paper trail distro/ciara xyerra (ciaradistro) wrote,
paper trail distro/ciara xyerra

interview with timothy colman (/17/07)

INTERVIEW WITH TIMOTHY COLMAN (posted september 17, 2007)

how did you get involved in zines/d.i.y. publishing?

i stumbled upon the world of riot-grrrl-ish personal zines when i was 13 or 14, i think either on the internet or through pander zine distro. i wrote people letters and wrote away for zines reviewed in the ones i already had, and also that was the age of those tiny little ads tucked into envelopes. i remember writing to the addresses on there and sending along stamps. zines spoke to parts of my crazy 14-year-old self that didn't have an outlet for expression anywhere else. it was really good for me to have this secret world of zines and zine penpals where i could express things going on with me that it was too scary to acknowledge in my day-to-day life.

why do you continue making paper zines in the age of the internet? how do you think the internet has affected the world of paper zines?

oh, man. i love paper and making things and pasting stuff together and i will put things out there on paper that i would never, ever throw up on the internet. i like having something i can give to people, that they have access in a concrete and immediate way. i like having a piece of myself i can give people as a gift. zines are romantic & visceral. it's hard for me to say how the internet has affected the world of paper zines because "the internet" was already starting when i discovered zines. but back then it seemed like the web of zine connections existed in a paper world rather than an internet realm -- there were a lot more zine reviews and listings in zines, a lot more crazy tiny pieces of paper floating around in envelopes, not to mention project-listing-zines -- i particularly remember Cherry Cherry Red, a full-size zine that ciara used to do that was basically a compilation of pages people had made & sent outlining their projects and zines.

what is your writing/editing/layout process like?

it depends. for the zine i wrote about my dad (with the clever and inventive title "Dad"), i wrote stuff down, by hand, typewriter, or computer, every day for a month. i wrote a lot of it sitting quietly in my room typing on a laptop -- but some was also just jotted down whenever it came to me: for instance, on public transit, or on the job while i was supposed to be grading middle school language arts essays. a couple times stuff came to me while i was walking down the street and i just sat down on the sidewalk and wrote until i was done. a few days into February, i spent 10 hours straight going through it all, editing out the parts that i didn't want to share, printing out the text, cutting and pasting it onto quarter-size sheets. actually a friend of mine was drawing huge portraits from photos as decorations for a party she was having that weekend, and we just sat there working side-by-side in her living room, in almost total silence & intense focus, until 4:30 in the morning! i'm very much a cut-and-paste layout person -- i like to have that kind of direct, visceral control, even if it would be easier and faster to use some sort of computer publishing program to do layout. i like to get my hands dirty, literally, to touch everything.

how do you think the zine community or the process of making zines has changed since you've been involved?

i think most of what i had to say, i answered in the internet question. i don't feel so connected to a zine community anymore, i'm more linked in with ex-zinesters, so my perspective is probably kind of skewed as to what's changed.

are you "out" to people in your life as a zinester? how do you explainit to people who don't understand?

not really. i bring it up if i want to, if it comes up. i don't always like the different parts of my life to overlap; i can be pretty guarded in my day-to-day life about internal stuff. the only way i can put out writing that means anything at all is by turning off the part of my brain that knows people might read it some day. so i don't always share the zines i make with people in my day to day life, or i might but i do it slowly. i don't really explain it to people, i just either tell them or i don't.

what do you like best about the zine world? what do you like least?

i like the possibility for exchange and growth, i like how personal and intimate zines can be, i like the impulsiveness of zines as a form of art and how they can express and hold things that might not be deemed "important" or polished. i don't like how the zine world, like many punk-related things, can sometimes be almost deliberately inaccessible or closed off, and also unaware of everything else going on around it that's not within its bubble.

do zines play a political role in your life? are you involved in other d.i.y. projects? do they play a political role?

everything exists politically, as well as concretely/emotionally/et cetera, but i wouldn't say zines play a particularly political role in my life. my zines tend to be implicitly rather explicitly political. for me, they're a forum to explore and communicate interconnections between the emotional, personal & political -- except i don't even think those things are easily separable. i'm not sure what counts as a d.i.y. project, exactly, or where to draw the line between d.i.y. & grassroots as terms, but i'd say i'm involved in other d.i.y. projects, including Philly's Pissed (radical organizing & support work around sexual assault) and the Philly Dudes Collective (anti-sexist men's discussion/self-education group). yes, these things play a political role in my life.

what advice might you have for someone who is new to the zine community?

read and listen, write letters, take advantage of the potential for exchange and dialogue. try to get to a zine library and get your hands on some amazing old zines.

what role do you think distros can/should play in the zine community?

i like distros that are closely engaged with the people whose zines they're distributing, and keep control in the hands of the people who make zines, while allowing their creations to get a wider exposure and taking some of the mail burden of their hands.

are there changes you'd like to see in the zine community or your own zine creation?

for a long time i was really hesitant to even make a zine, or more generally, put writing out into the world publicly. now that i've broken out of that a little, my ongoing goal is to write more and put more writing and more projects out into the world. i would like to see the zine community become more dispersed, diverse and engaged with other communities. i would like people to keep making amazing zines about their lives, their stories, politics & visions. one of the things that's potentially really awesome about zines is the opportunity for feedback, dialogue, exchange, and i would always like to see more of that.

on that note, if you want to talk about this stuff or anything else, shoot me an email and we can write paper letters: timot at riseup dot net.

timothy wrote the zines "dad" & "headlock," both available through the distro.

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