For the last installment of the Zinster Interview Series, TWA is catching up with C.J. Colligan who offers an incredibly stripped down approach to prose and artwork in their zines in order to portray their thoughts and experiences. What C.J. does is most closely associated with what we call a perzine, which describes personal associations and observations. We’ve had the opportunity of speaking with other zinesters whose work involves other writers, opinions, and styles, however with C.J.’s zines, we get a sense of the individual maneuvering through this world and their personal reactions.
C.J. Colligan is a writer and zinster living and creating in New York City. In 2012, C.J. graduated from SUNY Binghamton with a BA in English and concentration in creative writing. Their first published work was in 2010 with the chapbook “Love Poems to the Moon, the Sea, and You”. C.J. eventually came to zine creation and published their zine “AWAKE” in 2013, which is sold on Etsy. I met C.J. at the 2015 Brooklyn Zine Fest where they were selling “AWAKE”, “Prayers to Catholic Virgin Martyr Saints from a Queer Protestant”, and the more recent zine, “The 13 Monster Commandments”. This was C.J.’s second appearance at the annual Brooklyn Zine Fest, appearing for the first time in 2014. C.J. also attends the Fashion Institute of Technology where they are pursuing an Associate’s Degree in Visual Presentation & Exhibition Design.
C.J. shared with me the characteristics that made zines like “Awake” and “The 13 Monster Commandments” so personal and stark. We also discussed the connectivity that zines offer people in a way that breaks down barriers and allows people to share their similar experiences. C.J. shared their insight regarding zines as they relate to the publishing industry and how the medium helps to broaden the scope of writers we’re exposed to.
TWA: What made you realize that your interests and personal aesthetic were best suited to create a zine?
C.J. Colligan: I’ve always considered myself a writer and an artist. I started making mixed media art books and chapbooks of my own poetry when I was in high school. It wasn’t until college that I was first introduced to the word “zine”; when I attended a spoken word poetry event on campus. I instantly fell in love with the unique aesthetic and freedom that zines offered.
TWA: What kinds of attributes would you associate with a zine? (Mixed media, illustration, editorial)?
Colligan: When I think of zines, the general attributes I associate with them are certainly mixed media, illustration, and editorial aspects; but also the unique and personal magic that the zinester brings to their creation. Two zinesters may cover the same subject, but no two zines will ever be exactly the same
TWA: How do you determine which pieces or creations will be chosen for a zine? What makes good content for a zine?
Colligan: When I am creating a zine, the process to determine what exactly goes into the zine takes a lot of time and deliberation. For me personally, good content for a zine can range from something I find impactful or relatable to others or something that is personally beautiful to me.
TWA: Do you enlist other writers for your zine? If so, how do you find them and how do discern if their work is a good fit?
Colligan: I’ve attempted to enlist other writers for my zines in the past, but sadly the submissions were lacking in quantity so the zine was never published.
TWA: How often do you publish a new issue and how do distinguish one issue from another? Do you enlist themes?
Colligan: I try to publish at least one or two new issues a year. The majority of my zines are stand alone from each other in content, except for my three issue zine “AWAKE”. Themes are a big key for my zines such as in my zine “The 13 Monster Commandments”. Though I have noticed that in some way a few of my zines enlist similar zines.
TWA: What kind of conversation/rhetoric are you trying to initiate/contribute to by creating a zine?
Colligan: When I create my zines, I’m often trying to initiate a conversation in which commonality is found and barriers are broken down between people which generally might not interact with each other. I often find that despite people’s various differences, a good zine can help others relate to each other on a personal level. Whether it’s a perzine, a fanzine, or a political zine, I find that this form of creativity connects people.
TWA: Do you consider the zine/zines that you publish to be more fiction based, nonfiction based, or a combination?
Colligan: My zines are often a strange combination of being fiction and nonfiction based.
TWA: How are zines changing the way we view the publishing industry?
Colligan: Zines create a unique opportunity for self expression and self-publishing within an industry that has, until recently, been reserved to those with a certain kind experience, specific knowledge, and privilege. Zines are opening up the publishing industry to those who have never been considered for the opportunity to be published.
TWA: What are zines doing for emerging writers? How is the medium acting as an outlet for new writers?
Colligan: Zines offer emerging writers a medium to be able to fully and personally express themselves. It also offers these writers a unique community of supportive zinesters.
TWA: Do zines get the type of recognition they deserve in the media? Is part of their charm, success even, predicated on their obscurity and sense of being an “underground” movement?
Colligan: I personally think that zines do deserve more recognition in media. Zines have the ability to change the way we interact with others as well as our own selves. Such a medium shouldn’t be “closed off” to any aspiring writer or artist because it’s considered too obscure or niche. Certainly being an “underground” movement has its charm, but I think if more word got out about the presence of zines then less people would feel as confined as they do to stick with traditional publishing methods.
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