Eating Salad With a Spoon is Punk: My First Zine Festival Experience

This weekend I tabled at the second annual New Orleans Comics and Zine Festival (NOCAZ), an independently produced show held at the main public library. I didn’t attend the inaugural festival last year, but many people told me that this one was at least twice as large, if not three times as large. With the low, low cost of registration of $10 for a half table (and free to Louisiana residents), lots of people took advantage of the chance to share their creative printed projects. On my row there were a few people who had come all the way from Austin and Houston.

I had set NOCAZ as a deadline for me to finish my first print edition of Southern Glossary. This issue is a compilation of images from all the people who have curated the Southern Glossary Instagram over the past year. I’m really happy with how it turned out and that I got it done in time (even though I had to pay express shipping since I dawdled on writing my own introduction to my own zine...I’m just horrible at that stuff up until the moment it has to happen).

I also had two photo books by Anthony DelRosario on the hand-painted corner store signs of New Orleans. Anthony made up some pinback buttons for me to have an cheap alternative item to buy. You can get these books and buttons over at NOLAnacular.com.

I got there a little earlier than most other people and grabbed a spot next to two people who were already set up because they looked friendly. Virginia Truth had zines about the X-Files and also about coping with pet euthanasia (she works for a vet). She taught me about fold-em-ups, which sort of blew my mind in their simplicity: an eight-page magazine made on just one sheet of paper. Brandon from SwampFlix had zines about his friends introducing each other to movies and discussing them.

My other neighbor was Marlo Barrera who had a wide assortment of very cool postcards and books. Some were paintings and others were collage. She had a small personal zine called Stone Fruit which she tries to do every month and a half for so. If you're in town, you can see her work at the Less Than 100 pop-up shop that's going on now.

So just between these three people I already had a cool cross-section of what younger people were doing. I am definitely more on the alternative and small press wavelength nowadays (one of my favorites is NOBROW), so I don’t come across many handmade zines anymore.

One of the things that made me happiest was that the cover of Southern Glossary definitely drew people in, even from, like, ten or fifteen feet away. It’s a photograph by New Orleans artist Artemis Antippas. A lot of people had recognized it from different places, but many were just taken by the originality of the “glitter chicken.” It started a lot of conversations and led to a lot of people picking up the issue and looking through it. I’m so glad that this worked out, and once again, I owe a big debt of gratitude to Tammy Mercure for putting the two of us together.

I sold all the copies of Anthony’s books I had, and a whole lot of the buttons. I sold eight copies of Southern Glossary, including one to bassist JAMES SINGLETON. I had to work hard not to geek out. He was walking his very young daughter around the table, and she was one of a lot of kids who had made their own photocopied books.

I traded two other copies with some people for some of their work. If I’d known how much cool stuff I was going to see that I wanted, I would have planned better. NOCAZ provided volunteers to come and man your table if you needed to get up and go to the bathroom or wander, but you really need a lot of time to take in all the work and leaf through the issues and talk about how and why they’re made.

That was one of my favorite things about the festival: the people who just walked up and start flipping through your zine without even saying anything. Some people looked through the whole zine, and it was fun to try and guess what they were seeing by their facial reactions. The positive feedback I got from everyone was great, but it was especially cool to have people under 25 enjoy it. I offered kids and teenagers a free button, and they would just flip out! I’m not an old curmudgeon by any means, but it did me a lot of good to hang out with all these young people.

Also, a lot of my friends and acquaintances stopped by, even a few people who knew me only from twitter came up and introduced themselves, which is always cool. The NOCAZ organizers and volunteers were GREAT: they even brought you coffee and free food. Lunch was rice and beans and a salad, but they gave us spoons instead of sporks, so I had to try to eat my greens with a spoon. I made an apology about the mess I was making to a kid visiting my table and she was like, “It’s okay, that’s so punk.”

I definitely left the festival energized and fully ready to sign up again next year. I between I’m already coming up with ideas for other non-Southern Glossary things to do, and maybe try to do some handmade stuff even though I’m not very crafty and I really have a hard time getting printers and photocopiers to cooperate with me.

Here's most of the stuff I picked up from the festival. Check these people out!