Spokane Zine Fest 2024

Last year’s Spokane Zine Fest (SZF) at the Central Library was by far the largest of the literary events I helped with in 2023, a Saturday absolutely stuffed with art and community. Our door count jumped by more than 500 people, and hundreds of people have already responded to this year’s Facebook invite. I’m excited to see the crowds arrive on May 18th to celebrate this wonderful life-affirming event.

The magnificent duo who created Spokane Zine Fest, Chelsea Martin and Ian Amberson, are successful working artists, themselves. Their first SZF events, at the music venue the Bartlett before it switched to Spokane Public Library, introduced me to the work of Spokane artists who have remained perennial favorites of mine, including Emma Noyes, Shantell Jackson, and Roin Morigeau. I remember loving local novelist and story writer Erin Pringle’s hand-stitched paper-copied books there, too.

Last year I bought quite a few zines, as well as a print that’s hanging now, framed, in my kitchen. The print features several dozen hand-drawn coffee mugs, and the artist told me that the mugs drawn are all from different people who the artist interviewed, asking them, “What is your favorite coffee/tea mug, and why?” The print, so human and thoughtful (especially for me, who loves a good mug), was only $10. Most items at Spokane Zine Fest cost even less.

This is the beauty of zines and zine festivals: the immediate accessibility, the lack of gatekeeping. Unlike the traditional book-making industry (or even the self-publishing industry), zines are not expensive for the maker or for the buyer. This affordability and do-ability have made zines a medium of change since the 1930s, and especially since counter-culture movements heightened in the 1970s.

“Zines have,” as a recent article in the Smithsonian details, “connected members of various movements, becoming vital tools for artists and members of communities to express themselves and build connections.”

The affordability and accessibility of zines allow for a greater range of people to establish an artistic voice. And this voice influences community shifts in thinking.

You won’t see overpriced zines and art at Spokane Zine Fest, or if you do, they will be the rarity. The emphasis, rather, is on the creating and the sharing, the artistic conversation between self and others.

As co-founder Ian Amberson says, “The zine medium appeals in both its intimacy of scale and also its potential to be easily shared. They can be a secret paper wad of discarded ramblings executed in someone’s momentary foley or a highly organized technical and conceptual achievement. Most of all they remind me that, ‘Hey! Maybe I can do that too! Not everything has to be so precious!’”

And artist, novelist, and EWU lecturer Simeon Mills (also known as my husband Sam haha), who will, with the EWU Design Department, run a drop-in maker station during SZF, gives zine-making credit for launching his literary career.

“If I’d never made my first zine (a comic book) twenty years ago,”  Sam wrote to me in an email, “I doubt I would have eventually built up the confidence to create and publish a graphic novel. Zines allow you to take your work seriously, even if you’re the only one ready to do so. Sharing your voice and style in a zine might lead anywhere—​at the very least, to your next zine!”

So come and join the festivities on May 18th at the Central Library, 11 AM-4 PM. You can register for the free workshops here, and learn more about Spokane Zine Fest here.

Catch you at Spokane Zine Fest!