I finished The Obsesser #6.5 – 31 Postcards – right before the Milwaukee Zine Fest. The story prompt was Messages from the Margin. We had been discussing zine culture a lot (especially in the 90’s) because of the Notes From Underground reading. In the book the author talked about trades and penpal-like letter exchanges, or the lack of them that came from zinesters getting higher circulation runs and readers that sent along $ without much communication. There was a period where there were a lot of articles published on how the zine world would react once the internet took off, in the budding age of blogs and email. Many thought zines would die or had died already, but of course many others saw that soon there was a renaissance and that making physical zines still mattered, though maybe from a more select group of die-hard writers (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). I wrote about this a little in writing and loss last year, and the 2011 Revenge of Print. For the most part the movement sort of dug back underground after it’s serge in the spotlight. It got me thinking about how zinesters are beginning to embrace online communication (specifically facebook and email) to encourage new physical correspondence and to connect with other zinesters to encourage trades and letter exchanges.
You can read about the 31 Postcards project in the zine but basically I took place in a challenge to write 31 postcards in 31 days in October. While I was still working on it I copied some of my first set of cards and compiled them in the zine, putting together messages that I didn’t write with the intention of passing along to anyone but the receiver. It’s been just over a week since the project ended and in the last two weeks I’ve received a bunch of response postcards. I’ve sent and received cards from 5 different countries besides my own (which was my goal), and I even received one that was written in French from Canada!
I sent out trades to three people and offered new exchanges with a number of others. I wrote to long time penpals (some I’ve known over a decade) and strangers for the first time, most that are somehow connected to the zine world and others that were just interested in the challenge. It was a great mix and I think the whole project was a real success. It reminded me that even when I’m wrapped up in school, planning zine fest, participating in readings, and moving I can still make time to write letters to zine friends. In the past 5 years – because of school and my work with the zine library – I’ve really tapered off my letter writing and trades due to exhaustion and loosing touch with old friends. It’s important to keep these connections and make time for myself in the zine world (not just for the library) so I can finally work with zines just for myself again.
31 Postcards: The Obsesser #6.5, $2, 28 pages half size – first printing
This may be reworked with responses and with updated images of the postcards in a future printing (I added rub on letters, stickers, stamp art, etc), or it may be discontinued after this, which is why I left it at# 6.5 and not #7