Canzine Portrait: Sabrina Scott

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Excerpt from Witchbody

Sabrina Scott is a PhD student in Science and Technology Studies at York University in Toronto, Canada. They use comics, illustration, zines, and book arts to work through critical theory, philosophy, ethics, spirituality, sensation, and social justice. They have also been a witch all their life. They will be at Canzine Toronto on Sat Oct 29 at the AGO, and they gave us some info about what they will be sharing, and some advice for first-time vendors!

1 – Will you have new work at Canzine? If so, what can you tell us about it?

The primary ‘new work’ I’ll have is only partially new! My graphic novel Witchbody (which launched at the Toronto Queer Zine Fair last October, and was nominated for the Doug Wright Spotlight award this year in 2016) quickly sold out of its first edition of 300 copies. So: I’ll be launching the new second edition of Witchbody this month! The second edition includes a bunch of new drawings as well as a really fantastic foreword by acclaimed philosopher Timothy Morton, who writes both in response to and in anticipation of my work. Morton’s philosophy has greatly shaped the trajectory of my own, so I’m really honoured and humbled by his participation in the second edition. Witchbody is basically a graphic novel about the implications of contemporary witchcraft and magic for environmental education and activism. I drew the thing, I wrote the thing, it has a lot of heart and soul and is very much about my own journey as a witch in this big ol’ city called Toronto. If anyone’s interested, they can read more about Witchbody here and you can pick one up at Canzine!

I’ll also have Nourish #2, which I’ve only tabled with once in Toronto before, at the Toronto Anarchist Book Fair back in July. It’s a zine about my experience with rape and sexual assault, as well as madness, recovery, gender, and, of course, magic. My ‘Nourish‘ series of zines are personal, reflective, about care, trauma, magic, and tarot. If I can really hustle, who knows, maybe I’ll have a little something else, but I’m not going to make any promises. 😉 Come and find my table and maybe there will be a surprise or two!

2 –  I’m wondering what your favourite thing is about tabling at zine fairs in general and if you’ve got any tips for first-timers?

There is something really exhilarating about spending a lot of time making something, whether it’s a small photocopied zine or something bigger like a comic book or graphic novel, and seeing people respond to it. When I finished my undergraduate degree at OCAD, I took maybe three years off of tabling. Before that, I did at least one per month or two, for a period of years. For me, it was crucial to take some time off to ask myself what the hell I was really doing: and at that point, I realized I was just making things to sell. I used to have one of everything – pins, patches, posters, zines, herbal products, paintings, blah blah blah. Now my approach is much different. I only make something if my heart and soul is all in. I know I need to make something if the idea of making it and then sharing it is the most terrifying thing on the planet because of how vulnerable the work is. My relationship to tabling is so different now because of this, because the work I’m making is different and really encapsulates my heart and soul and what’s important to me as a writer, illustrator, and artist. Now I have books and zines. That’s it. Interestingly, I make way more money now with less items – the key factor really is heart.

So, my advice to newbies would be to make what’s in your heart. Corny, I know, but it’s real. Don’t get bogged down by the pressure to monetize. Don’t make things into products that you don’t really care about just because it’s the ‘trendy’ thing right now. (I’m looking at you, enamel pins and stitched patches.) Be timeless and stick with your heart. I know the word ‘authentic’ is contested, fraught, and a bit pretentious and presumptuous, but I think there is really something to leading with your heart and soul and what you don’t have a choice to make, exposing some vulnerable part of who you are, with sincerity. Making art and doing zine/book fairs shouldn’t (in my mind) be something that you dread because it’s just another job-like chore. Focus on cultivating your own voice as a writer and an artist, and the rest will follow. Trust me.

On a more practical note: Make a list. Think: business cards, tablecloth, zine inventory, notebook to record sales, float (including fives and coins), water, snacks, Advil (just in case). Tell everyone on your social media that you’re going to be at the fair. Don’t freak out if you’re a few minutes late – your table will still be there, and no one sells anything in the first ten minutes of a fair. Chill and relax – it doesn’t have to be so serious. Have fun! Enjoy the process.

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Excerpt from Witchbody

3 – I think Canzine attendees will be interested to learn that not only are you a zinemaker and illustrator, but you’re also an academic that travels frequently to give talks on both your research and your illustration practice. How does talking about your work in a lecture setting compare to talking to people at a zine fair? What kinds of energies are involved? 

Yes! A question about energies, awesome! My favourite topic! Thank you for bringing this up.

I teach and facilitate in a lot of different capacities. The talks I do are all in different contexts – I take a totally different approach and tone whether I’m at a conference full of Illustration theorists/academics, Illustration practitioners, or theorists of any myriad of things – environmental studies, critical disability studies, gender studies, science and technology studies, etc. I also teach workshops on magic and energy work, bookbinding and printmaking, as well as anti-oppressive activist topics. I tailor what I do and how I say it to my audience, though of course my work is always my work and I’m always the same person trying to mould and work with the energy in a space. And what those energies are depend largely on the topic and the culture around that discipline or community. But half of it is really just the people in the room, and making sure I’ve prepared myself to ride that wave, whatever its shape.

I’m a lot more colloquial at zine fairs. There’s definitely a lot more smiling than in academia! At the end of a day of tabling, my cheeks always genuinely hurt – and that’s all genuine, trust me! No kidding. There’s something about lecturing and teaching that involves being a certain kind of ‘on’ –  you’re always ready to mitigate an attack or anticipating difficult questions or some kind of antagonism. It’s not all-encompassing for me when I do these things, but it’s definitely something that I know I need to be ready for and handle should it come up (which it sometimes does; academia can be a lot about claiming intellectual ground).

The energy of a zine fair is really different for me – I’m on, yes, but it’s a more relaxed form of being ‘on’. It’s more community oriented, conversational, friendly – I can let myself unwind a bit. There’s less emphasis on persuasion and rhetoric, and more on just existing, just being, and letting people come to you. At zine fairs I’ve stopped trying to go for the hard sell, and now I’m just myself, and whoever is into what I’m doing or who I am can just come and say hi. The energetic vibe is to me much more receptive and a bit ‘yin’ (to use that framework). Yes, I’m putting myself out there by having a table full of books, but I’m more energetically receptive and withdrawn. I’m not ‘waiting’ for people to approach me, I’m just hanging out existing. Alternately, when I do lectures it’s all about channelling that assertive and active vibration, a process which I liken to spirit possession in a lot of ways. At a lecture, my audience is stationary; I’m the one moving around and hopefully capturing their attention in some kind of way. When I’m at a zine fair, I’m the one who is stationary, it’s my audience that is constantly on the move. I get to be grounded in a different way, with a different type of energy; I get to stake an energetic claim to a parcel of physical space.