Zines of Racine 6: Valerie Valentine

Valerie Valentine started out publishing zines in the 1990s after discovering the book, Zines Volume 1 by V. Vale.  She even did a ‘zine as a final project in college. Her work with ‘zines eventually lead her to publish poetry collections and work as an editor in the publishing  industry. She happily granted an interview about her experiences.


1)  What’s your definition of a zine?

-totally DIY, from writing to page design to production and distribution

-in my mind, they are a mix of art and writing, usually black and white, imperfect in a wabi sabi way (includes typos, scratch-outs, whiteouts, mistakes)

-often found in zine libraries with like zines, have a touch of radical politics to them (punk) and are found in such bookstores

2) How were you first introduced to the zine culture?

My parents had a photocopier and I often borrowed it when I was growing up. I created a newsletter for kids to save the earth and left it all over town. I wanted people to recycle and see how small acts like turning the lights off can make a difference. Later I worked on on the high school school paper, little more than a zine–it had a low bar for quality. But that is what makes zines endearing, the weird idiosyncrasies.

Then I read a book called “You too can make a zine” or something like that. I don’t know the author. It taught me how to do it & just basically said to me, why not you? I enlisted my friends to help most of the time.

3) What has the zine community meant to you?

Anyone can be a writer or publisher. This was more relevant when print was the main media. Now digital publishing babies know no other way. Everyone is an author by default on the web.

I like to see the strange one-offs that are out of print, these “moments in time” pieces are precious to me as historical documents for the writers/communities that create them.

4) How has the zine community changed over the years?

I can’t speak for the community. I don’t feel like it’s organized enough to be called such. A lot of writers are just doing these things alone in their rooms. But as mentioned, the move from print to digital was a big shift. Webzines now connect people globally whereas the print zine festivals tended to be local scenes by city/region.

5) How has lessons from the zine community helped you in your editing and publishing career?

I still favor experimental approaches to writing and expression. The establishment of NY / Chicago publishing houses have created a style that is a bit stultifying to creatives. In zines, people will do the unexpected because they don’t give a care about what’s expected. So I go spelunking there for fresh style and content. In zines one can seek both edginess of opinion and work on the edge of style or taste or acceptability.

6)Where do you see the community going?

I’d like to see everyone going to a baseball game, but the uncertainty of the present Covid-19 moment leaves it all up to future’s chance.

Perhaps outerspace, eventually. 🙂

7) What are your future plans in the way of self publishing?

I have approx 50 unpublished manuscripts that I will probably never do anything with. Though I’d like to think something will come one day out of this mess of words. I cowrite the blog Heart of Literature, where I can’t stop talking about writing and books in general with my friend Mike.


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