Zine The Night Away: RVA Zinesters Prep For Long-Awaited Zine Fest

Posted by: Necci – Oct 03, 2011


Local zinesters hit the Balliceaux dance floor Thursday night to fundraise for the fifth annual Richmond Zine Fest (RVAZF), which is scheduled for Oct. 8 at the Gay Community Center of Richmond. Co-organizers said not only did they reach their funding goal of $1,500 – they surpassed it. The leftovers will contribute to next year’s RVAZF. For those unfamiliar with Richmond’s underground zine culture, simply put, the highly-anticipated RVAZF brings local and national zinesters together to buy, sell and trade their printed works. But according to Liz Canfield, RVAZF co-organizer and assistant professor of gender sexuality and women’s studies, the RVAZF and entirety of zine culture is more than ink on paper.

“[Zines] serve all kinds of purposes,” Canfield stated. “I've gotten some of my favorite recipes from zines, have learned how to fix my bike because of zines, have learned about politics and organizing from zines, have read great poems, learned about other folks' struggles and their travels … I think that as a communicative art form, zines do so much for so many people.”

A zine-writer herself, Canfield added it was because of Richmond’s “vibrant zine culture” that she and her fellow co-organizers began the RVAZF back in 2007. “We felt RVA could benefit from such an event,” Canfield stated. “It's very underground, but there are a lot of zinesters and printers who live in this town.” She added the RVAZF accomplishes more than sharing works, also serving “to build community, to share what folks are working on, to share skills through workshops, and to get people together to have a good time while celebrating the still-vibrant DIY [Do It Yourself] print culture.”

Now, four years later, Canfield stated the RVAZF has unarguably attracted more attendants. The growing number can partly be attributed to the event’s co-organizers and supporters, who have mastered the art of pre-planning. “Now that we've done it for a number of years, we've gotten folks from out of town to return every year, and it's a great reunion and network,” Canfield stated. “More and more local folks participate and attend as well, so it's really one of my favorite events all year.”

According to co-organizer Celina Williams the promotional skills are one thing but her fellow RVAZF planners pack the heart and dedication to get the job done. “It's a very diverse group of busy people (teachers, students, zine-distro owners, etc.) that work in their free and not-so free time to make this event possible,” Williams stated. Williams added there are about 11 individuals who have worked to make this year’s RVAFA possible, which include: Canfield, Mo Karn, Eros Ornithes, Nicole Harris, Danny Rathbun, and herself. Other contributors include Safiya Bridgewater, Leila Prasertwaitaya, Cat and Justin Sears and Oura Sananikone.

“We all sign up to take on various tasks and sometimes we share responsibilities posting flyers and publicizing events online,” Williams stated. “It's not always the same thing each year or even for each event. It just depends on what can be done and what our individual commitments are.”

Fellow co-organizer Karn added that RVAZF planners have evolved over the years to anticipate obstacles that come along with the territory. “One of our main obstacles every year is choosing a location. We love the Gay Community Center, even though raising money to pay for the space is our main obstacle,” Karn stated. “I think we have done a good job as organizers of trying to make zine culture a year round thing in Richmond.”

Both Williams and Karn said one key tactic to avoid any financial shortcomings is hosting pre-events. “The main thing that we have done differently this year to organize is just focusing on having more events throughout the year that give people an opportunity to read from their zines, Karn stated. “This seems to be pretty popular. We had a pre-zine fest potluck and reading last year on the night before the zine fest and we had really good feedback.”

Good feedback indeed. Karn added that Richmond’s zine culture is “getting stronger.” “We have more zines being written locally, on a variety of topics- from political, anarchist, feminist, to personal stories and fiction and poetry zines,” Karn stated. “We have a section of local zines at the Wingnut Radical Lending Library, and you can really see the diversity in styles and topics. Someone also donated us a bunch of Richmond Zines from the [90s] and there are Riot Grrrl Zines, which is pretty rad.”

According to Karn there will be one more pre-event leading up the the RVAZF: “Night Before the Fest! Zine Reading and Potluck” will be held Oct. 7 from 7 to 10 p.m. at the WIngnut Anarchist Collective. “This event and zines in general help the community because they give people a way to express themselves and get their ideas, opinion, art, feelings and more into the public eye,” karn stated. “In a world of mass media controlled by corporate interests, zines are more accessible. They are part of the DIY ethic popularized in the punk rock subculture/counterculture (depending on how you do it).”

For more information about the RVAFA or to brush up on zines and zine culture, visit:

By Erica Terrini