Above: The Portland Zine Symposium in full swing
Alex Wrekk, one of the organiser of the Portland Zine Symposium, recounts her experience of this year’s event from the ‘51% rule’ to making sure zinesters have enough coffee.
Oh Portland Zine Symposium: how I love you but how you grind me down! I have been to every Portland Zine Symposium except for one and have organized six out of nine including the very first one. Yup, nine years of The Portland Zine Symposium. It always surprises me at how I can spent nine months working on an event, get all sorts of stressed out about it before and during, then after it all be totally excited with all sorts of ideas about what to do next year! What’s wrong with me?
This year we organised PZS as a three day event with three days of tabling and two days of workshops. We were also determined to provide more space to more zines so we limited the amount of full tables to 30 per day, leaving the remaining 60 tables open for 120 half tables each with the option of tabling one, two, or three days. If you do the math that’s a lot of different possible combinations with tables to keep track of and we still sold out and had a waiting list! We had almost 160 different vendors from all over the US, Canada and a few from outside North America.
This year we were really strict about enforcing our ‘51% rule’ this means that at least 51% of your table has to have zines, comics, books or some other sort of self published title. We did this to insure that people had zines at the zine fest; not stationery, not posters, not scarves, not patches, not baked goods. The organizers feel that the Portland Zine Symposium is a zine event, so people who are tabling better have zines! Crafts are great, but the world has enough craft fairs for them.
More zines! Less time!
Every year we have extracurricular activities and this year was no exception. The weekend before the symposium Cosmic Monkey Comics sponsored a 24 hour zine challenge at the same time as a 24 hour zine challenge in Seattle at Z.A.P.P. They even set up a video link between the two! People stayed up all night with zine supplies and created several awesome zines! Thursday before the Symposium the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) had a benefit rock show and zine reading and Friday evening, after the first day of the symposium, they had an open mic at theIPRC. On Saturday night there was an outdoor movie sponsored by the Hawthorn Hostel.
Day one: Friday
Friday morning fellow organizer, Blue, and I met at the IPRC along with several awesome volunteers to get final arrangements nailed down: programs stapled and folded, tabling registration packets stuffed, food donations picked up, last minute table problems sorted, etc. Then we headed over to Portland State University, unloaded two car loads of symposium stuff and had help from volunteers carrying everything up to the ballroom on the third floor. From there we set up the info booth and registration area, numbered all the tables, got the free coffee flowing, and sent volunteers out to poster the University campus and draw arrows with “ZINES!” in sidewalk chalk.
The Portland Zine Symposium has been in the same large ballroom for seven years. I always get this strange feeling when I walk into the empty ballroom that look exactly the same as when I left it the year before, all the while knowing that in a few hours it will be full of life and bustling with people!
At 2pm zinesters with tables started flooding in, getting registration packets, and setting up. Friday was just tabling and no workshops so that people had time to settle in and get acquainted. The first day seemed to go well! I got to meet with old friends and friends I hadn’t met yet from San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Boston, Olympia, Vancouver, Baltimore, Australia, and more! It makes me wonder who will be there next year to celebrate out 10th Anniversary!
That night there was an event at the IPRC with an open mic. I was getting sort of sick though so I decided to head home and eat burritos made by our Canadian house guest and rest up for the next day!
Day two: Saturday
Saturday I was up at 6am to get back to PSU by 8.30 before the doors opened to people tabling at 9am. My first task: get the coffee flowing and our free bagels, and spreads, out for people. Every year we try to provide coffee and tea and donated bagels with hummus, peanut butter, jam and margarine. But still, 3 pots of coffee, and two percolators making more, wasn’t going to be enough coffee. Yes, us Americans love our coffee. Especially when it is donated fair trade organic coffee!
9am and people started showing up and started drinking mass quantities of coffee! We had 13 workshops on Saturday in four different tracks. Workshops ranged from ‘Intro to zines’, ‘Screenprinting’, ‘Working with deadlines’, ‘Radical parenting’, ‘Body image’, ‘Publishing fiction’, ‘How to start a comics collective’ and more!
The ballroom of tables was filled with people and more were wandering in from the Farmer’s Market outside due to our clever sidewalk chalk directions and fliers.
Day three: Sunday
Sunday we were back at PSU with more tabling, more workshops, more coffee, and more raffle prizes including gift certificates to a tattoo shop, zine grab bags, bicycle tune-ups, and more! There were 13 workshops on Suday like a walking tour of the IPRC, infoshops, ‘Never go to Kinko’s again’, ‘Mimeograph printing’ and ‘Woman of Color in zines’.
Towards the end of the day the attendance picked up and the ballroom was filled with people checking out zines and comics before the 2009 Portland Zine Symposium came to an end.
To be honest, most of the symposium was a blur of checking in at the info table, keeping the coffee flowing, and making sure people got to their workshops. I never spend enough time with my penpals. I never spend enough time at my table. And I never spend enough time checking out all of the awesome projects people bring to the symposium. I guess in a way that’s what keeps me going; the idea that maybe next year I’ll see more!
Next year is the 10th Portland Zine Symposium. We are aiming for July again. Are you going to be there?
me stuff if you wanted a link