Interview with Caitlin Constantine

The next Library Journal zine reviews column, due out on the internet in early September will review zines by people who came out of "retirement" to create a new zine after at least five years. For my 500 word introduction I interviewed each of the zine publishers reviewed. With only 500 words (and really that was probably too long), I couldn't include all of the great stuff each person had said. Therefore, I'm posting all of the interviews here. First up, Caitlin Constantine, who wrote I Was a Teenage Mormon and Heliopause back in the day. Her new zine is All I Want Is Everything. She's up to issue 3.

1. What drew you back to print? What do you value about print/print culture?
Two things happened that brought me back to the world of print, and specifically zines. One, I tried to become a Professional Writer and two, I got a job in journalism working on a web site for a 24/7 cable news station. I got to see first-hand just how many filters and gateways are put in place with larger media outlets, even "alternative" ones, and how it can have the effect of reducing the messiness and complexity of authentic human expression into sound bites and sexy narratives and pitches. Everything was so slick and professional, and it all started to feel rather...sanitized. So I ordered some zines after a bit of an absence, and I remembered what attracted me to them in the first place, how it gave you access to the minds and ideas of people who are almost never represented in mainstream media. Zines really have that human touch that I feel is often missing from mainstream, professional media.

What do I value about print/print culture? I've been thinking a lot about this, and I think that maybe what I like best is that it has an element of permanence you don't really get in digital culture. Don't get me wrong - I love blogs and social media, but it's the rare blog post that makes the kind of life-changing impact on me that happens regularly with a book or a zine. I suspect part of it is the fact that you are holding something concrete in your hand with a book/zine/magazine, and that your surroundings can change and the position of your body can be different, whereas with digital media, you are almost always sitting in front of a computer (or nowadays, looking at a smartphone). The memory that is imprinted is more of a full-body, tactile one and less one of just words and bytes moving through your brain. It seems more substantial, somehow.

2. Do you have an online presence, as well? (blog, LiveJournal, Twitter, tumblr, flickr, etc.) If so, how does your zine content differ or overlap from what you publish online?
I have a blog that I write about sports and fitness from a feminist perspective, and I'm planning on bringing back a blog I had about writing, books and zines. I take part in the tumblrverse, I have a Twitter account and I am on Facebook. I'd say the big difference between what I put out there online and what I do with my zines is that I tend to write my online stuff very quickly. If I work really hard on something I might write it over the course of a couple of hours, then revise it a couple of times and publish. With zines, though, I will labor over an essay for two weeks. The same amount of work that produces thirty blog entries will result in half of one zine.

I've also found I feel more comfortable getting more personal in my zines than I do in digital media. I blog/tweet/facebook under my real name, and so anyone who wants to can find these things by doing a Google search, but not everyone is going to seek out my zines. I don't have to worry so much about, say, a future employer just stumbling upon my zine while doing a standard pre-employment check. As a result I feel like I can be a bit freer with what I write.

3. Do you know about Revenge of Print 2011? If so, did it/will it inspire you to make a zine this year?
I took the pledge, and it inspired me to get All I Want is Everything #2 finished, instead of letting it languish endlessly on my hard drive. I'd like to finish at least one more before the year is up, so we shall see if that happens. I've got parts of #3 and two one-shots on my laptop. I just have to stop getting distracted by the internet, lol.

4. How many pen pals do you have? How many did you have when you published your previous zine?
I've got a few people I write back and forth with consistently - I couldn't really count them out for you, though. Like most zinesters I am not nearly as good about writing as I should be, although I am making an effort to be better about this. (Especially when I hear about zinesters like Marissa Falco, Jami Sailor and Heather Colby who have started having letter-writing parties, which I just think is genius.) I like email, but a letter in the mailbox is like Christmas.

5. Did you choose to start over with a new title? Why/why not?
I did choose to start over with a new title. My first zine was a one-shot, but after that I published two zines under the name Heliopause, and I didn't care much for the name anymore. Plus, I'm very different from who I was when I wrote those zines. My attitude toward the world and toward myself has changed dramatically, and I saw no reason to keep on with that title. It's a remnant of a life I no longer have and am happy to be rid of. My new title is a much better reflection of who I am now, I think.

6. Do you ever regret something you said/drew in an earlier zine? Enough to want it removed from any libraries that hold it? Have any general thoughts on zine libraries?
My last zine before my retirement was written when I was in a pretty dark, sad place. I was not treating myself well, and it shows. I found the flats for the zine a year ago, and I could only read half of it before I had to put it far, far away. The lady who wrote that zine was angry and depressed and self-destructive, and I could see it on every page. I'm not interested in going through the trouble of pulling it out of zine libraries, though. It's out there and...well, I guess you could consider it my version of drunk party photos on Facebook. I'm just blessed that only something like 40 people ever saw that zine, whereas billions of people can see drunk party photos on Facebook.

I do love the fact that there are zine libraries, too. I like that these little works of creation are not being lost forever and ever. One of my weird little hobbies is reading LDS feminist history, and a large component of that field are the journals kept by the women. (Journaling is a big part of LDS culture.) I mean, what is history if not the stories of individuals woven together to form the larger narrative of society and culture? Zine libraries play a very practical role in making zines a part of that larger tradition of documentation, especially considering that many of the people who make zines are marginalized or alienated from mainstream narratives about the world. (Which makes preservation of their voices and stories all the more essential, I think.)

And really, I like the idea of all of these people, sitting in our bedrooms and our living rooms, cutting and pasting and drawing and writing about our lives. It's like we are planting little flags that say "I AM HERE" in time and space.