Exposure Unit: Collaborative zines require care

A column about navigating the zine scene by Toronto-based zinester Rabeea Syed.

Excerpt from PRUDEmag

Making your own work allows you lots of creative control. But when folks come together to work on a shared project, the results can be magical. However, the process can definitely be more complex — and not without its challenges.

Right now, I’m a co-editor of PRUDEmag, a new zine about re-examining sex positivity and how certain common practices or values of sex positivity can be exclusionary to some. I work with two people, the amazing Sweets and Twoey Gray, and the zine includes submissions from others, as well as individual and collaborative work from the editorial team. This allows for multiple levels of co-creation.

When creating a zine that has multiple authors, there can be some tricky situations to navigate, whether it be the content creation itself or general team-work issues. It’s important to always go back to what the topic is, and have a shared understanding of how you want to respond to it. This could mean posting a call for submissions, and then selecting or editing that work, working with artists to create work specifically for the zine, or even soliciting artist proposals before having any work made. There are many ways to invite and manage the content (and the contributors) of your particular zine.

Of course, when you work on a zine with multiple people, there are bound to be challenges. It’s possible that your work styles won’t match up, or that your creative visions may differ. There’s also the question of labour. It’s crucial to divvy up the tasks fairly, so no one person is taking too much. Otherwise, you risk creating resentment or undermining the collective ownership of the project.Above all, the team members need to be able to communicate honestly with each other about these and any other concerns.

“Make soft deadlines, check-in times, and meetings for yourself and your team, and trust your co-editor’s taste,” Sweets suggests to aspiring zine collaborators.

Soliciting and publishing work from other people also carries certain responsibilities. Calls for submissions expect a lot of free labour from other creators. Don’t take it personally when people you hoped might submit aren’t able to. For those that do submit, ensure their work is respected and that the artist will be credited visibly and in the ways they desire. Make sure contributors are able to communicate with you easily, and that you treat them, their time, and their work with respect.

With PRUDEmag, all submissions are put into the zine as is, without being edited. We want the contributors to be able to portray freely what being a “Prude” means to them without interference. This hands-off approach comes from our shared values around self-representation in community.

“It is meant to be meaningful and personal, not perfect and professional,” explains Twoey. “Keep the DIY ethic of zine making in mind.”

It’s always possible to publish a collaborative zine on your own; you can always put out a call for submissions and edit works by yourself. But there’s something special about working with others, and it’s often worth facing these issues for the sake of a final zine that brings in arrange of input and experiences.

PRUDEmag comes out late June. For more information, check out @prude.mag on Instagram!