Visual art and writing find themselves intersecting in many places and people. A dynamicæand local example is Eva Avenue. Avenue is a contributor for this publication as well as a visual artist (among a multitude of other creative outlets). However, her work can perhaps be found pulling fromæwriting and visual art most even-handedly through her zine and ongoing project the Nightly Noodle Monthly. Zines are self-published booklets, often pieced together with little more than a DIY aesthetic, X-acto knife, typewriter, Sharpies and stolen time at a copy machine.
Appropriately, Avenue is leading a Zine workshop in conjunction with Daddy Kool Records and Keep St. Pete Litæon Wednesday April 26. She will speak on the history of zines and their cultural importance as well as provide instruction on how to create your own zine, shape your content and make the most of your resources. I spoke with Avenue ahead of her workshop to ask her about this unique artform.
Ok, first, I want to say that I have a special place in my heart for zines. In a sort of roundabout way they pushed me to take writing seriously and think about selling my artwork. We’re a bit alike in that we have a background in both visual art and writing. Is this what drew you to zines in the first place or did zines draw you to art and writing?
Zines and I were mutually arising, I would say. Like, before I knew what zines were, I had the St. Pete Times and looking at the backs of cereal boxes in the morning before school. This is where I got my sense of laying out a page in interesting ways that pop. In 6th grade I remember turning in a report, and instead of handing it in on regular paper, I typed it on a typewriter on smaller than standard paper and put it in a big envelope and cut out this guy and put him on the front and he had a talking bubble and he was speaking the title of the essay or something like that.
I liked to use my creativity to stand out in special ways. So when I was 13 and 14 walking around St. Pete with my vigilante friends, making our own fun because there wasn’t much to do, I met Josh Sullivan. Josh produced comics every week and I would pick them up at the Globe [a now defunct coffee lounge]. He took us to his place early on, an apartment downtown, back when living in downtown St. Pete was super cheap, and his zines opened the doors for a whole way of making subversion funny. I don’t know what that means really but it makes sense to me somehow.
But zines became an outlet later on in life. I was working at a newspaper at the University of New Mexico and was trained under strict rules, red pens, the AP style book, and a writing coach who would visit every week from the Albuquerque Tribune and assess our week’s worth of dailies for the week. There was always an error. No matter how many editors the paper went through, we always missed something. People would get down about it at the meetings and I remember thinking that all the focus on getting it right made me want to bust out with my own publication where I could make my own rules and publish what I considered content worthy of publishing. That’s a whole other story, but that’s the Noodle.
Why do you think zines are still relevant in a time when blogging and oversharing online are so easy and popular?
Zines are intimate and you don’t just read a zine, you feel a zine. Zines are hyper local. You can print deeper truths, you can take risks, you can work yourself out and your surrounding environment and serve that up to people in the same environment. A zine does not compare to a blog. Hell, a zine doesn’t even compare to a book. But good writing is good writing, and that’s what I’m about. Good means original andæaccessible. Zines serve, zines feed a community. Going home from a zine fest with a stack of zines and reading them at your leisure – I mean, that’s just a form of love-making right there.
But, you know, printed pamphlet material is nothing new dating back to the 1700s. During the American Revolution, people were printing their own one-sheet, four-page publications and putting them out there. The need for hyperlocal information and attention has always been a driving force that creates local printing initiatives.
The only zine I ever published was the Noodle, though. I’ve written for or designed some other zines but the Nightly Noodle Monthly is my big enduring project, and I want to bring some Noodle ethos to people who like to write or publish. The Noodle is a little more like a magazine too though, in how it publishes other people’s works, not just the publisher’s writings. Actually, the Noodle prides itself on publishing works that other places don’t want to publish.
You mentioned about how intimate zines could be. What are known as perzines, zines that are personal, autobiographical, were generally my favorite. Some of the most powerful writing I’ve ever read has been in zines.
Yeah, you learn that you’re not so weird after you read a perzine.
And that there are people out there you can open to and you know you’ll both get something out of that. Because you read a zine once.
I think this sort of intimacy can be difficult with people new to creating zines. What about people that are reluctant to express themselves or create something that others will see — what advice, exercises, words of encouragement do you offer?
Well, if you don’t want to express yourself, you certainly don’t have to and there are many ways to cover that up. You can write limericks. You can explore yourself through the discipline of writing according to a form, that way you don’t have to think about it and just focus on the content. But, you know, good writing expresses something and if you don’t know that now, you discover it later.
People respond to pieces that are either confessional or allude to a shared humanity in some way. Or perhaps you have such a grasp of the beauty of a certain form of writing that you just do it very well, and that comes across too. Your love and attention to developing your craft will come through. Do all writers write because they have something to say? It’s interesting to think that a writer would want to write but have nothing to say. If you fear expressing yourself, well, just recognize it’s making you nervous and then write anyway. Don’t show anybody. But, my god, fear is such a cage. Fear keeps you from having anything you ever wanted, it’s an awful place to write from, to create from, because there’s an inherent denial in fear and you can’t go all the way. So while fear is a good survival mechanism, it’s still important to be as open and receptive as possible when you’re writing, and it’s good to surprise yourself. You want to surprise yourself. I love taking people on a journey of surprising themselves with what they’ve written. Sometimes I’ll give unusual writing prompts that they don’t even know how to approach at first. That’s when I taught the crazy wisdom weekly poetry class in Albuquerque. I mean, that’s not an issue of the Noodle, that’s a writing class, but I was still keeping it Noodle in writing class.
I don’t want to spoil anything you may teach at the workshop, but where would someone look if they want to find zines to read and zinesters to meet?
Keep St. Pete Lit and Daddy Kool both attract a lot of zinesters – you’ll find zine makers in classes by Keep St. Pete Lit, and you’ll find zines at Daddy Kool and at Black Crow Coffee. You can go to an annual zine fest too, I very much recommend attending those. But I think the best thing to do is come to my Noodle class on April 26th and get some free copies of the Noodle! I also have Noodles on my website.
Images from Eva Avenue’s Nightly Noodle Monthly. (All images courtesy of Eva Avenue.)