Who are you? Where are you based?
My name is Mary and I am the creator behind Reflective Zines. I grew up in Massachusetts and then traveled to New Hampshire and Illinois for my undergraduate and graduate studies. I am currently based in the North Shore of Massachusetts.
What are zines to you?
Zines are a way for people to amplify their voices. They allow people to share their experiences and offer advice to others. They also create communities for groups of people that might not have access to each other in person. Through zines, I have been able to connect with others with mental illness, and with the broader queer community.
What was your first encounter with zines?
I first learned about zines in a gender studies class during my undergraduate degree. My professor had our class make a zine about gender identity. The zine was meant to educate people who did not know much about gender. I loved that the zine was created by normal, average people, not an esteemed, wealthy author. It made me feel empowered and made me feel like my voice can be heard.
Tell me about your zines. What kind of zines do you make?
My zines are mostly about mental health topics. I have a series of mini-zines about using various DBT skills in everyday life. DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) is a type of therapy that was originally created to help people with Borderline Personality Disorder. I also have a zine called ‘Daddy Issues’ which explores the lasting, traumatic effects people live with after growing up with an inadequate father. A third favorite zine of mine is a drawing/collage zine depicting emotions that mentally ill people experience, such as dissociation and hyper-focus. Besides these zines, I also create poetry zines. The topics of my poetry are also often about mental health, but I also write about non-monogamy, emotional attachment, empathy, and humanity. By trade, I am a professional musician and violin teacher, so I also have a few music zines.
What inspires you to create zines?
I am inspired to create zines when I feel passionate about something. When my emotions or thoughts become very strong, creating zines is a great way for me to get everything in my mind organized. In that way, I would consider creating zines a coping method for me! I am often also inspired to create zines when I read other amazing zines! I recently read a zine about memories the author associated with various colors, and decided to make a mini-zine on the psychology of colors!
What’s your favorite thing about zines?
I love that anybody can create zines. I love that I get to hear oppressed voices that would otherwise not be amplified in more mainstream media. I love that I can find other people like me out there in the world and the art and writing they create. I also love that zines are often about topics I am interested in, such as mental health and non-monogamy. There aren’t many mainstream media about these topics created directly by people from these communities.
Do you recall your first zine ever, what was it about and what inspired you to create it?
Earlier I mentioned the zine I made with my classmates during my undergraduate degree, but the first zine I ever created on my own was a poetry zine called “To all the boys I’ve ever loved… girls, girls, girls!” This zine is a fairly unorganized collection of poetry that I wrote between 2013 and 2017. I was going through a lot at the time; ending and starting new relationships, exploring polyamory, my BPD diagnosis and mania, and a Benzo addiction. I created it because I needed an outlet to get my feelings out. One of the symptoms I have with BPD is experiencing emotions more strongly than other people might, and creating this zine helped me express those feelings. Looking back, I have come a LONG way; I am sober, in a long-term, healthy relationship, and I am comfortable with and honest about my non-monogamous orientation. I am still grateful to have this zine, though- it reminds me how far I’ve come.
Tell me a little about your zine-making process.
Sometimes I’ll type out all the written content I want, print it out, and then find artwork to go with that text. Other times, I’ll find a set of stickers or make some doodles that inspire me to write something that goes with them. Sometimes I’ll start a zine and finish it on the same day, and other times I’ll start a zine, put it down, and finish it months later. I don’t pressure myself to create zines in any particular way; I just create in whichever way is most comfortable at that time!
What do you hope people get out of your zines?
I hope that people find solidarity in my zines. I hope they see my experiences with mental health and feel less alone. I hope they are able to learn about the DBT skills I write about and use them in their own lives to live more happily. I also hope that they feel inspired to create and make positive changes in their own lives!
Name two of your favorite zinesters.
I love @MyHeartIsNonBinary zines!!!!!! A kind soul named Aj (ajaysworld242) makes these zines in Canada and they are such a thoughtful and creative person! Their zines are super informative, but also raw and emotional. Their zines strike a really good balance between personal and applicable. I am grateful for Aj and their zines because I find so much valuable life advice from them! I also really like Queer Marshmallow’s zines, who owns the @MerfemmeDistro! I only recently found their zines and I love them. I particularly love their zines about radical vulnerability, because I believe it will do a lot to end stigmas and relieve some of the weight of stigmas from mentally ill people. Their Distro is a huge collection of queer-made zines, which I also love!!
Do you have any advice for new zinesters?
One piece of advice I have is just to start creating, and accept imperfection! One of the many things I love about zines is that they don’t have to be perfect; you can express yourself in whichever ways feel most comfortable to you. A second piece of advice I have is to read other peoples’ zines! Find some topics you like, and read zines about that topic. If you don’t want to or are unable to purchase zines, there are lots of free zine libraries online! I’ve found many free resources by scrolling through Instagram and talking to other zinesters online. You can also ask other zinesters to trade zines with you; this is another motivator to make zines, and another way to read zines without having to spend money!
Is there a zine website or resource you would recommend new zinesters to check out?
The Sherwood Forest Zine Library recently created a free collection of PDF zines dealing with black history and struggle, privilege, allyship, policing, legal rights, activism, and protest tactics to help educate people who want to be actively anti-racist. They only ask that you donate to POC causes, bail and medical funds, and protest supply funds if you are able. You can find this library at the link below!!
Interview conducted by Solansh M.
Pictures provided by Mary B.