Even though it was more than a month ago, I still want to post a recap of my first zine fest! Chicago Zine Fest was held this year at the Plumbers Union hall in the Near West neighborhood. It was a really nice venue & the event ran super smoothly & felt very well organized. I was really glad to have been accepted to table this year.
Overall the day went really well. I didn't have any expectations about what I would sell or even how many people would stop to look at my stuff (this fest is HUGE, over 200 tables, which is easily overwhelming to anyone visiting.) But I was pleasantly surprised. Advice for Modern Life was my biggest seller; it was really neat to watch all kinds of people pick it up and read it and laugh or smile to themselves. I was glad that the people at other tables nearby were friendly and interesting to talk to when there was down time. It was a lot of hours but it flew by, really. A short but exhausting day.
I had stressed out a bit beforehand about having enough merchandise or how my table would look, but in the end I had plenty of everything and my display (a simple tablecloth with my zines held in vintage dishware) was more than adequate. I probably brought 15-20 of each of my zines, and a few each of my letter prints. This event did make me think I should branch out a bit as far as my range of products goes; pins and patches were big sellers at a few booths near me, I saw some neat postcards and stationery too. Just another item on the to-do list of "things to find the time to accomplish."
I did have one puzzling exchange late in the afternoon. A younger guy came by and flipped through one of my Cinnamon Toast zines and asked me "what made you decide to write a zine about your kids?" I can't exactly remember the conversation that followed, but we talked a bit about babies and how kids get progressively more interesting when they're older. But afterwards as I reviewed the day, that stuck out to me. I can't imagine that someone would ask anyone else at the fest "what made you decide to write a zine about art / punk music / veganism / etc?" The kids are a part of my life, just like other people write about parts of their own lives; it made me feel a bit defensive, honestly, to think that others might not view children and family life as a valid topic.
I think part of my apprehension about being there was that I feel SO different from the younger urban subculture that makes certain kinds of art and zines. I didn't exactly feel out of place, I have enough self-confidence to hold my own in almost any situation. But it certainly turns the tables of my regular life where I'm a caucasian woman in a city of caucasians, a mom in a city full of moms, a Christian in a city full of religious types. You know that old saying, "do something everyday that scares you"? Well, I think doing this event counted for about a week's worth of scary things. Not to say that I was "scared" really, but it is definitely something that's outside of my comfort zone and forced me to stretch beyond my normal life and routines.
I have a small history in my life of things that I agree to do, or fall into somehow, and then once the event actually arrives, I think "holy crap what have I done?" (study abroad in college, moving to Chicago without a job, leaving the workforce to stay at home with the kids) BUT, once I get over the initial panic, it goes so well I can't believe I was ever apprehensive. Zine fest was one of those things.