Barnard Zine Library’s collection is growing thanks to the donations of generous zine collectors. We talked to Hillary Miller, a zinester from who recently made a donation to the library.
BZL: How long have you been making zines? Do you still make zines? Why/why not?
HM: I started making zines with a friend of mine when I was in junior high school. I only remember that because I have a memory of this kid Chris kicking an issue down a specific hallway at Hudde JHS, right outside of one of the science classrooms. So that gives me a good marker for the chronology of my zine-making. That was around the 8th grade; when I was in High School, I continued making a zine with my friend even though we went to different schools, and she and I would occasionally go to riot grrrl meetings around NYC and meet other zine people that way. I split off on my own towards the end of High School and was doing a solo zine for a while-- I used to make photocopies on the weekends at my mother's office. I stopped making zines during college-- I kept writing, though, and by the end of college I had become involved in a small arts collective that eventually printed a few issues of a magazine, The Minus Green.
BZL: What zines have you written and what was your motivation for writing them?
HM: My zines were: Egeria, Electric Mayhem. And later, The Minus Green. My motivations were many; I was always writing small poems and things, sometimes as jokes with friends and other times more seriously. As an extension of that, the zine form really appealed to me; collage and non-linear and very few rules of engagement to abide by. Fiction and non-fiction and poetry all mushed together-- the idea of which, of course, becomes more and more rare as you grow up and begin coming to writing in institutionalized contexts. The zine was a completely other-place for me. It was a place to be honest about what I was excited about, on every end of the spectrum. I remember writing a really long play-by-play of going to see the band Belly perform. I loved writing that as much as I liked writing the angry diatribes, whether it was a little rant about R. Kelly or just an expression of teenage loneliness. It was at once very private and also somehow very important as mechanism to share and communicate. And I didn't even think twice about self-publishing it; it seemed very natural to me.
BZL: How long have you been collecting zines? What types of zines have you been collecting/reading?
HM: When I was making my own zine, I was a manic zine-trader. That's how I grew my collection. I loved trading ads, too, and would really work hard on designing small ads for my zine that I would mail out with copies as trades. I think it began with an interest primarily in riot grrrl and confessional zines, but later I expanded to different music zines and comics. When I was a senior in college--and a women studies major-- I applied for a very small research grant to explore third wave feminism and zine writers; then I collected even more and went on a more concerted effort to visit zine libraries and small bookstores with zine shelves, and even interviewed some of the people whose zines I had been reading for a few years, but had never met, or even thought of meeting. In recent years I've stopped pretty much cold turkey, but do occasional explore the independent book shops for interesting zines.
BZL: Do you have any favorites or ones you couldn't wait to appear in your mailbox?
HM: I remember really adoring |Nothing|. And Bamboo Girl was an early one that impressed me. I kept reading the East Village Inky for quite a while even after my real zine days were up. To be honest, I've forgotten a lot of the names now! There were so many of them, and I can't even remember not liking a zine-- each one was such an individual expression, it was impossible not to take each on its own merit and find something strong about it, whether it be the passion or the aesthetic or the writing or just the boldness. Interestingly, I can remember reading specific articles or poems or stories that really moved me and affected me, but the titles haven't stuck in my head individually.
BZL: What made you decide to donate your collection to Barnard?
HM: I had been keeping all of my zines fairly haphazardly in a big box tucked away in my childhood closet for years. While I treasured them from afar, as soon as I heard about the Barnard zine library, I knew that they'd be better off there. I rarely flip through them, but was keeping the zines as a kind of memento from a time period, and something very interesting to me on a lot of levels-- historical, personal, political, even in terms of a creative progression. Even after I gave away the collection to Barnard, I did keep a small shoebox filled with the magazine clippings I'd pull from when I was laying out my own zine. That the rest of the actual collection is being catalogued and preserved means that curious onlookers will have access to them for a long, long time. And probably find layers of worth in them that are very different from the many reasons that I have for valuing their existence.