Blue interviews Aron Nels Steinke!

For this edition of AmaZine Day (Saturday, May 18th), we’ve lined up a two-part reading featuring some rad creators that have tabled at AmaZine Day and are active members of the Portland zine community! Amazine Day is a quarterly zine fest organized by PZS and happens at the IPRC. This AmaZine Day, readings are themed around Labor, in honor of May Day! Here is an interview that PZS Organizer Blue did with Aron Nels Steinke, who will be part of the first lineup of readers at AmaZine Day….

Blue: What are your current projects?
Aron: Mr. Wolf and The Zoo Box.

Blue: When and why did you start making zines?
Aron: In 2006, because I wanted people to read my work and I figured nobody else was going to want to publish me.

Blue: Can you tell us more about your zines?
Aron: I consider myself more of a mini-comics maker, in terms of self-published material. My mini-comic Mr. Wolf is about teaching first and second grade. I anthropomorphize myself and my students so that I can slightly fictionalize events and keep my students’ identities protected.

Blue: What’s your favorite part about making zines?
Aron: The immediacy. I really like being able to put out my work right away, when I’m ready, and when the book is ready.

Blue: What is your biggest challenge in making zines?
Aron: Printing the damn things. It’s a pain in the ass. I really don’t enjoy photocopying. I’ll make a batch of 80 or so, and then when I’m out, I realize I have to spend a day to make more! I feel like I’m blaspheming to those in the zine community when I say I hate the production of making zines. The production is not why I make them. It’s the product, empowerment, and the community.

Blue: Have you made friends through zines?
Aron: Certainly. Most of my friends are zine or comics makers.

Blue: Have you ever had an awkward or difficult social situation arise from something you’ve made that you want to share?
Aron: Not really. Because I teach elementary school I have made my comics tame enough that I shouldn’t ever get fired from a job for them. My first comics shocked my parents in terms of crude language. That was annoying to have to deal with.

Blue: What is your favorite Portland Zine Symposium memory?
Aron: When my wife and I were just dating, she had bought some artichoke hearts at the farmers market and let me use them to prop up my books. It felt right, using produce to help sell zines.

Blue: How did you hear about the Portland Zine Symposium?
Aron: My friend and writer Martha Grover was doing the zine symposium and suggested I check it out. This was 2006.

Blue: What is your favorite part of AmaZine Day?
Aron: Well, it’s relatively new, but what I like about it is that you don’t have to wait a whole year to get together and see what other people have done.

Blue: What’s been you’re favorite PZS-related event?
Aron: I’m not too social, so I usually just do the main event. Having dinner with my friends afterward is my favorite.

Blue: Where are you from originally?
Aron: Camas/Vancouver Washington

Blue: What is your favorite zine?
Aron: Too many. Somnambulist. I really liked Journal Song when Steve was making it.

Blue: What’s the first zine you ever read?
Aron: An early issue of Tom Lechner’s Consumption. My brother got it from him when they went to PNCA together. I was very confused by this book. I didn’t know how awesome it was until many years later.

Blue: Who has been the most influential zinester in your life?
Aron: Clutch McBastard and Martha Grover

Blue: What has been the reader response to one of your zines that had the most impact on you as the creator?
Aron: When I published my first mini-comic, Big Plans #1, I would just hand it to people and anticipate when they would react or laugh. That was thrilling.

Thanks so much to Aron Nels Steinke for being interviewed! Come see Aron read from his comics about teaching and working in education, listen to our other readers, and enjoy the two free workshops atAmaZine Day at IPRC! Check out the AmaZine Day page on our website for more info… http://www.portlandzinesymposium.org/amazine-day/

Blue Interviews Breena!

For this edition of AmaZine Day (Saturday, May 18th), we’ve lined up a two-part reading featuring some rad creators that have tabled at AmaZine Day and are active members of the Portland zine community! Amazine Day is a quarterly zine fest organized by PZS and happens at the IPRC. This AmaZine Day, readings are themed around Labor, in honor of May Day! Here is an interview that PZS Organizer Blue did with Breena Bard, who will be part of the first lineup of readers at AmaZine Day….

Blue: What are your current projects?
Breena: I’m currently drawing Oaks, a soap opera comic about woodland animals grappling with their own mortality. It publishes online (www.oaksoaksoaks.com), but I’m really excited about the print edition; I put the first two zines out and I’m working on the third. I’m also sporadically updating my online journal comic Easel Ain’t Easy (www.easelainteasy.com) and toying with the idea of a printed collection of those. Offline, I’m illustrating my second graphic novel which is a vacation adventure story based on my childhood.

Blue: When and why did you start making zines?
Breena: I probably put my first zines out when I was a kid and had no idea what zines were, or that I was making them. I just loved the idea of creating content and sharing it. I made a single edition newspaper when I was a kid (The Bean Gazette) that reported on the news in our house. I typed it up on our old Tandy and printed a few copies on our dot matrix printer. There was even a section for comics, which I had to redraw individually on each copy because I didn’t know anything about computer graphics, just the word processor (I can still remember the joke in my comic… a family of tomatoes goes for a walk and the son is falling behind. The dad squishes him and says, “Catchup!” I stole it from my cousin.) I also printed some homemade comic books off in middle school and high school, for the thrill of seeing my work in print. I remember the guy at Kinkos was really curious about my comics, and it was encouraging to know that people besides my family took interest in what I was doing.

Blue: Can you tell us more about your zines?
Breena: The zines I am currently making fall into two categories: print editions of my various webcomics, or one-shot zines I make with friends. The zines with friends are almost always a hoot, and in some ways are more about the experience of making them together than they are about the end product (at least for me.) Some gems that have come from this are the zines “Sick” (with Zech Bard and Jen Clemens) which is a collection of stories, jokes, and drawings written by us while we were all sick, to be read when you’re sick. “The Cowboy” (with Hannah Glavor) which is tell a somewhat mystical story of a cowboy named Levi, and “Space Madness, or: The Lonely Comet Ride (A Not-Love Story)” (with Holly Trasti) about a space cowboy battling the paparazzi (apparently I like to make zines about cowboys.)

Blue: What’s your favorite part about making zines?
Breena: I love holding it in my hands for the first time and turning the pages and knowing that a thing which didn’t previously exist now does exist because we made it.

Blue: What is your biggest challenge in making zines?
Breena: Layout and production. I know there are shortcuts and more efficient ways to do it, but I always end up making a dozen mistakes and scratching my head and pulling out my hair. I tried to justify it by saying it makes the final product that much more rewarding, but recently when I was wrestling through production on my Oaks zines, Asher Craw showed me some shortcuts on Super Stan (one of the copiers at the IPRC) which probably saved me hours of frustrated work. Turns out being efficient is rewarding too.

Blue: Have you made friends through zines?
Breena: Definitely! One of my treasured possessions is a box of zines and mini-comics that I’ve gotten from friends. At first I was intimidated by all of the people making things at the IPRC, but that didn’t last long at all. I suppose there may be a few zinesters who live in a vaccuum, but most of the people I’ve met are just as excited about other peoples’ projects as they are with their own. It’s really easy to make friends in that kind of environment, because it’s such a niche thing that you share, you really appreciate it in one another.

Blue: At this coming AmaZine Day (May 18th), you’ll be reading from Picket Line, what inspired you to write a story set amidst such conflict?
Breena: When I finished school I spent part of a year living in Northern California and found myself in a similar situation as Beatrice (the main character in Picket Line). I was struck by the beauty of the Redwoods, but my only employment opportunity was at a lumber company. It was the first time I had encountered environmental protestors, and one day I commented to a coworker that I sympathized with them. He said, “Well you may as well go join them – they probably get paid more than you do.” I definitely felt the tension between two very different positions, and felt tension within myself, as an outsider, who was trying to figure out where I stood. While the story in Picket Line is pure fiction, I used my emotional experience as a jumping-off point.

Blue: I loved reading Picket Line because it was such a character driven story… What were your inspirations for your characters Rex and Beatrice?
Breena: Well, Beatrice was inspired by myself, which sounds vain, but I think a lot of writers do that. One way I create stories is by saying, “What if…” In this case I wondered, “What if I had stayed in California and gotten more closely entangled in the conflict there?” In general I tend to stay on the sidelines, so this was a way for me actively explore both sides of the issue, and to watch Beatrice grow in ways I might not have. As for Rex, he began as a drawing in my sketchbook of a kind of grotesque dinosaur man. The story started when I wondered what would happen if I put someone like that into a very common situation, like trying to buy a snack at a gas station. He quickly evolved into a very warm-hearted father figure, or at times a Christ-figure, which I think created a pretty interesting dimension in the story, to think of someone so “good” who seems to be caught up in something with questionable ethics.

Blue: Have you been surprised by the reader responses to any of the characters in Picket Line?
Breena: I really enjoy hearing people’s responses to the characters, as they can be very visceral. I tried to make my characters fairly balanced, so when someone would say, “Oh, I really hate so-and-so,” I would find that really amusing. To me, even hating a character is a sign that they are engaging with your characters, so I like that.

Blue: How has your life changed since Picket Line came out and into the spotlight?
Breena: I don’t feel like too much has changed! I’ve definitely had a chance to get out and share my work more, and present at events like AmaZine Day, which is really rewarding. The book was released on a fairly small scale, and this summer it will have been out for two years, so I don’t feel like it’s been in the spotlight too much. Which has actually been kind of a nice way to ease into the industry. The overall response has been really encouraging though, and I’d say the main thing that’s changed is I now have more confidence that I can complete a story, put it out there, and people will enjoy it. Which is really encouraging!

Thanks so much to Breena for being interviewed! Come see Breena read from Picket Line, peruse many local zines, listen to our other readers, and enjoy the two free workshops at AmaZine Day at IPRC! Check out the AmaZine Day page on our website for more info… http://www.portlandzinesymposium.org/amazine-day/

 

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