interviews with zinesters – katherine raz

Note – I am slowly going through and cleaning up my folders on our hard drive. I just came across a bunch of old interviews I did with people while I was a journalism student at Columbia College Chicago. I think this interview is from an article I was working on for a magazine writing class. I am not sure. I only vaguely remember working on this project. You can tell from my repeated questions that I had some thesis that I was trying to cover, but I can’t remember what it was specifically. I think they are from 1999. At that time, I was a dumb kid, so I probably didn’t appreciate the time that these people took to answer the questions. But I do now. Thank you very much to Andrew Scott, Dan Sinker, Matt Cordell, Karl Erickson, Gretchen Larsen, Julie Halpern and Katherine Raz. If you are one of the interviewees and want your interview taken down, please let me know. I am putting them here for posterity and nerdy archival reasons.

Katherine Raz – Apple Scruff and Retail Whore

What was the name of yr zine? What was its purpose? What was it about? How long did it last? Were you the only person working on it? Where was it based out of?

It was called Apple Scruff, and it was mostly about people who were overly-obsessed with celebrities. In the zine world I think there are a lot of people who have unhealthy crushes on famous people, so that’s what Apple Scruff celebrated – the sick celebrity obsession. It lasted for about a year, my senior year in high school. Based out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. While I had contributors, I was the only one doing lay-out, photocopying, mailing, etc.

Why did you start making yr zine? What were yr goals and did you meet any of them?

I started doing it after I’d been reading zines for about a year. I just wanted to do it myself. You can’t make a profit so that certainly wasn’t a goal. I was written up in Factsheet Five, and they liked it, so I guess that was pretty cool. Otherwise, just a broad base of subscribers and enough people to send sad letters when I said I wasn’t doing it anymore. It just gave me a lot of personal satisfaction to get my own stuff out. It was like therapy.

How large did your zine get? How widely read?

At its peak I think Apple Scruff had about 50 on the mailing list. Read as far and wide as New Zealand. People at my high school read it, too. Once it was written up in FS5 I had a lot of people writing in for single copies which were one dollar.

Do you still read zines? Do you feel like there’s a zine community in Chicago? is it strong or weak? Would you improve it?

Yes I still read zines. There are some particular ones I pick up whenever I go to Reckless or the Clubhouse. I think – yes, to a certain extent Chicago has a good zine community. There are a few organizations that actually are trying to collect zines for posterity here. One in particular is the Chicago Great Lakes Underground Press Collection (headed by Kathryn DeGraff). It’s a part of Depaul that is trying to collect zines from the Great Lakes area. You can go visit it whenever they’re open – I think they’re part of the library up there. Quimbys is a great place to pick up zines. So there’s no lack of support for zinesters. I think the improvements should come from the authors themselves. There needs to be more zines – and the people who write their own should continue to do so with more regularity. Because it’s getting kind of scarce out there since the downfall of FS5 two years ago. I think there needs to be more communication between zine writers – more of a community.

Were you happy with how yr zine turned out?

Yes, I was very happy. I didn’t expect it to get the strange cult following it did. After all, I was only 17 when I started it.

Why did you stop making yr zine? or did you? Were you fed up with it? Tired of it? Bored of it?

I stopped making it because I started to get really big into music, not celebrity crushes. I felt like I was reaching for things to write about. Like the guy who does Rock’n’Roll High School zine here in Chicago – he was an atheist and wrote about punk/hardcore. Then he “found Jesus” and had to change his zine. People’s tastes change. It takes all your passion and all your free time and a lot of your spending cash to do a zine and get it out there. If you’re no longer willing to dedicate all that time to it, it doesn’t work anymore. Also, because I moved to Chicago I couldn’t make copies for free at my job anymore. I didn’t have space in the apartment for layout, etc.

What zines did you read or do you read? What zines inspired you to do yr own zine? Or was there an event or something else that inspired you to do the zine?

I read anything I can get my hands on. I love to go to Quimbys and just sit there reading for an hour or so. I’m sure they hate me because I never buy anything. Same with Reckless. Right now I’m big into the local Chicago zines, music zines, and the zines about zines (Zine Guide is a great one). A few titles everyone should check out: Puberty Strike, Cometbus, Scaredy Kat Stalker (now defunct), and there was this one called 1544 West Grace that was all about this apartment buidling in Chicago.

Was yr zine a personal zine? Did you consider it a personal zine? Or something else?

It was personal, but all zines are. It dealt with a subject. It wasn’t about me, per se, but then it was my zine, so of course it was about me or whatever I wanted to talk about.

Did you have any horror story experiences making yr zine? What were they? Will you ever do any other zines? Or are you done forever?

My zine was about celebrity obsession but there was an article I did about someone who I was obsessed with in high school (an upper classman who had graduated). The article basically detailed all the stupid stalking techniques I had developed in order to see him more often, collect artifacts from his friends (pop cans, homework, etc.) and “drop in” on his classes, etc. It was basically done tongue-in-cheek, but later on I found out he moved to Chicago and went to Columbia College. Then I saw him at a party and he was like, Yeah, I read your zine… HORROR! Zines are so personal that doing them is very self-divulging. People who you don’t know can learn a lot about you and you just have to be willing to put yourself out there.

I will probably be involved in the zine community – I support it, I read zines, I still write for other people’s. But it’s something that I have put on the back-burner because, as you know, Columbia takes up a lot of time. I’m a real journalism student now, so I have to focus on getting my clips out to a more broad audience. I’m not done forever. Who knows, maybe I’ll do one from the nursing home when I retire.

What was yr step by step process from brainstorming to final product and distribution? Did you have any rituals for yr process? Like did you start by writing in a notebook or computer or did you just improvise straight to the zine page? How did you print yr zine? Xerox? Offset? How did you pay for the cost?

I took 10-20 sheets of blank computer paper and folded them in half. Then I cut and pasted computer-generated articles (and typewriter generated as well) onto the blank sheets. I used the copy machine at my dad’s office for free. The layout was a long process. The room at home where I did it was a disaster area (paper shreds, clippings, gluestick, stapler, address books, other zines). Rituals: CD player! Lots of music (probably how I started listening to music so much) – at the end of every zine I had a section called Audio Survival which said which CDs I’d been listening to while preparing that issue.

I came up with ideas for articles and wrote most of the articles during Pre-Calculus, American History, and Psychology class in my senior year of high school. Also at my job, which was at the periodicals desk at a library. When I had free time, I just wrote about whatever came to mind.

The cost of postage was covered by the one dollar people sent me to send it to them. Inmates got it for free, so a lot of prisoners read it. It actually was pretty cool because prisoners become very obsessed with celebrities. There’s not much else to do. But I never went into debt because of it.

What makes a zine good to you? What elements make a zine good to you?

Zines are good when they’re personal. When they have rants and raves, and they touch on the ever-human trials and tribulations that real life involves. Good writing is of upmost importance. You have to have a good, conversational writing style. Organization, while some zines are cut-and-paste and hard to read, the ones that have some sort of organizational flow to them are usually the most interesting. Diversity. Have a number of different writers and opinions.

essay shit

I am in the process of cleaning out old hard drives and old physical file folders. I came across this. I wrote it for a Critical Reading and Writing class at Columbia College when I was a fiction writing major. Way back in 1998. I was twenty. I think I was supposed to compare and contrast William S. Burroughs, who I loved at the time and Vladimir Nabokov, who I hated at the time. When I turned it in, it really was titled Essay Shit. Although I was really into Burroughs at the time and I was aping him as hard as my twenty year old self could manage, I was actually trying to channel this battle royal jam comic that Jay Stephens and Paul Pope did in Buzz Buzz Comics Magazine. In the comic their various characters and likenesses rumbled. It was the spirit of that comic that I was going for. And all things Paul Pope in general. At the time I really wanted to write how Paul Pope drew.

And, no, I don’t really expect you to read this entire thing.

Essay Shit

Ladies and gentleman. Boys and girls children of all ages. Fanfare! Lightning! Thunder! Gods! Earth shattering ribbons and lights. Circus sounds and big fat lines. The invocation of the beast is at hand. Before you today lies the future spread out on an empty canvas. The whole world is watching the events transpire. All eyes are on this piece of paper today. The process of constructing a creative essay is the task. Are you up to the challenge? I know you are! Creation is the fundamental element here. Creation above all is important, but don’t stray far from the path today children. The bears and zombies are out today. Today is the one day of the year when the bears and zombies fear nothing. They fear no light. They fear no time. They fear nothing. And they are not afraid to come and eat your guts if you fail your mission or stray too far and ramble beyond salvation. Are you up to the challenge? I know you are!

Tonight only. One on one. In a brutal no holds barred cage match. Fightin’ Bill Burroughs and Vladimir the Bolshevik Bear Nabakov FIGHT!!! To the DEATH!!! See Fightin’ Bill cut up Vladimir’s precious texts!!! See the Bolshevik Bear knock the pretentiousness from the bowels of Fightin’ Bill!!! Hear the sounds of bloody conquest. TOTAL CARNAGE!!! For your eyes only. This is a one night event as the contestants will be DEAD tomorrow!!! Parents are cautioned – this is not for the squeamish.

Tonight at eight, don’t miss Ramblin’ Rory Rockenbury, as he tackles the untackleable, imagines the unimaginable, explains the unexplainable, offers insight into the uninsightable unfathomable world of the author’s head. Hear Ramblin’ Rory’s neverbeforetonight heard opinions of Fightin’ Bill Burroughs and Vladimir, the Bolshevik Bear, Nabakov before they beat each other dead at nine.

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