Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My Zine Symposium Experience

Last year I went to the Portland Zine Symposium for the first time, just for a few hours on Sunday. This time I went for it and reserved a table.

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It was definitely more relaxing than being in charge of a whole Buddhist festival. Back in the 90s I did a zine called Sangha Jewel. I wanted people to send me whatever they'd like to share with the wider Sangha world. I suppose I wasn't yet confident enough to create a zine all about me, all about my stuff. After a year, year and half, I lost the momentum, just as one Zen teacher from back East predicted would happen.

I sent that zine to Factsheet 5, and got a favorable 3-line review. I sent it off to a few people that way, and made some connections through those Zen teachers. That connection from a distance is definitely different from this cross between a conference, trade show, and family reunion.

I didn't expect to sell much, my subject of Buddhism and polyamory being a pretty esoteric one. I had plenty of time to watch people selling their "product" and the connections were so warm and engaged, I more fully realized what a community this is.

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The young woman across the aisle from me, Tina with the zine Cough, told me she makes a zine because she just loves the symposium. I found myself glad for my last-minute brainstorm, free stickers, because that gave me a reason to begin a conversation. A good half of the people would sidle on by, I could see their reluctance to meet eyes. buddhism and non-monogamy, don't let me get hooked in. There were a good amount though that were friendly, and interested in the concept. More than I'd figured.

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Some people were just not interested in stickers. One even said, "I don't want to take something if I'm not buying." Most people were happy to receive one, and I gave away around 140 stickers, and around 90 of those were the Buddha-peace stickers. The difference between my Buddha-peace stickers, and my Buddha-peace-polyamory stickers gave me a reason to bring up the subject of polyamory. By the end of the symposium, I finally had my schtick down.

"I've got free stickers."
"Free?!" They pause to examine the many colors. I point.
"These have pi for polyamory, and these just have the Buddha and the peace symbol."


My neighbors to the left, "Legal Underage Pornography" had their schtick down long ago, including a comedy sketch routine, no less.

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Many already knew what polyamory meant, some asked. Toward the end, somebody said, "So that's where all the peace stickers were coming from." Surprisingly more people were interested in the poly stickers than I expected. I also sometimes had this conversation:

"I didn't know pi was a symbol for polyamory."
"When I went looking for polyamory clip art, that's what I found. There's not consensus on a symbol though. I also found the heart with an infinity symbol intertwined with the legs."
"Oh yeah, I've seen that before."

I liked pi because I could easily float the symbol in a text box over my jpeg of the peace sign with buddha. Some people liked pi because they were math geeks, or they knew somebody who was a math geek. Some people chose that sticker not because they were non-monogamous, but they had a good friend who was.

I saw the laws of Influence at work with my free stickers. I could see that most people who accepted stickers felt obligated to give my zine or my buttons or mirrors a glance, at least. Funny thing was, more people seemed to expect free stuff later on Sunday. Several people confused "stickers" with "buttons" and tried to take a button for free.

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That didn't happen on Saturday, though it could be people thought that while I was away from the table.

There were a few dogs that visited the symposium. This one was the most darling. Creature, that's his name, was too quick for a photo. He seemed quite docile until I aimed for a photo, then it was zip zip look around what's that? those people there, i want to see everything. Creature's blond friend said he did alright even at Comic-Con. She carried him around in a bag and when she finally wended her way to my table I told her I'd been looking forward to meeting her dog.

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This one was also too quick to pose. Emilo was his name.
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And here is Pepper.
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Later I caught Creature climbing on his friend's shoulder, perched there like a cat or a kid, but as if he knew I was clicking from a distance, he started moving too quick to catch a shot.

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I sold, traded, or gave away 36 of my first zine, and 38 of my second.
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