Tuesday, 16 July 2013

International Zine Month 2013: Days 8 - 15

I have a bit of a slacker this week. Most of my time was spent in a blissful Internet Black Hole in the Lake District. Temperatures reached 26 C which is a bit hot for my Scottish internal barometer. I battled through it by wearing a wide brimmed hat, drinking water (and the little beer here and there), lazing around in the sun, reading books like a contented cat. It was the first time in my adult life that I've come back from a holiday thinking "I really needed that time off."

So I'm ashamed to say that I had a week off from zine related activities. Sadly the little towns I visited in the area had no obvious zine links. However I did stumble upon this great little shop in Ambleside called detail that has such a lovely range of quirky stationery, cards, bags and other knick knacks. With a nod to the only IMZ2013 task I completed this week (see below), I bought a letter writing set with cute little stickers. I do miss Chronicle Books, whom I fell in love with on my visit to San Francisco last year.

Extra credit: I did complete task 9 which was to Write a letter to a zine maker that you don't know. I wrote to the brilliantly funny and perceptive Donna, creator of Tragic Boffin, which caught my eye many months ago at Vampire Sushi distro.

This week I am hoping to continue working towards creating my own zine *gulps*. To give myself a shove, I have been making enquiries about self-service photocopying in the Glasgow area. Now all I need to do is get the work done!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

International Zine Month 2013: Days 3-7

International Zine Month is a yearly celebration of the wonderful world of zines. There is a list of daily challenges that people can join in with. You can find out more by reading my post here.

This has been a fabulous week. I have developed a compulsion to check the #IZM2013 feed on Twitter to find out what everyone else is up to. As a wannabe zine maker, I've enjoyed seeing how zine makers develop their ideas. Here's what I've been up this week:

Day Three: Zine Distro Appreciation Day! Order from a zine distro 

I ordered new zines from Marching Stars distro which you can see below:

MarziNam #1
Cherry Bomb #1
How I Quit School #1
Ella Funt (which has a beautiful fabric cover!) #1

I am a sucker for any UK-based distros that specialise in feminist per-zines so let me know if there are any others out there. Vampire Sushi have an excellent catalogue to choose from, including my personal favourites Buy Her Candy, Here. In My Head and Tragic Boffin. You can also buy a sticker of what looks like Riannah making a very rude sign with her middle fingers.

Day Four: Reread your favourite zines 

A bit of a cheat but I dug out my well thumbed copies of Stolen Sharpie Revolution and Whatcha Mean, What is a Zine? to help inspire me to create my own zine project.

Day Five: Learn a new zine skill 

Inspired by a guide in What's a Zine? I had a go at creating a one page zine. This is a zine that is made entirely from one piece of A4 people. No stapling or collating required! I thought this would be a good first zine to attempt but I'm finding it really hard to fit what I want to say in a small space. As you can tell from my template, I need to practise measuring out pages. And yes, I was using a ruler!

I also completed an extra credit assignment by reading Agua Nora, a zine written by a British paramedic who spent a month working on the American/Mexican border. It's a very dark read with dashes of light relief, such as including music playlists the crew sang along to whilst looking for border crosses needing assistance.

Day Six: Add your zine or update your lists on ZineWiki.org

*ahem* You have to actually make a zine before you can complete this challenge so I skipped this one.

My package from Marching Stars arrived in the post so I had a happy afternoon in the sun, reading my new zines.

Day Seven: Make some envelopes or postcards to get ready for the week 

This afternoon was spent hosting a family visit. Whilst Him Indoors is catching up on the tennis, I'm parked outside writing up this blog post. Weather dependent, I might retreat indoors to make some lovely postcards. Or finish reading some of the zines that were delivered yesterday.

There's also a 24 hour zine challenge. This challenge is exactly what it says - you have to create a zine, from start to finish, in 24 hours. It sounds quite easy but something that many zine creators find difficult. There are a wealth of 24 hour challenge zines available from distros and many of them open with a statement talking about how hard it is! Unfortunately most of my weekends in July are booked up so losing a night of sleep is not an option. However, I might twist the rules and spend up to 24 hours working on a zine during July. At least it might give me a post to get one down and send it out into the big wide world.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

International Zine Month 2013

Over the past year I have become mildly obsessed with the zines and comics culture. I'm surprised it's taken me this long. From a young age, I loved reading girls' magazines like Mandy and Judy, Girl Talk and even the good old Bunty. Magazines and comics were just more items to add to my reading pile. Bonus points: they were easier to read when I was having my lunch. Magazines dispensed information, made me laugh and sometimes made me think a little bit. 

So it's a wonder why it took me so long to get into zines. One of my roles at my job is to look after a fairly extensive zine collection. An outreach project involved a lot of work with this collection and I got a taste of how to produce a zine. I have to admit: I rather enjoyed it. The sheer beauty of zines is that they can be about anything you want to write about. Many zines do have their roots in alternative culture that is not featured in mainstream culture. However, I'm sure if someone wanted to write a fanzine about X-Factor then they could. Let me know if someone has. 

Zines are great to stick in your bag and read on the bus home from work. They can range from having a professional finish (which is becoming more common) to being a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy. My personal favourite has to be the per-zine genre, where people write zines about their everyday lives. It's very intimate peeking into someone else's thoughts and zine provide that personal connection that you don't get with blogs. Someone has gone to the effort of arranging the page layouts, writing the articles and standing over a photocopier until their back spasms, to create the very zine you are holding in your hands. 

To my delight, July marks International Zine Month. IZM is the brainchild of Alex Wrekk, a leading voice in the world of zines. Each July zinesters (those who make zines) and zine fans join together in the celebrations that take place. You can have a look at the daily challenges handed out below: 

So I suppose I should attempt today's challenge Top 10 reasons why you love zines:

1) Every time I read a zine, I learn something new. Whether it's a new way of looking at the world or a great recipe, I pick up a little tid bit of information. 

2) Each zine is unique. It reflects the personality and character of its creator(s) which you certainly don't get with mainstream publications. 

3) Making a zine is a labour of love. Many zine makers lose money when they produce zines. Yet they still keep making 'em. 

4) Zine culture is inclusive by default. You want to write a zine about your partner's dog's friend's weird desire for eating stale cookies? Then go right ahead! 

5) People that make zines like to talk to each other. There's even a special social network designed for people who make zines that like to talk about zines called We Make Zines

6) Zines forced me to realise that I missed being creative and that I should make more of an effort in this area of my life. 

7) Zines are so great that they even have their own libraries. Have a look at the Salford Zine Library or even this blog post about the collection I work with. Yay! 

8) Zine makers love mail art. I like to imagine it's the work of zines that keeps the post service operating - hey a girl can dream! 

9) Zines can make me laugh so hard one minute and make me cry the next.

10) Zines are that amazing you get an entire month to celebrate them. Go forth and be zine-tastic!

Monday, 1 July 2013

Halfway there

2013 has turned out to be a rather spritely year. A late start to spring makes it feel like time is whizzing past, leaving little time for reflection. Of course being a naval gazer means it does not take long before I'm back, pontificating again.

This week I looked back over my goals for 2013  and laughed a little bit. It may come as no surprises to those who read this blog but most of my goals have fallen by the wayside. I am proud that I completed the Women's 10K in May. It was a hard slog and I didn't do enough training but by golly it was worth it.

There are some blog posts a-brewing in my head and I'm hoping to get some posted up here in the coming weeks. Hopefully these will contain the right dashes of pondering and self-deprication.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Tube wisdom

Tube wisdom from Archway station. 
© Laura Stevens 2013 

Last weekend I visited London for the first time. Before the trip I had some doubts about using the Tube. The noise, being packed together in large tin boxes, hurtling down into the bowels of London, tempers and temperatures rising. Glasgow's famous circular Clockword Orange has nothing on the sprawling organism that makes up the beloved London Underground.

To my surprised, I fell in love with the efficiency and the heartbeat that keeps this vast city going. Regular tannoy announcements reminded me of Orwell's 1984 - along with the rats I spotted scuttling across the tracks. Throughout the disruption, people kept moving, swarming ahead with purpose in their every step. Now and then, a lone individual would interrupt the flow. A lost tourist consulting a guidebook written in dots and lines. A stranger unfamiliar with the 'Keep to the right!' rule. One time I found myself tutting at someone who was not walking fast enough for my liking.

My heart skipped a beat as I realised I was just like the lost tourist. Frantically searching my guidebook for answers, even just one answer would do. To my horror I found nothing to help my cause.

The famous Drowning, not Waving poem by Stevie Smith keeps haunting my thoughts. In this excellent recording, she gives an introduction to her poem and the motivation behind writing it. She comments how, in life, people tend to state they're feeling fine when they're not. This year I feel like I've been drowning, not waving.

The Underground is made up of several lines with names ranging from Northern (guess which side of the city that takes you) to Jubilee, Victoria, Piccadilly, Bakerloo - the list goes on. Most of my travel could be achieved by using a wonderful app to figure out which stops to get off and on at. This gave me some element of control. To get to Camden, all I needed to do was get to a stop that connected with the Northern line. Easy, achievable and my reward was getting an amazing vegan burger at Camden Lock Market.

If only life was as simple as the Tube.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Writing Wednesdays: Clarkston Beanscene

Recently my blogging compadre, Mark Shields, gave me a reminder about a series of blog posts I started writing a couple of years ago. In an attempt to become more productive (and actually do some bloody writing) I gave myself the 'hard' task of sussing out writing friendly zones on Glasgow's South Side. Since I let those blog posts dwindle away, I have moved house and become vegan which might impact on my venue choices. I have settled into a nice writing routine that does involved visiting some cafes near my new home in the suburbs to get the pen moving across the page. Without further ado, here is the next in the series of my cafe reviews.

Clarkston Beanscene

1-3 Helena Place
Clarkston Toll
South Side

Feed me for a fiver

Beanscene is what it is when it comes to food. It emulates other coffee house chains, like Starbucks, and has a range of pre-packed sandwiches that can be toasted on demand. They can also whip up some nachos or a pizza if you're in the mood for something more filling. The menu does contain the vegan staple of hummus that comes with veggies to graze on. Prices for sandwiches start at roughly £3.95 and go right up to £7.95 for a pizza. My plate of hummus and veggies came in under budget at £4.95 and did tide me over until I got home.

One bonus for this Beanscene is that it comes with an alcohol license. If you feel like drowning your writing sorrows, you can buy a glass of wine from the counter or bring your own for a corkage charge. Might not be a good idea at lunchtime though.

Good coffee

Again, Beanscene coffee is nothing to write home about (excuse the bad pun...). It's hot, slightly too bitter and comes in oversized cups which can be great for giving the brain cells a good prod. They charge extra for soya milk (30p) which can be frustrating for those who avoid cow's milk. I usually order their medium size when I'm settling in for a writing session which comes to a purse happy price of £1.80.

Table space

This Beanscene is unusual because it's spread over two levels. The ground floor is usually busy, regardless of what time of day you visit. There are a number of large sofas that groups tend to take over, with more spacious seating at the back behind the counter area.

Upstairs is where I usually hide out during the day. It's a common sight to see people working, studying or eejits like me writing away upstairs. There are bar stools under the huge windows which look out over Clarkston Toll. It's an excellent spot for people watching and dreaming up characters.

As for the table space, I find the tables for two quite restrictive. You have enough room for a laptop and a small bucket of coffee. During the day it is possible to grab a four seater table, spread out your writing tools and not worry about taking up too much space.

Power outlets and Wi Fi access

On my first visit to Beanscene there was a good level of access to power points but none, that I could see, close to the sofas I prefer to lounge on. The Wi Fi can be very weak if you choose to sit upstairs or non-existent as it was on my visit. You can ask a member of staff at the counter for the password and, if I remember correctly, you do not need to register for an account. That time I decided to give up on the Wi Fi and catch up on web related tasks when I got home.

Friendliness of staff

The staff here are pleasant enough for a chain coffeeshop. They do seem to be kept extremely busy either serving customers, making up food in the kitchen or clearing tables so it's understandable they don't have time to chat. I would say they are very professional and polite but lacking the friendliness I've experienced in, say, Gusto and Relish.

General atmosphere

This Beanscene has been around for some time. I remember coming here to visit friends years ago and its still standing. On my more recent visits, it has been reasonably busy. It is a good meeting hub for the people that live nearby and don't want to trek into town. In the evenings, this place can be absolutely mobbed. I remember coming to meet a friend for coffee on a Tuesday evening and being gobsmacked that every table was taken. During the day, it's a different type of busy and more laid back than the caffeine fuelled evenings.

You can catch a train to Clarkston from Glasgow Central (there's two every hour) or the 44, 44A and 66 buses stop seconds from Beanscene's front door.

On my last visit to Beanscene, I started working on a story which ended up on Write in for Writing's Sake. Pop over and have a little read if you wish. 

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

January 2013: Check In

Last year I failed to keep track of what I had been up to, especially in relation to my goals for 2012. I am determined not to let this slide this year and, so far, I have been keeping this promise. Each week I have been writing a quick update in my progress journal. This technique is working for me as it's keeping my thoughts on goals, even if there are some I have not actively started working towards.

Treat writing as a second job - A

I am slowly chipping away at making more time to write. The Artist in the Office has been a great inspiration for this. One tip Summer Pierre suggests is making a weekly appointment to work towards your creative goals (of course this could be applied to any goal, not just creative ones). Make it fixed: write it down or set up a reminder on your phone. I decided upon making Wednesday evenings my creative appointment and wrote this down in my paper diary. It seems to be working. In January I used the time to research markets to submit my work to, attended Weegie Wednesday and prepared two pieces of writing to be submitted to various publications. 

Another great resource for me this month has been this book: Procrastination: Why You Do It, What to Do About It NOW by Jane B. Burka and Lenora M. Yuen. You can read my thoughts about this book here. So far, I have only applied the techniques I've learned to my day job but I'm slowly working them into my 'second job' too. 

Complete the Artists Way program - B1

This goal is on hold for the moment. You can find out my reasons in this post here. In February I plan to have a good think about my current approach to the Artists' Way and whether it's right for me at this time in the year. 

Make and distribute a zine - B2

The problem with this goal is I have so many ideas I want to tackle! It's been hard pinning down what I want to do. Instead I have been putting thoughts into my Notebook and reading other zines to get inspiration. I have also been listening to the back catalogue of the excellent Nobody Cares About Your Stupid Zine podcast on my morning commutes. Nothing is more inspiring than hearing other people talk about subjects they're passionate about. Alex and Derek have been doing a great job of cheering me up on the train to work, as well as providing potential fodder for my zine. 

Work on my writing portfolio - B3

Last week I sent out two pieces of my work. One submission was for an upcoming anthology and I sent off some of my poetry. The second submission was for a spoken word event being held in Glasgow next month. Thanks to Writing World, I have a nifty new spreadsheet to record writing submissions in. I'm so pleased that I have already filled out two slots for 2013. 


Enter and complete a 10k - A

This goal has taken a rather interesting twist. I finally hit the boredom wall of running on a treadmill at the gym. The weather has not been great this month and that has stopped me from going out, pounding the pavements. A couple of weeks ago, Him Indoors suggested that we go swimming and it turned out to be reasonably enjoyable. Since then, I have been trying to go to two fitness classes and/or swimming at the local gym. I have regained an enjoyment of Zumba and seem to be a bit better at it than the last time I went (almost a year ago!). 

So, the running has been put on hold for January - at least, until the weather improves. However, I'm still getting more exercise so surely it's better than nothing? 

Self Improvement 

Update my 2013 Progress Journal on a daily basis - A

This is the one goal I appear to be acceding at. Marceline, the brains behind Asking for Trouble, has created a beautiful five year diary that is easy to update. There's also a space at the front that you can fill out for each year including your hopes and goals for that particular year. I keep the diary on my bedside table and it only takes five minutes to fill out what I've been up to that day. 

Have one Internet free day a week - B

Strictly speaking, I have not been sticking to Internet free days. It might have been to become an appointment based tasks, as per my creative hour mentioned above. My laptop is now kept in the spare room/office and not on my footstool in the living room. This simple move has seen a big improvement in my time management at home. Instead of wasting away hours on the Wild Web, I have been more productive at Getting Things Done. 

Next month, I'd like to plan my Internet free days a bit better and be more strict at cutting down my activity. A big impact has been an increase in my reading time. This month I managed to read seven books which is a change from months I'd hardly read. At all. It has been intimidating to see how much of my time was sucked up by mindless Web surfing, but it's made me more determined to change it.