Zinefest: the only good party I ever threw

Categories:  Events, Features
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Toby Jones and Madeline Queripel

Toby Jones and Madeline Queripel

Two years ago, I began coordinating the Twin Cities Zinefest.  It’s a small, two-day DIY craft, culture and self-publishing festival in Minneapolis that offers affordable table space to exhibitors and often includes an art show, concert, workshops, documentaries and an open mic zine reading.

Throughout its history, the Twin Cities Zinefest has often been run by well-intentioned, creative coordinators with busy lives.  It’s a model that is about as independent as its cause, since the coordinator has about as much free reign as any exhibitor making a zine.  There’s no board, or committee, and hardly any volunteers.  So it’s pretty common that after a couple years running the fest, whoever’s in charge just burns out or moves on to persue their own personal projects.

When I took over Zinefest in 2008, I didn’t have much guidance from the previous event coordinators.  I mostly consulted with friends, visited other conventions, and tried to pick apart the attitude and events that make a good convention.

For better or worse, you can blame dumb luck for what happens at most cons, but there’s still a lot to be said for a maintaining and executing a well-oiled plan with core values when you’re organizing any public event.  A con can change enormously depending on the strengths of its location and place on the calendar, but I’ve developed some general, useful ideas about conventions that other DIY, book and comic festival coordinators might want to hear.

As far as I know, there is no convention for convention planners, so we’re all pretty much going on old steam or starting from scratch, which is why I think “how to create a better convention” is a conversation that’s long over-due and well worth having, so I’m starting it now.

I’m sharing with you some of my ideas about what makes a good show, in hopes that other small press events consider my arguments, re-think old standards, and usher in a more exciting age of print-loving festivals.

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Comic Shop Focus: Needles and Pens, San Francisco, CA

Categories:  Features, Interviews
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“I’m the needles half,” answers Breezy Culbertson, the shop’s pigtailed co-owner, seated behind the counter nestled in the back right-hand corner of her store. “The sewing needles half.” The pens half, she explains, is Andrew Scott, a former Maximum RocknRoll coordinator and editor of the long-running zine, sobstory.   Together the duo opened the quasi-eponymous Needles and Pens a few blocks from this spot, a half-dozen years ago.

“The old store was tiny. It was the size of a one-car garage,” explains Culbertson. “San Francisco is so expensive, it was the only place we could afford.” Needles and Pens opened up in 2002 on 14th and Guerrero, in storefront that had formerly been home to San Francisco’s Black and Blue tattoo parlor, a small but cozy location that shared the block with a handful of kindred commercial spirits. “It was off the beaten path, too, but it was fun, because there was a record shop and a print shop and a gallery and a bike shop,” says Culbertson. “We used to have events together and it was like a mini-block party. It was fun. But then they moved on.”

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