Anna Bongiovanni: On writing about everything, self-validation & the power of zines

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Anna Bongiovanni: On writing about everything, self-validation & the power of zines

When we got Anna Bongiovanni's application to #stlsxpexpo, we wanted to run around the block.  Whether you're coming to the show or not, seriously read Anna's weekly webcomic Grease Bats here. 

Tell us a little about yourselves; what makes you tick, and what makes your publications tick?

I'm a genderqueer cartoonist whose work has been published online, in anthologies, graphic novels, and mini-comics. I love self-publishing and zines because I get full control of my work and there tends to be a super quick turn around between when I create it to when I publish it. I try not to box in my work or the subjects I want to address. My comics are about everything from queer BFFS, dysphoria, erotica, to fuckin' capitalism, educational, and auto-biographical.

What drewyou to creating, publishing, editing and presenting your projects?

I wanted to get my stuff out into the world! I'm impatient. I am not a perfectionist. I believe in the power of zines as an alternative way to get across information and stories in an accessible and cheap way. I love having control over the paper, the look, and the final product. It's great because I don't need anyone's approval but my own. 

How long have you been at it (by "it" I mean publishing)?

As long as I've been drawing, honestly.

What would you have told your younger self about what you are doing? and What do you hope your older self might tell the you of today?

That what you're creating is valid, that you don't need others approval, that what I'm making and what I want to focus on in my art and stories is important and even if it's published without a giant distribution, it's still going to reach those that need it.

Join is at #stlspexpo 2016 on October 15th at Central Library from 10:00 and 5:00. 

If you can't make it, buy Anna's stuff anyway: www.annabongiovanni.com

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Andrea Bell: From childhood make-believe to Kickstarter fame!

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Andrea Bell: From childhood make-believe to Kickstarter fame!

We're so thrilled that Andrea Bell is bringing her whimsical work to #stlspexpo 2016, all the way from Chicago!

Tell us a little about yourselves; what makes you tick and what makes your publications tick?

I grew up in a very quiet town that was next to a very normal suburb outside of Chicago,Illinois. Although I really enjoyed growing up in the town I did, my personality was truly shaped from the trips we took to visit my grandpa in his log cabin in the northern woods of Wisconsin. In my work you can see these influences really shine through. My nostalgia of running around with my cousins through the forest, the make-believe we would play, and the lessons my grandpa would teach me at the end of the day find a place in the subjects and scenery I write about and illustrate. 

What do you think of the relationship between publishing (what you do) and reaching an audience of readers?

I think as a kid (and I think a lot of kids an relate) that I drew and created pieces because I soon learned that when showing others my work they would react. The idea that a drawing that took me X amount of time would then merit reactions like excitement, admiration, sadness, was a powerful tool for a 7 year old but to this day I enjoy hearing about someone's reaction (any reaction) when they see and read my work. 

Can you tell us about your creative, editorial, and collaborative process?

My creative process involves a lot of writing and rewriting. For a comic I tend to first scribble down key points or topics that I know I want to express in this work. Sometimes this manifests itself in a list and other times I start "free-writing" conversations between characters about how I think they would naturally talk in a conversation about said topics.

The same can be said when creating editorial pieces and when collaborating with a group...I'll usually appoint myself to record all the thoughts that are being exchanged. I noticed I tend to overcompensate with all the rewrites and lists trying to find the best way to communicate these ideas. 


How did you get into working with small press publishing?

In my last year of college I ran across a small publisher called Yeti Press that at the time was based in Chicago. Digging deeper through their catalog I noticed a lot of work from peers in my same school. I decided that after graduation I wanted to keep the momentum of my work high and I started crafting the basic story and script of Rose from the Dead. I wrote a few emails to the Yeti guys and had a meeting where they agreed to bring on my book to their huge Kickstarter subscription project and before I knew it, my book was being made and find their way to the nice people who donated to the project. 

What advice would you give to someone starting a small press or publishing project?

Please just finish your projects. You may be in a rut and you don't like how you're drawing/writing/creating this book/comic/what have you, and you want to quit. Just finish it so this idea is done, and you can move to the next one. 


How long have you been at it (by "it" I mean publishing)?

About 3 years

What would you have told your younger self about what you are doing? and What do you hope your older self might tell the you of today?

I would have told her to study harder for her spelling tests. And I would hope that my future self will let the Andrea of today know that all my hard work paid off.

Join is at #stlspexpo 2016 on October 15th at Central Library from 10:00 and 5:00. 

If you can't make it, find Andrea's work here: http://andreabelldraws.com/

 

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Vice Versa Press: on punk, production & being a lone wolf

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Vice Versa Press: on punk, production & being a lone wolf

I first met Julia from Vice Versa Press at the River Des Press Expo in 2015.  I was bowled over by her meticulous design (pop ups!) and her equally rich writing.  Julia's books are both vulnerable and badass. She was a featured artist at #stlspexpo 2015 & I'm so glad she's joining us again in 2016!  - Nicky

What drewyou to creating, publishing, editing and presenting your projects?

I used to make household newspapers as a kid when I was growing up. We had an old Apple Computer when 'desktop publishing' was a buzz word and that's how I spent most of my time. Growing up in an office environment with my workaholic Mom introduced me to all types of machines that allowed me in some ways to mass produce my self-expression. When I got into punk, I became aware of zine culture and my childhood practice of formatting became something I enjoyed doing again. As far as presenting my work, I was always a bit shy, so publishing allowed me to put my voice out into the world without me having to actually be in the spot light. But sometimes I feel that publishing and 2-D art are too quiet. I'm at the point in my life when I want to make more noise. 

How didyou get into working with small press publishing?

In my case, it was not strategically planned at all. I had begun making art prints and some zines under the name Vice Versa Press, because I wasn't comfortable (at the time) with using my real name as a form of branding. But as I continued to write, design, and produce zines; I couldn't stop making stuff. And along the way, other people began asking me to design flyers for them and zine collaborations were something I began to do more frequently. I just sort of found what I loved without really understanding what it was, which is is small press publishing. And as the press continues to grow, I'd like to branch out into exploring manufacturing. 

What do you think of the relationship between publishing (what you do) and reaching an audience of readers?

For me, the relationship is complex. Unless a press is funded by some institutional backing, it's hard to survive from a business perspective without understanding your press as a producer of commodified goods and your audience as a 'market'. This is not how I started Vice Versa Press by the way; I was all about making art and writing because I was moved to do so, with or without pay. But over time I've dove in head first into how capitalism shapes the relationship between art and business. So, in order to keep this press alive I observe what is popular amongst my readers and try to balance my personal voice and creative identity with what moves people to buy (weird I know). But my work is rooted in highly emotional material, and this is how me and readers connect. We sort of bond over these painful experiences by laughing about them and sharing stories when we meet in person. In short my readers are badasses. 

What advice would you give to someone starting a small press or publishing project?

It's easier to work as a press with a group of people. I do everything solo, mainly because I like to have creative control over everything, and because I haven't found lifelong collaborators with Vice Versa Press yet. I see teams of people starting presses and releasing new projects, and they really have strength in numbers to get their projects known and recognized. As a lone wolf, it's hard to cover all bases adequately when you're designing, producing, promoting, and trying to maintain sales as well. I don't recommend doing it solo unless you just can't help yourself. Unless you're a control freak like me. 

Other than your own projects, what are some other presses and publications that inspire you to keep reading and supporting the small press community?

Sybil Press is putting out some really interesting regional work based in Texas and Baltimore pertaining to folk religion. I'm all about that stuff. Draw Down Books really has a keen eye for trending art styles. Everyone that they work with blows up shortly thereafter, and they're really cool people in person. High Mija Zine is contemporary and Latina as fuck, so it's exciting to see this resurgence of Latinx identity through storytelling and humor. And of course, the folks who put the River des Press Expo together are doing really interesting things within St. Louis. I think there is a small group of people in STL who are truly countercultural, who response directly and uniquely to the changing dynamic of the city, And the folks who produce Shitty River Comics, Freezerburn, Toxic Shock Syndrome and many others are doing so in a very alternative way. 

Join is at #stlspexpo 2016 on October 15th at Central Library between 10:00 and 5:00. 

If you can't make it, buy Vice Versa Press books here: http://www.viceversapress.com/

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Featured Artist: Marnie Galloway

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Featured Artist: Marnie Galloway

We met Marnie Galloway in 2013 at our first Expo. She drove in from Chicago to take a chance on our tiny experiment. This year, as featured artist, she’s prepared a performance of her comics for our Kickoff on 10/14 at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation

Tell us a little about yourself; what makes you tick and what makes your publications tick?

My name is Marnie Galloway and I am a cartoonist working in Chicago. I make comics that explore the same ground that the lyric essay does in poetry. Genres mingle and research braids through the often-but-not-always fictional short comics I’m making these days. Comics is a medium comfortable with silence, unburdening a story or a crucial moment from the weight of language. I find the idea of crafting and sharing an emotionally loaded silence with a reader extremely energizing.

What drew you to creating, publishing, editing and presenting your projects?

My work, even before I knew I was making art, has always revolved around a core drawing practice. When no one was looking, I would draw when I was supposed to be working on something else. I made books as gifts, I kept illustrated diaries. I earnestly tried my hand at making artist books and at printmaking; neither discipline felt like the right fit, but I learned the skills I needed to make publishing a cornerstone of my practice. I love being able to give books to friends and family, to trade books with fellow artists; someday I’m going to be mummified under an avalanche of paper.

What do you think of the relationship between publishing (what you do) and reaching an audience of readers?

The kinds of comics I make are quiet, intimate and pretty bookish—that is, the materiality of the book informs (I hope) the reading of the story. I have tried presenting my comics online and something feels off; maybe I haven’t cracked the code yet, but for now I’m focused on the book as my primary form. I am grateful to have So What? Press in Brooklyn and Radiator Comics in Chicago distributing my work to small press & self-publisher friendly book stores, but exhibiting at small press expos and alternative comics festivals is the primary way I connect with readers and other artists.

Can you tell us about your creative, editorial, and collaborative process?

Painful months of writing; piles of abandoned drafts as I thumbnail page layout and rough book design; laborious but satisfying pencils; joyful inks flowing in disappearing hours.

What advice would you give to someone starting a small press or publishing project?

Start now: don’t overthink it! There are tons of resources online, in public libraries & radical libraries, in community workshop spaces, in shared printmaking studios, etc etc etc, to guide you through making your first zine (or comic) with a single sheet of copy paper. I always learn best by doing a thing going in knowing it’s going to be bad and then puzzling out how to do it better. That cliché “the distance between 0 and 1 is greater than the distance between 1 and 2” feels really true to me. Once you’ve done something once, and it’s no longer an abstract intimidating thing, making the second and the third and the fifteenth are so much easier.

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