Zine Booth @ Sugar Hill Maker Fest Reflection

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Saturday was a beautiful day. It was also quite windy. While I had to find some creative ways to keep zines from flying off my booth’s table, the experience of being out among the community with my students zines made for an excellent afternoon of conversation and possibly some really positive impact in the community. 

The one real drawback to the afternoon at the Sugar Hill Maker Fest is I had none of my students join me at my booth. Originally, I had at least two students who intended to come and hang out at the booth and distribute their zines, but when you are a freshman in high school you simply do not have control over your weekend schedule. Instead, my good friend and fellow zine-maker, Nate, joined me for a few hours.

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Nate stands watch over our booth at the Sugar Hill Maker Fest.

In all, I made sure I had ten copies of each student’s zine that was volunteered in my class (about eight total) as well as a few copies from former student made zines–so roughly a 100 zines made a truly public debut. The booth also included a way to learn to make your own zine with one sheet of paper. While I wish at least one of my students could have experienced seeing their work picked up and read by the community, I did walk away from the day feeling deeply satisfied by the conversations I had with parents and children alike.

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My mother-in-law checks out my students’ work. She took two home she was so impressed!

Humorously, most who stopped by the booth to look at what I was up to thought zines (as in magazines) was pronounced with a long ‘I’. I only had one woman–who mentioned having roots in the punk rock scene as a teen– who knew how properly pronounce zine when she walked up to the booth.

Still, the conversations I had with individuals were rich. An older couple–potentially in their sixties or seventies–were impressed with the level of self-expression my students used in their zines and commented on how their high school experience was about conformity only and self-experession really was not an option. A young family with three children visited and took several zines and hung around long enough for me to show the entire family how to make their own one-sheet-of-paper zine. The former punk rocker was excited to see a zine again for the first time in the better part of a decade. She shared a brief story about a college friend in New York who made small poetry zines and handed them out for a quarter; he is now a published poet and writer. The woman excitedly picked up a copy of almost every single zine I had and ran to her daughter telling her, “Look! I have zines!” A former student came by as well and took a copy of everything to enjoy at home. She lemenated how she wish she had priortized making her own zine last year. She seemed genuinely impressed by the offerings my students had this year.

My favorite visitor of the day was easily a woman who revealed to me she is a children’s social worker. As explained what zines are and how I use them, her eyes lit up. With a big, big smile she offered how this sort of media would be perfect for kids to express their feelings they are processing while in her care and the care of other adults who might not be their parents. She excitedly flipped through several of the zines, stuffing a few into her purse as she went. While I did not time it, I think she must have stuck around nearly thirty minutes talking to me and Nate. The best part is she came back with her family! She showed her own three boys the different zines, appealing to one of them using a zine made by a young man in my class who intends on joining the marines. His zine focuses on the marines’ weapon of choice, which did indeed appeal to the son who also thinks he might be a marine one day. I showed them how to make their own mini zines and told them to enjoy making their own when they went home. The social worker made it clear she would be using zines with the kids she works with every day. I walked away feeling pretty good about her intentions. I hope the kids she works with finds zine making beneficial.

Looking back on the day, I get new waves of excitement recalling all the great conversations I had with every adult and child. No one ever thought the zines were dumb or a waste of time. Each person who came to the booth expressed an appreciation of what my students had made and almost all of them took at least one copy home with them. My students had a real audience.

I told the students I had today (many were taking the Biology EOC) about how the day went and how the community engaged in their work. Many smiled and appeared to take a sense of pride when told their zines got picked up, but clearly the impact is not nearly what it could have been had they been able to attend the event themselves and interact with the community. I’ll be interested to hear their thoughts more intimately through interview or one-on-one discussion. I’ll be sure to share an update if anything interesting comes along.

That being said, I am nearing the end of my data collection. I have a handful of post interviews left to do and then it will truly be done. I have a long summer of analysis ahead of me!

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