© Enrico Miguel Thomas

Zinster Interview Series Part One: Andria Alehfi of “We’ll Never Have Paris”

Welcome to the first installment of our three part Zinster Interview Series. We’re chatting with Andria Alefhi about the benefits of DIY publishing often associated with zines.  Andria Alefhi is the editor and curator of the annually distributed zine, “We’ll Never Have Paris”. Founded in 2007, WNHP is a nonfiction and memoir based zine that publishes essays from various writers reflecting on leaving New York City. Andria is also a certified ASL (American Sign Language) interpreter and adjunct professor at Long Island University in Brooklyn (andriaalefhi.com).

Andria answered some of our burning questions about what goes into the publishing of a zine and the role this medium plays in the lives of emerging writers. She also talked to us specifically about WNHP’s unique quality of being both a zine and literary journal. She discusses how zines can be a resource for today’s writers or to people who didn’t even know they were writers, which makes for the kind of raw story-telling that WNHP is best known for.

TWA: What made you realize that your interests and personal aesthetic were best suited to create a zine?

Andria Alefhi: I used to play in bands and write songs. I thought I enjoyed performing and lyric writing. When that was no longer an option, I turned to writing, and I realized over time that writing essays and blogs was more of a match than song lyrics and musical performance. Starting a zine was so obvious that I didn’t even think twice once the idea entered my head (at age 35).

TWA: What kinds of attributes would you associate with a zine? (Mixed media, illustration, editorial)?

Alefhi: I am envious of the zinesters who put hours and hours into mixed media and cut and paste technology. Those are the ziniest zines. I admit to being lazy with my own zine, “We’ll Never Have Paris”. It’s all text and I send it off to a printer. However, this is the brand people have come to expect with WNHP.

TWA: How do you determine which pieces or creations will be chosen for a zine? What makes good content for a zine?

Alefhi: I have a clear mission with a consistent theme, which makes it very easy for me to follow. After following those constraints, I have a small team of contributing editors to give a second opinion on choosing stories.

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?

Alefhi: I’m in the minority – most folks publish a personal zine, or, perzine. My publication is really a literary journal in zine flavor. Each issue features one memoir essay per author, 6-9 per issue.

TWA: How often do you publish a new issue and how do you distinguish one issue from another? Do you enlist themes?

Alefhi: Always nonfiction memoir ‘For All Things Never Meant To Be’. Never fiction or poetry or generalized nonfiction. After issue four, I started to add sub themes to help focus each issue, which was better for writers and readers alike.

TWA: What kind of conversation/rhetoric are you trying to initiate/contribute to by creating a zine?

Alefhi: I started WNHP as primarily a place for me to write the kinds of memoir that I do, and secondly, to give people a place to tell their story. I focus on new writers, and even more, I invite folks who don’t call themselves writers. I prefer people to writers.

TWA: How are zines changing the way we view the publishing industry?

Alefhi: Zines are not new, but, I think there are more now than there were even 5-10 years ago. Zines have paralleled other art forms whereas social media created a transformative wave of self-publishing in all possible dimensions.

TWA: What are zines doing for emerging writers? How is the medium acting as an outlet for new writers?

Alefhi: Zines give every writer, artist, poet, or activist a chance to get the word out on an affordable, hand-made scale. Zine fests are often the only way that readers and zinesters can connect. Perhaps this is a place to shout out to my very own zine fest, coming up! Pete’s Mini Zine Fest is an annual, open studios kind of quiet zine fest, hosted by two Arab-American women. It’s Saturday, July 25 from 2-7pm at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn.  https://www.facebook.com/events/835952276485888/

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?

Alefhi: Yes I would say that remaining underground is exactly what makes a zine a zine, and the zine community. The minute a zine publication has advertising, or fancy expensive paper and binding, it’s simply no longer a zine. People love saying the word zine, and I’m thrilled every time I go to a zine fest or to Bluestockings bookstore and see brand new ones making their way into the world.