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Miranda: "Motherhood and other adventures"

An interview with Kate Haas

from Portland, Oregon

by Elke Zobl

May 2004



 


Can you tell me first of all a little bit about yourself? How old are you, where are you originally from and where do you reside now?

I am 38 years old, I grew up outside New York City (say it loud, I'm from Jersey and proud), and now I live in Portland, Oregon.

What do you do besides your zine?
In addition to the zine, I work at home raising two boys, a 4-year-old and a 15-month-old. And I read ferociously.

For how long have you been running your zine now? Are you the only editor or is there a team?
I've been doing Miranda for 6 years now. I do it all myself.

What made you decide to start this project? How did you come up with the idea and the name?

I first heard about zines when I met my boyfriend (now husband). I'd just gotten back from three years in Morocco, and I'd never heard of zines. He was a punk-turned-folkie and had been doing one for years and had lots of them around. I'd always been a writer, and I saw at once that this was the medium for me. I was intrigued by the underground nature of zines, of flying under the publishing radar, and the by-mail community around them. I wanted to write about my Peace Corps adventures and other stories from my past, and this seemed like the way to do it.

As for the name - like most kids who read, I planned on being a writer, and I always had the idea that the protagonist of my first book would be named Miranda. I never wrote the book, but I never stopped liking that name. (Good thing I chose it for the zine, since I couldn't use it for either of my children...)

What do you hope to accomplish by making and distributing your zine?
Publishing Miranda is a way to keep my sense of self amid the chaos of parenting. It gives me a separate identity as a writer, keeps me from being altogether consumed by my children.

What topics do you discuss most often in your zine?
I have a couple of recurring themes. One is a column called "The Motel of Lost Companions" in which I profile people who have played significant roles in my life but with whom I'm no longer in contact. The kind of people we've all known, who we wonder about from time to time, but never take the steps to find. I try to find that balance between bittersweet regret at their absence and evoking the adventurous times we shared.

I also write about the strategies I use to find time to read. Reading is literally necessary for my sanity, and as a parent, it can be a real challenge to get that time to do it. Miranda didn't start out being a parenting zine, though. It was your basic perzine - and then I had kids, which gave me some new topics to tackle. I try to write realistically about parenting, which sometimes comes off as negative - but there's a lot of times when raising kids is just a hard, thankless slog of a job. And of course, we all like to complain...

Which role(s) did (and do) zines and zine making (and reading) play for you as you became a mother?
After I became a mother, just in the past few years, there's been a big boom in mother-made zines. I've enjoyed reading them and seeing the ways in which other women translate their experiences of motherhood into zine material.

What do you love and find challenging about zine making?
I love the writing. I feel proud of the fact that I can actually do it, sneak it in to my life, despite having children. The challenge is doing the sneaking. Finding the time. Also, I'm not very artistic. At all! I don't do clip art, I can't draw, I don't have a good sense of design. So I always worry that Miranda is going to look boring. Fortunately, I have
an in-house artist.

What are some of the zines you read and admire?
I love Transom. It's by a librarian in Seattle and just so quirky and neat. I also like Leeking Ink and Thoughtworm. The first mama zine I read was The East Village Inky, with which I was instantly smitten. Other mama zines I like are Zuzu and the Babycatcher, Edgy-Catin Mama, and Hausfrau. Ooh, Hausfrau is so funny and so good!

What advice would you give to a mother who wanted to start a zine?
Keep a notebook handy. You always think you're going to remember that fabulous sentence you mentally composed on the walk to preschool, but by the time you've nursed the baby to sleep and put the diapers in the wash, it's gone.

Do you feel part of a zine community or network and what does it mean to you?
I started Miranda before I had children, so I got plugged into the wider zine community first. Now that I write about parenting, I"m also a part of a mama-zine network that - most of the time- is focused solely on other mama zines. It's like two separate worlds, that occasionally overlap. I strive to keep Miranda in the overlapping area, which is why the zine is subtitled, "motherhood and other adventures." I don't feel like I'm defined by or want to focus solely on motherhood in my writing.

Could you please describe a little bit the grrrl zine community or network in your country?
I don't identify Miranda as a "grrrl zine" per se, and I'm not sure if the term applies to me (is there a definition?), so I can't really say.

Do you consider grrrl zines as an important part of a social movement? Do you think zines can effect meaningful social and political change at large?
To answer your second question, I think zines can effect meaningful social and political change on the individual level. Making or reading a zine can change a person's outlook, let her know she's not alone, inspire her to creativity or to political action. But to be honest, I really don't think that zines, in and of themselves, effect social or political change at a level beyond the personal. Zines are a tiny fringe element of our culture. Tiny. Which is not to say that they couldn't, I suppose - I just don't see it happening.

What were some of main influences that have empowered you (punk/feminism/zines/friends…?) in your life?
Reading "Our Bodies, Ourselves" at 15 made me a feminist for life. I started wearing my "ERA Now" button (I'm dating myself, here, I know!) and reading Ms. Magazine. Also, when I was in high school the anti-nuclear movement was at its height. In the Reagan years there was a very real fear that these weapons might be used. Working for nuclear disarmament was hugely important among kids at my school. It seemed like the most important political action we could take, something vitally important to be working on. Spending three years in Morocco made a big impact as well. Living in a Muslim country, learning to speak Arabic, seeing what life is like in the developing world, has changed me in many ways. More recently, laboring, giving birth, and breastfeeding have taken me over a divide, into a true realization of the power and ability of my body to sustain life. That has changed me forever.

Which role does play the Internet for you?
It's a guilty pleasure, honestly. When I'm on the internet, I know I should be writing.

Do you define yourself as a feminist? What are the most pressing issues you are confronted with in daily life (as a woman/mother/feminist)?
I am a feminist. I face two issues in daily life. The first is economic; by choosing to stay home and raise my children, I forfeit the Social Security credits I would be earning if I were, say, taking care of someone else's kids. I will be financially penalized in old age because the U.S. government does not consider what I do to be actual "work." This pisses me off no end. The second is the fact that I am raising boys in this world. Do I need to say more? I'm trying to do my best to raise them with my values, and it's easy while they're still little. But once those outside influences kick in, I know it's going to be a lot harder.

What do you think about feminism today? Do you see yourself as part of "Third Wave Feminism" and if yes, what does it mean to you? Or why not?
I'm not sure what "Third Wave" Feminism consist of, to tell you the truth. I'm just your garden-variety feminist. I see myself as part of a tradition of feminism stretching way back through history. I am the beneficiary of rights our foremothers worked for, and didn't always achieve in their lifetimes. Having children has made me more of a feminist than ever. That I have the right and the knowledge to make choices about my fertility is something I take for granted, but am deeply thankful for.

Can you see any unique contributions grrrl zines may have made to the feminist and trans liberation movement?
Back when I was a teacher, I would always remind my reluctant writers, "Everyone has a story to tell." Any time anyone tells their story, it's a unique contribution.

 

 
In the current issue: (#11)

• The Portland Zine Symposium: a highly subjective report on fashions, personalities, and breastfeeding at an underground publishing conference
• But I Wanted a Girl! coming to terms with being the mother of sons
• Pirate Band: how we became followers of a bunch of rock-and-roll buccaneers
• A Note on the Type: everything you never knew about Garamond
• Stray Thoughts of a Stay-at-Home Mother: in which Mama ponders questions of life, death, and a little lego man inexplicably named Jesus

Plus: book reviews, the Motel of Lost Companions, and a really good pasta recipe


In issue #10

• Taking to the streets: '73/'03 - Protesting as a kid. Protesting with a kid.
• Over to the Other Side: a birth story - overdue, back labor, a mean midwife...could this tale have a happy ending? You'll find out...
• Peace and War at Home- in which yours truly discovers that life with a three-year-old can turn the most dedicated dove into a raging hawk
• Mother/Reader - not even the cares of motherhood can keep a real readerfrom reading.
• Seven Steps to the Brink of Insanity - want to drive Mama to the brink of madness? Follow Mr. Baby's simple directions...

In issue #9

• 1 bottle of ink + 1 sewing needle + 1 length of thread = my Moroccan Tattoo Tale.
• Miranda FAQ - Why is it named Miranda? How long will you call that kid, "Mr. Baby," anyway? And more scintillating info…
• Mother/Reader: pay attention to the toddler, or read that book? The shocking truth!
• PDX Zine Conference: I might not have been the hippest there, but I sure had fun.
• Mama’s Bad Day: we’ve all had them; most of us survive.
• Countdown to a Second Baby. From bad attitude to carefree to ready to pop.
Plus regular features: Stray thoughts of a stay-at-home mother, Motel of Lost Companions, Booklist, and a delectable spinach-ricotta pasta recipe.
Each back issue costs $2.

Contact info for MIRANDA:

bruceandkate [AT] juno.com

http://www.mirandazine.com/

 

Miranda: $2 ($3 for orders outside U.S. Well concealed cash preferred); Subscriptions $4/year (two issues) to:

Kate Haas, Portland OR (email her for address or look at her web site for mailing address)

or send money to:
bruceandkate [AT] juno.com
via Paypal
(Payments from your bank account or paypal balance only, please.)

 


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