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Story Zines, Kink
and many More...

An interview with

Charlotte Cooper

from London, England

by Elke Zobl and Haydeé Jiménez

July 2007

 

"Self-expression is a good thing..."
-Charlotte


* * * * *


Charlotte Cooper, Norway's midnight light

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? How old are you, where are you originally from and where do you reside now?
I'm 38. I moved around a lot as a kid because of my father's job, living in Northamptonshire, Hereford, Germany, and Hong Kong. I've lived in London for the past 18 years, so I guess I'm a Londoner now.

What are you currently doing, or involved in, besides your zines?
For money I make websites, I write things for books, I write books of my own, I write things for money. I am training to become a psychotherapist. I am also a fat activist. I've done a lot of things, but I guess these are the main ones.


Can you please tell our readers about Kink, Story Zines or any other zines you produce?

Kink was one of the first zines I made and is no longer in print. I was starting to have sex with women and wanted to make a porny thing that had a zine aesthetic. Most dyke sex stuff at the time was very glossy, expensive and quite pretentious. I wanted something cheap, free, rowdy, so I made this zine. I used it as a way of meeting people when I didn't know anyone, and as a way of expressing unruly queer sexuality. 

I made a series of Story Zines in order to get my more serious writing out in the world. Kink wasn't doing it for me, so this was an attempt to slow things down and get serious. Again it was important for them to be free and ephemeral because I like giving and getting stuff that costs nothing but packs quite a punch. I got commissioned to write a novel on the basis of some of my zine writing in this series. Eventually I stopped, but I don't know why. I guess these things run their course. 

I also publish stuff on my website, articles and stuff which reflect a zine aesthetic. 

Lately I've been making more zines, often as part of workshops or to commemorate an event. For example I made zines to go with a performances, and a zine to protest this stupid anti-obesity week that was held at my university. I made a zine to go with a fancy dress outfit I wore to a party. This August I will be running a workshop with some young women, making a zine together about body image. I made a zine to give out as part of a presentation I did for my course. I’m currently writing a zine about other people called Charlotte Cooper. Zines are very flexible. I currently work part time in a giant corporation where I have free access to as much photocopying as I like, so this is one reason why I'm making zines again now. But there's no big plan, I just make one when I feel like it. 

What topics do you discuss in your zines most often? What language are they written in?

A multitude of topics! Impossible to summarise! All written in English, alas. 

What inspired you to create these zines?

Self-expression is a good thing, I think, especially when it comes with the opportunity to connect with other people. Basically, I was lonely and needed to find my people. 

My boyfriend made a zine in the 80s and it was well-received and beautiful. I also read zines in the 80s, but it didn't occur to me until much later that I could make them myself. I first started making comic strips with my boyfriend, scripting them, then I made strips with other people. I started writing for other zines, GirlFrenzy and FaT GiRL being the main ones. Then I made my own comic, called Best Friends, then I started Kink. All the people I met along the way encouraged me, so that was lucky and inspiring too. 

How long have you been making zines?
I made my first one in 1992, I think. It was so long ago!  

Are you the only one involved in the production of these zines or do you count on any other support/ contributions, etc?
As I said, first I worked with my boyfriend, then I wrote for other people’s zines, and then I struck out by myself. I solicited contributions from other people for Kink, but I didn’t much enjoy working that way, so I stopped for a long time. These days I make zines by myself, but I’m also starting to enjoy large group collaborative efforts with other people, especially when there is a time limitation, it’s fun and I love to turn people on to zines as a means of expression, people who have never really come across them before.


 

 


How did you become introduced to the culture of zines?
I read fanzines in the 80s. I’d buy them off people who were at the gigs I went to. They’d list other zines and I’d send off for them by mail order. 

Where/how is your zine distributed?
I make all my zines for free, which makes distribution much easier because I just post them to people I like, or leave them around for strangers to find. 

Who are your readers?
I don’t know who my readers are other than friends and, hopefully, friends I haven’t met yet. 

What kind of responses do you get from your zines’ audience?
Responses: a commission to write a novel, lots of random fanmail (which is very flattering), offers of sex, an invitation to take part in a study about escalator design. The list goes on. One of the big pleasures of putting your work out there is the ripples it creates. Usually these are small ripples, but they are welcome nevertheless and few things brighten my day as much as an unexpected email from a stranger telling me that my work means something to them. Schmaltzy but true.


What do you hope to accomplish by making and distributing your zines?
To put my ideas out in the world, to have fun making something that gives people pleasure, insight, or both. There are probanly more reasons but that’s all I can think of at the moment. 

What do you love and find challenging about zine making?
I love the making, the writing and planning. Challenges are: dealing with rejection, I once saw someone throw one of my zines on the ground. I know! She was a friend of a friend, and it was a long time until I could bring myself to be friendly towards her. When you put something that’s real and personal in the world, that’s your work, it’s awful when people trash it. Thankfully this very rarely happens. Another challenge: balancing how much of myself I want to share with strangers, and my need to be safe. 

What do you think about zine-making today?
Too middle class, too angsty, too white, too young, too first world. It is insane to me that something so apparently accessible is not being used by a wider section of people to get their voices heard.

Which role does Internet play for you?
I publish zine-type stuff online on my website, www.charlottecooper.net and on my video blog http://charlottecooper.blip.tv ; I make websites that are a bit like zines, but have added features that paper can’t quite convey, eg www.chubstergang.com ; I write about zines on my LiveJournal; I use the internet to publicise my zines and my writing; I use it to promote other zines and zine-related events that I like; I use it to keep in touch with other zine-makers and to find out about stuff. 

What are some zines you have read lately that you would recommend to someone learning about the zine-making/reading world?
Mark Maynard’s comics and zines are sublime, with brilliant, real, funny storytelling http://www.markmaynard.com/. I think would-be zinesters would do well to look to the past for inspiration: early copies of Giant Robot before it went glossy, FaT GiRL, GirlFrenzy, all of these were important zines for me. If you live near a zine archive, or can access one online, go and look there for ideas.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start a zine? 

Just do it.

What does the zine scene look like in the Stratford/London?
A zine scene in Stratford? Is that a joke? The place where I live has one of the poorest, most ethnically diverse, and fattest populations in the UK. It is also the site of the 2012 Olympics. No one is making zines and it makes me want to weep. 

Do you feel part of a (grrrl or general) zine community or network and what does it mean to you? 
I feel part of a wider community of zine makers, in the UK, the US and Canada. I think I would make zines even if no one else was doing so, but it’s good that I’m not the only one with this odd little hobby. 

Do you consider yourself as feminist?
I’ve had bad experiences, I try to resist orthodoxies and ideologies as much as possible, I’m not one for toeing a party line and I don’t believe in Right and Wrong, so no. But other people probably would consider me one.

What are the most pressing issues you are confronted with in daily life (as a woman/feminist/…)?
War and the way my country supports it; the way my neighbourhood is being turned into a coporate event; religious brainwashing in general; survival; being a fat queer freak in the world; blah blah etc etc. 


Kink
issue 5



Best Friends
zine

What do you think about feminism today? How would you explain what feminism is to someone who has no idea what it is?
I’m not very interested, I had my fill in the 1980s (and then some) and ended up hating it, although many of my friends are into it and I don’t begrudge them at all, it’s just not for me. I think most people have some idea of what feminism is and I’d add that it is a liberation movement that has a lot of unspoken rules and is sometimes quite oppressive. 

What would a “grrrl”-friendly society look like in your view
Boring, smug, too-samey. There are a lot of things that are fucked up in the world now, but I have no investment in making a place that is comfortable for one section of society at the possible expense of another – we all need to feel okay about being alive.  
How do you think society might be re-thought and transformed to come closer to an “ideal” world for women, grrrls and queer folks?
Rethinking and transforming society isn’t going to happen, liberation doesn’t really happen like that, utopias don’t exist, and attempts to apply some kind of social structure to things always backfire. 


Do you have any suggestions for the development of women/grrrl/queer-friendly policies?

Just keep living and doing what you do, try not to worry too much, avoid ghettos, don’t be a wanker. That sort of thing. 

What are some of your personal wishes/visions/ideas/plans for the future, if you like to share them?
To pass my course, get lots of well-paid work that I love and live peacefully amongst my people. 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks! 

* * * * *


info:

Charlotte Cooper

beefergrrl [AT] hotmail.com 

www.charlottecooper.net

http://charlottecooper.blip.tv

(video blog)




 


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