Zine scene: St. John's bookstore hopes to boost interest in self-published works

There’s an underground publishing world evolving in St. John’s, with more artistic and literary creators getting involved in the zine scene.

A zine is a self-circulated, self-published work that can feature any type of creative art

Matthew Howse owns Broken Books in downtown St. John's. ( Marie Isabelle Rochon/CBC)

If you want to write a book but don't have the money, time or connections to do so, the zine scene taking off in St. John's could be for you.

An alternative to mainstream publishing, a zine is a self-circulated, self-published work that can feature any sort of art. The "mini magazine" can be poetry, nonfiction stories, cartoons or journal entries.

It's been popular in other large cities across Canada for years, but a local bookstore owner is hoping to bring the underground publishing world to St. John's.

A zine is independently printed and produced, created with pens and markers and photocopied in small scale. ( Marie Isabelle Rochon/CBC)

"In a lot of ways zines are the anti-book," said Matthew Howse, owner of Broken Books.

"You can do it with pens, pencils, markers, photocopier. It's just a way for someone to create something, some type of quick cultural production that you can get into the world."

Broken Books hosted zine workshops and zine fairs in April to get more people interested and involved.

Howse said since his bookstore opened, he has always kept a few for sale.

Broken Books hosted a zine fair Sunday afternoon. ( Marie Isabelle Rochon/CBC)

David Reynolds was there showing off his own zine, called Mercanary. His work features a mermaid with the head of a canary, inspired by a misspelling of the word "mercenary."

"My zine is just a collection of poetry and little literary bits. Kind of funny, kind of thoughtful perhaps, but mostly just absurdity," he said.

"The zine for me is just this wonderful, liberating kind of challenge. The zine challenge just gave me a writing prompt or a creative prompt to cut loose and do anything," Reynolds said.

Zine creator David Reynolds says the art form is a 'liberating' challenge. ( Marie Isabelle Rochon/CBC)

One of the barriers to writing and publishing a book is the cost, said Reynolds. He was able to create his zine for about $15.

Reynolds said there have been zines in St. John's for a while; he remembers getting his hands on one in the '90s but an organized attempt to increase their popularity was optimistic.

"I loved it and it was special at the time. That's what these tiny little publications do," he said.

"They are here, they are gone, but they have impact and that's beautiful."

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With files from Marie Isabelle Rochon