New Zines & Stories of Formative Queer Teen Experiences

Flier by Melissa

Flier by Melissa

It’s autumn, but somehow it’s so sunny and warm today. I just had my morning coffee out on the balcony with zine pal Lily, who came to town so that we could go see Placebo (!!!) together. She recently made a really excellent zine called Queer Sailor Moon Fanfiction Saved My Life, which you can get at this very distro or at her zine racks at Pressed and Gabba Hey in Ottawa, and probably other distros, too. After I read her zine, I wrote a quick letter to her to tell her about my own pre-teen/teenage fandom experiences, and how influential Placebo was to me. It happens that they’d recently announced a Montréal show during my birthday week, and we decided we had to go together. The show was last night. We went with Cinder, another pal – they made the zine MIXD: A Mixed-Race Compilation Zine, which I’ll soonly be stocking in the distro. We had a chance to talk about some queer teen experiences together, and of course to sing along with Placebo. Sometimes I’m amazed at the rad friends that I have – a group of ’em had actually gotten together the funds to buy my ticket as a birthday present, because they know that I’m a broke baby and that I wanted to make this a really good week. I’d seen them twice before (seven years ago and eleven years ago, my gosh!) and I’m not going to write a show review here, but I will say that it was a really lovely night and I’m glad to have shared it with friends.

Placebo on the marquee, photo from my Instagram: @amber_dearest

Placebo on the marquee, photo from my Instagram: @amber_dearest

I’ve actually been getting some writing done lately, and working on website updates. It’s so easy to fall behind. Earlier this week, I downloaded StayFocusd and FocusWriter and they’ve both been helping me to stay away from social media and other distractions. I can only use Facebook and Twitter for thirty minutes a day, and FocusWriter helps me set and keep track of my writing goals. So I added some new zines to the catalogue, including Queer Sailor Moon Fanfiction Saved My Life; The Collected Scathings of Ioana Poprowka; If Destroyed Still True #6: Iraqi Kurdistan Edition; and Sex Industry Apologist #1-#2, and I finally wrote descriptions for Pinch Kid #4; Rot #5; Deafula #7; Pansy #9; Bike Rides From SW Montréal; and Spirits: Relationships With Alcohol & Drugs #2.

Tabling in Toronto, Montréal, and Halifax this fall is another thing that’s really making me get organized. The Toronto Queer Zine Fair was last week and I had such a blast. The first thing I noticed when I walked in the room was that we actually had SPACE. Organizing large events (or any kind of event) can be really stressful and difficult, and there are all kinds of accessibility needs to keep in mind (which frankly, are completely overlooked by a lot of organizers). Some really simple things that organizers often forget about are to leave space between tables so that tablers can easily get in and out (how many times have I had to crawl under a table just to leave for a bathroom break?? And what about people who don’t have the ability to do so??), to leave space for people to maneuver around corners and high-traffic areas, to recognize that some people will have mobility aids and can’t just squeeze through a crowd of people, etc etc. Granted, this was my perspective as an able-bodied person. But I took note. I had the company of my sibling, who was tabling their zine and anthology Telegram to my right, and and made friends with the zinesters to my left. My bestie Kit dropped by for a bit, and I met all sorts of rad queers. I feel like zinefests are always a whirlwind of small talk and cute people and too much coffee, and this was no exception. I don’t know how to write about them anymore, but I wanna tell everyone what a great time I had. Thank you so much to everyone who stopped by my table! I managed to sell nearly everything I brought with me, and I’m looking forward to reading my haul – Fucked: On Being Sexually Dysfunctional In Sex-Positive Queer Scenes; Working Class Queers; Home: A Conversation Zine; On Sisterhood, our sisters specifically; and Telegram #36. I’d say the highlight of my day was talking root beer with table-neighbour Bee (soda-talk is the way to my heart!) and realizing we both used to post on the Placebo messageboard as teenagers. This interaction felt magical.

Our sunny kitchen, where I spend a lot of time.

Our sunny kitchen, where I spend a lot of time writing letters and working on the distro.

What else have I been up to lately? Redecorating the house, participating in 31 Postcards In 31 Days, beginning my winter survival strategy, reading a lotta books, dealing with the stressy-depressies, and just trying to make it through. So that’s it, a rare update from me. Oh hey, I’ll be in Halifax soon! I feel like such a lucky kid to have the chance to visit twice in one year. I’ll be tabling at the Halifax Pop Explosion Zine Fair (Facebook event here), and hangin’ around town for the week. Please get in touch if you’d like to grab a coffee, or show me your favourite parts of the city! Whenever I visit Halifax, I just like to wander for hours and hours.

And in just over a month, Expozine! ‘Til then…

Queer Between The Covers – Today!


Come see me at Queer Between The Covers from 11am-6pm today! Montréal’s annual queer bookfair at the Comité Social Centre-Sud (1710 rue Beaudry). Free entry, wheelchair-accessible venue. Please note that the entrance to the book fair will be through the parking lot on the south side of the building. Facebook event here.

I’ve been working on adding a couple of zine descriptions to the website everyday, and there are a bunch of new zines in stock, including Vanity Zine; Rum Lad #6/Gadgie #31; Tongueswell #2; Pinch Kid #4-#5; Finale 95 #4 & #4.5; Deafula #6-#7; Abstract Door #1-#3; Bike Rides From SW Montréal; Your Body Is…: Reflections on Supporting People with Internalized Fatphobia, plus a few that are focusing on addiction and recovery, and other conversations around alcohol – Quiet Riot: AKA The Shy Sober Kid Zine and two issues of Spirits: Relationships With Alcohol & Drugs.

Stay tuned for an announcement about the re-launch of the Fight Boredom Zine Residency!

Halifax, I’m Coming To See You!

On May 8th, I’ll be doing a zine reading at Plan B (2180 Gottingen) at 7pm, alongside Giz Medium of Cheaptoys. It’s an open mic fundraiser for The Worst Of Times, a rad anti-capitalist broadsheet that I’m actually going to be interviewed for in about an hour. Anyone is welcome to join in and do a reading or performance of sorts. Facebook event here. Hoping to see some friendly faces!

That said, if you wanna get zines from Fight Boredom Distro, now is the time. Basically, you can send me a list of the zines you’d like, I’ll pack ’em up and bring ’em to Halifax with me, and then you can pay for ’em at the reading (or we can meet up elsewhere if you’re not able to make it). This means that you’re not paying for postage! And maybe we can sit down and have a coffee together! Click on How To Order if you need more info.

I’ve visited Halifax a few times and I participated in the Anchor Archive zine residency in 2012, so I’m pretty familiar with the city, but feel free to leave a comment telling me about your favourite spots to hang. I’m partial to karaoke bars, uncommon sodas, and dumpsters. See ya next week!

East Coast Crush - Halifax soda finds in 2012.

East Coast Crush – Halifax soda finds in 2012.

Back In Montréal / New Zines In Stock!

After a few weeks of carrying around a backpack full of zines, tabling at the Chicago Zine Fest, spending a week with my bestie in Columbus, Ohio and taking more buses than I can count, I am finally home sweet home. I don’t have time to write about my adventures right now, but I do have time to tell you about a whole bunch of new zines that are in stock. I’ve listed them below. Just click How To Order for more info (sad to say that postage rates went up by a couple of bucks today, which is why I had my end-of-the-winter sale before my travels).

Every order comes with a free copy of the second issue of the Fight Boredom Distro Newsletter – finished just a couple of weeks ago. It’s got a letter to my readers, info on new zines in stock, calls for submissions, a collaboration of writing prompts by Maranda Elizabeth and I, and more.

Working on the newsletter - all of the purple makes it pretty obvious that I'm workin' at Maranda's desk.

Working on the newsletter – all of the purple makes it pretty obvious that I’m workin’ at Maranda’s desk.

Anarchism & Hope
Any zine with a picture of Godspeed You! Black Emperor on the first (okay, third) page is bound to win me over (it is also bound with staples SEE WHAT I DID THERE). But whether or not that means anything to you, this zine is both beautiful (half-legal pages with a screenprinted cover and crisp photographs throughout) and an excellent read. Aaron writes about continuing to feel hopeful in the face of despair – a specific kind of despair, the kind that comes from resisting capitalism, witnessing / experiencing police brutality, and working toward a more just world. We begin in the aftermath of the G20 in Toronto, and follow Aaron through his tales of hope – a friend successfully fighting deportation, resistance of Israeli occupation forces in Palestine, and the student strike in Québec in 2012. For those into personal writing on political struggles.

Birthday Party #1
Okay, this zine is so great! Khristina did the Fight Boredom Zine Residency in 2012 and wrote What To Keep, What To Give Away, and this is her followup zine, which pretty much picks up where the first left off. In the intro, she says that this zine is about her two-week residency (writing, “I found sustenance (both the soul-filling kind and the literal kind) in dinner parties, quiet hang-outs, and bike rides.”), her little sister, thinking about identity, and healing family trauma. There is quite a bit covered in this zine, from finding inspiration and complication in Loretta Ross and bell hooks, to intersecting identities of woman of colour and punk, to falling in love, and more. Intense and brutally honest.

Dig Deep #6
Sometimes people approach my table at zinefests and ask, “Do you have any cheerful zines?” and I always hand them a copy of Dig Deep. Some running themes are friendship, growing up and creating a meaningful life, and maintaining a positive mental attitude. Out on time for the fifth annual Chicago Zine Fest, this is the sixth issue of Dig Deep – written over the course of the winter and documenting the past year of Heather’s life. She writes about the manifold ways that attending (and becoming a co-organizer for) the Chicago Zine Fest has changed her life, the eternal struggle to balance creative pursuits and social activities and alone time, a response to Inspirado (a zine about art and inspiration), a personally satisfying reaction to street harassment, and the discovery of a 66-page typewritten family history by her grandmother. It’s been fifteen years since Heather made her first zine, and she has got it down.

Doris #31
“Me and Elliott had a lot in common – a kind of potentially delusional hope – serious drive to do something. Neither of us drank too much back then. We looked a lot alike. We both liked to flee. He called it regroup, get away, get some perspective.” The bulk of this zine is the story of Cindy and Elliott – the beginning of their friendship, traveling and squatting together, learning about each other’s favourite authors. Like Dig Deep (just added above), some running themes in this zine are friendship and growing up. Also included is a piece called Reparations, about acknowledging white privilege and taking steps to indeed make reparations, which for the author includes not just educating herself, but also doing things like giving a percentage of her income to organizations run by people of colour. And on the note of growing up, Cindy also writes about becoming vegetarian at fifteen years old, and how her food politics have grown and changed – influenced partly by the fact that her sister has Crohn’s Disease and can only digest protein from meat and eggs. So they are raising sheep for food on their farm, and Cindy writes thoughtfully not only about food politics, but about the lessons she is subsequently learning about love and loss. And of course, there are the little things: drawings and book recommendations and questions for you to think about.

Only Hooligans Write On Desks #8
This is a zine about the horrendously frustrating process of applying for welfare and disability in British Columbia, Canada. It’s a personal story of mental illness and class, stigma and shame. Terri writes about the never-ending paperwork, phone calls, and walks to the welfare office, as well as unlearning the shame that comes with the inability to work a “real” job, and accepting money from family, which of course is not an option for everyone. It’s laid-out beautifully and written simply and honestly.

Scoopin’ Times #2
You might already know Alanna from Finale 95 and Puker Nation, well here is another rad zine from her weirdo mind. It’s all about working in an ice cream parlour! I love reading customer service stories anyway (hey, I’ve worked in convenience stores, call centres, and coffee shops, so I’m full of ’em), and this one is basically a comic full of hilarious stories from work – like, the kinda messages that people have iced onto their cakes, quirky customer profiles, and a classic battle over which radio station will be played at work. Super fun times!

Skinned Heart #6
The cover of this issue was illustrated by Nyky’s father, and she begins by writing about her experiences with having a father who is incarcerated. She writes not only of the frustration, sadness, and fear that come out of this situation, but also critiques the prison industrial complex, the US’s “war on drugs,” and the way race and class figure into her father’s arrests and incarceration. She writes of the matriarchal family she was raised in, and witnessing reactions to women of colour’s expressions of anger – be it her mother confronting school employees when she was a child, or right now, her own anger when organizing with white feminists, for example. In Punkera Por Vida, she writes, “What I love most about being a punk is the access I have to other folks of color and gender marginalized people who are having the same experiences and finding creative outlets to live outside of the margins. I’ve met so many brujas, artists and musicians, writers, great thinkers and amazing inspirational people through punk.” She writes about calling white punks on their (our) racist bullshit – namely, white queers writing POC out of hard-femme culture – and also bringing her politics into her interactions with her family. She reminds readers, “Punk is not inherently white.”

Coming Soon: Pansy #9; Motor City Kitty #23; Abstract Door #1-#3; Tongueswell #2; Always & Forever: A Zine About Friendship; Finale 95 #3; Cheaptoys #14 and more.

On Hiatus / See Ya In April!

Fight Boredom Distro is on hiatus until April. Thank you to everyone who participated in the February zine sale! I’ll make one last trip to the post office before I leave town.

Come and see me on Saturday, March 15th at the Chicago Zine Fest!!! 11am-6pm at The Conaway Center (1104 S Wabash – 1st, 2nd and 8th Floors). I’ll have a whole bunch of new zines and the second edition of the Fight Boredom Distro Newsletter.

‘Til springtime!

This Is (Another) Punk Show Not A War

Please read first: This Is A Punk Show Not A War

I went back to Death House last night. It started as a joke. My friends were playing a show there and I was wondering if I should go. I said, “It’d be funny if I showed up and read This Is A Punk Show Not A War.” We laughed about it, but really, who was stopping me? My friends talked about it together and invited me to open the show. I’d written the piece about the night I was kicked out of that space, along with a group of friends. We were “too violent,” they said. We stood up to the macho bros in the mosh pit and they didn’t like it. It happens that these macho bros run the space.

I wasn’t sure if they’d remember me. It’s been nearly two years, they’ve thrown countless shows and downed countless drinks and my face had surely become a blur in their memories. I look like a lotta white punks with colourful hair and tattoos, right? I could be anyone. So I showed up early with a black cherry soda in my hand a copy of my zine in my back pocket. I talked to a few friends and they asked if I was nervous. “No, I’m just antsy. I wanna get up and do it and see what happens.”

That’s the thing, I had friends there, so many friends. I was surprised to see how many people had shown up to support me. I’d told a few people about the reading, but didn’t really go out of my way to invite anyone, because Death House is not a space that I feel particularly comfortable or safe in, so I can hardly expect that of anyone else.

La Riposte set up and did a quick soundcheck and then we were ready to go. It was just about ten-thirty. The plan was for me to read and then they would play immediately after, just make a ton of noise (and I’d either stick around to see them and take up space at the front, or get the fuck out, depending on how things went). I got onstage and put my soda down next to my feet, adjusted the mic stand. “Hi, everyone. My name is Amber Dearest and I’m gonna do a quick reading and then La Riposte is gonna play. This is called This Is A Punk Show Not A War.”

Photo by Khristina.

Photo by Khristina.

The two dudes (“the two big dudes, the two big dudes who’d spent the whole night at the front pushing everyone else outta their way and taking up so much space…”) were both there, running the bar (it’s a tiny space, we were like twelve feet apart). They started saying things like, “What the fuck is this shit?” and there was one girl I didn’t know making womp-womp-womp Charlie Brown teacher noises, like I wasn’t saying anything interesting. But it didn’t matter because I had the mic and was louder than everyone else, and my friends kept cheering me on. I was reading with a huge smile on my face, and being continuously heckled by only three people. It was really hilarious reading the parts with descriptions of the dudes, because they were right there. Finally I got to the “and we were banned from Death House” and there was a whole bunch of laughter and cheers. The heckling got louder too, and someone yelled, “Punch her in the face!” When I got to the line, “They were such cliché drunkpunks,” they finally cut the mic. So I yelled the rest of the reading. My smile was gone. I was so loud, yelling over everyone’s voices. And it felt so exhilarating-affirming-powerful-truthful to be screaming the line “I’m-a-big-dude-and-I’m-gonna-talk-over-you-now” and the parts about them calling us bitches and cunts WHILE THEY WERE ACTUALLY DOING IT. When I got to the line, “You’re boring, you’re so fucking boring!” there were other people saying it with me, like we were all singing along together, except we were shouting it in the faces of those dudes. I finished my reading as loud as I could and then got off the stage, ducked into the crowd.

When I got upstairs to where merch was set up (and where I’d stashed my backpack), people were high-fiving me and asking if they could hug me (yes! yes you may!). I didn’t know the other two bands playing but they recognized me because they had seen my twin doing a reading in Kitchener in December. Meanwhile on the main floor, there was a major shouting match going on between a bunch of people, it was impossible to keep track of. But pretty much everyone was on my side, it felt like it was the whole room versus the two dudes who run the space.

I knew I’d get kicked out – but I didn’t know everyone would! The dude who appears clad in skinny white suspenders in my piece flat-out cancelled the show and told everyone to get out of his space. I apologized to the two out-of-town bands for messing with their show, but they were really understanding and said that they wouldn’t have played after hearing my reading anyway. We all got the fuck out and the bands loaded their equipment back into their vehicles. A friend handed me a ginger beer on my way out the door.

We were out in the snow for a bit, and honestly, I wanted to cry because people were being so nice to me. They were saying extremely nice things, like that it was the best punk show they’d ever seen, and calling me Amber Bravest. “Your hands were shaking, but your voice stayed strong.” I still feel high from all of the intensity.

The show moved right down the street to a sweet and dingy basement, the night stretched a little longer than planned, but everyone still got to play. It was a great show. And I hate on punk all of the time – the uniformity, the way we recreate all of the bullshit dynamics of the the mainstream world. But there are times when it means a lot to me. I will acknowledge that I have a lot of privilege in this scene, in this world, too. I am white, cis, able-bodied. Like the singer from Two Crosses said, “Just because I can be oppressed, doesn’t mean that I cannot also oppress people.” I don’t wanna get into a “what is punk” thing, but when punks continue to perpetuate all of the oppressions that exist within mainstream society, and they/we are uncritical about it, well, that’s not very punk to me. That’s just a bunch of jerks with silly haircuts makin’ a lotta noise about nothing.

Thank you to all of my friends (and some strangers!) for having my back last night, and thank you to La Riposte, Dervish, and Two Crosses for putting up with me and playing a bunch of cool songs and trading zines and tapes with me. Thank you also for reminding me of why I write, and why I run a distro. I am amazed at what a dream my life is sometimes. Oh, and thank you to Death House for proving my point.

Further reading: Bros Fall Back by The Secret Society Of Femmes (Philly).