affected by it. He said that silence (with only the sound of crickets in the background) and no reaction from the audience can actually be worse in a way.

Our booth

These are the zines and stuff that I bought from the other exhibitors (I wouldv'e bought more if I had more cash):
• You are Beautiful: coloring zine by Maria Clarisse T. Jaro
• Party Animal by Alahna Sy, illustrated by Katreena Enriquez, a poetry and prose compilation
• Short Literary Pieces by Charlyn Mateo, with 4 Tagalog short stories and a poem
• Pinoy Banana and Paper Jam: a poetry collection and portable workshop by Anna Slater and Jam Lebrilla, with a bookmark
• Radical Dreamers Anthology by lordcloudx (with three interactive story apps for Android)
• pa.SA.kay, mga binalaybay ni Michael Caesar Tubal, gindibuho ni Gil Montinola
• Com[mute]: tales told in transit by Mae Sheilou L. Conserva

About my zine, it consists of 4 short stories and a poem:
Genesis retold - a short retelling of a Visayan creation myth
Pleiades upon the Stones - fairy worlds
Labyrinth (a poem) - inspired by Jorge Luis Borges and his story "The Library of Babel"
Shoreline - two cousins meet in a university, and there's the sea, mermaids, and insanity
Sirena - mermaids again, told from the perspective of a half-mermaid

Frankly, I'm cringing at these old stories, but they are about critical times in my own life, just symbolized beyond recognition as stories and fictional characters. I happen to write about lost worlds and mermaids because at that time I wrote them, I was obsessed with reading works by Caitlin R. Kiernan who often wrote Lovecraftian tales about the sea (though she also writes about other topics, and her science fiction stories are the best, I just wish that she's more popular here but her print books are not sold in the Philippines, I think).

Me and Charlyn are still planning to join the next Zinefest and we hope that we add more members to #WritingLibrarians (yes, we want to make this a 'group' of people who are interested in writing, books, and libraries, and not exclusive for librarians only). I'm already brainstorming ideas for a better zine next time and I plan to have something more light and funny. We're still keeping Poetry in the Moment for next time. The organizers said that the 4th Iloilo Zinefest will be on February 2018.

Overall, it was tiring, but fun! We were self-confessed introverts who were afraid to interact with others at first, but soon, people were approaching and loved the poetry we wrote for them. It was a lot of social interaction for me (I seriously thought I couldn't handle that much and I'm still 'recovering' at the moment), but it was worth it. Thanks to ZineZoned for this opportunity to showcase our work and get to know other writers as well. I learned a lot from the experience and look forward to the next Zinefest!

Just one thing I didn't like was the music that was too shrill and annoying. Sometimes we had to speak loud just to get heard by others.

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  1. Thank you for buying from me. I definitely remember you from during lunch break. Sorry, I was a bit too engrossed in selling to notice that you were the people right next to me. Seriously, I didn't realize it until a few hours later. I'm a bit myopic that way and it got a bit too awkward for me to acknowledge this by the time I found out. We really should have exchanged zines, but fortunately, my mother bought Pleiades Upon The Stones. I'll be sure to feature it on my blog at once I've had a chance to go through it. I really love the glossy cover of your zine, by the way.

    1. Replying to myself, but here is the review featured on my blog as promised: