interview on les femmes folles

by erinohsays

Interviewed by West Virginia-based blog les femmes folles!

Erin Oldynski, founder of the Pittsburgh Zine Fair (September 22nd from 2-8pm at The Union Project in Highland Park), and writer/zine-maker herself, shares with LFF how she got into the craft, how feminism plays a role in her work, her favorite book and more…

I saw you were raised in Pittsburgh. How long have you been interested in making zines? How did you get into making zines?

Pittsburgh is my home and where I currently live, but for the last 8 years I’ve been based in Canada, mostly in Toronto. I first became interested in zines after going to Canzine in Toronto in 2005. It’s the largest zine fair in Canada and it is always a great motivator for me. I made my first zine in 2010 as a way to share written work that I’d been keeping to myself until then. I co-wrote my first zine “Conversations I Wish I Had” with a friend of mine, about our shared experience with depression. It was really cathartic to write that zine, and it definitely marked a turning point in my life, both with how I deal with mental health issues, and how I share my writing.

Tell me about the work you do—the festival, why its important to you, and what you hope people get out of it. Also, who can go to it? Is it mainly the zine-makers or public, too?

I founded the Pittsburgh Zine Fair in 2011 because I’d been to zine fairs in a number of cities in Canada and the United States but realized that my own hometown didn’t have a zine fair. After participating in the Feminist Zine Symposium in the spring of 2011 – a 1-day event featuring presentations and discussions at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh – I created a call-out for a Pittsburgh Zine Fair organizing committee. We held the first zine fair in September 2011 and since then it has really taken off. It’s received grant support from the Sprout Fund, as well as support from a number of community organizations and local businesses.

Anyone can participate in the zine fair as vendors. It’s a first come, first serve basis, as long as you apply to have a table before the deadline, we will reserve a spot for you. The fair is open to the general public, and we really encourage anyone to come out. We are especially hoping that more young people get involved in making zines and come out to the fair. Mostly, what I hope for the zine fair is for it to foster supportive community around self publishing and creative expression. Zines are arguably the most accessible form of art, and yet, the quality that we see every year at the fair is really high.

I see you also do other work towards education, feminism and more. What drives you?

I graduated from a Pittsburgh Public High School, where many students never graduate at all. Our city’s graduation rate is stagnating at 68%. My current ambition is for our city’s young people to achieve as much as we possibly can. Right now, less than 1 in 10 Pittsburgh Public School students finishes a 4-year college degree. I don’t think that success should be tied to graduating from high school, and I think that the school system needs radical change, but I also know that graduating from high school puts you leaps and bounds ahead of those who don’t, in terms of job access, health care, and overall standards of living. My experience in the Pittsburgh school system is largely what drives my current work with the Mayor of Pittsburgh on a campaign to raise the graduation rate. As a woman, I also want to see women be as confident and expressive as we can possibly be. Feminist beliefs play an important role in achieving that.

Does feminism play a role in all of your work?

Feminism plays out in everything that I do. I understand feminism broadly, as a life-long commitment to ending social inequities based on race, gender, class, and ability, because all of these social signifiers intersect and become sites for resistance against racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression. My current interest is to organize zine readings, workshops, and fairs that have an explicitly feminist agenda, and by that I mean creating space for discussion about patriarchy, and how to work together to end it in its various forms.

What would people be surprised to know about you—favorite book, movie?

Just Kids by Patti Smith is my favorite book, but that’s probably not a surprise since I tell everyone to read it. Recently, I’ve been interested in reading early libertarian theory, and that might surprise some because libertarianism is so often co-opted by the conservative right these days, even though I’m learning that its origins are more anarchist than anything else.

Any advice for aspiring zine-makers?

Come to the Pittsburgh Zine Fair on Sunday September 22nd from 2-8pm at The Union Project in Highland Park! Oh yeah, and make zines! Get excited about what other people are making, but don’t let that overwhelm you or think that you’re not also incredibly capable. Find my table and swap zines with me, I’d love to meet you!

What’s next/anything to add?

If you’re in Toronto, come to the Canzine Symposium on October 19th. I’ll be giving a talk about feminism and zines, and how to create community around feminist self-publishing.