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Distro'ing for the Zine Scene in Australia

An interview with Kristy

by Elke Zobl


July 2001











"Hi. I'm Kristy and I started this distro in late 1999 because I felt that there was a serious lack of fanzine distributors in Australia. Compared to the myriads overseas, we barely had a handful. I love zines so much as a means of artistic expression, and it makes me so happy to provide this service as a means of getting these amazing creations out there.(...)
http://tbns.net/smittenkitten/home.html



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 24 and I was born in Melbourne, Australia, but grew up in Geelong, which is a large country town with beautiful beaches. I moved back to Melbourne a few years ago to complete a Diploma in Professional Writing and Editing.

What do you do besides your zine and distro?
I'm the manager of a gift store.

For how long have you been running your zine and distro now? How many issues of your zine did you put out until now? Are you the only editor or is there a team?
I started Smitten Kitten Distro in late 1999 and I run it all by myself. It's a lot of work but very fun and rewarding. I made 7 issues of a zine also under the name of Smitten Kitten and earlier this year brought out a one shot called Muppet In Training. I'm working on something new which will hopefully be a regular zine, but I'm pretty busy right now and it's difficult trying to find the time to write. But I'm reading so many great zines right now and I am all inspired to get into zine making mode.

What made you decide to start the zine and distro? How did you come up with the idea and the name?
The distro came about because there was a lack of distributors in Australia at the time, and I also love recieving and sending out mail. I also love zines so much as a form of connection and am curious about people's lives, and so I wanted more people to read my favourite zines and hopefully enjoy them as much as me. I don't really know how I came up with the name. I had it as the title of my zine before I started the distro and thought it was too good a name so I used it for both. It's been described as 'cutesy-pukesy', which may be accurate but I like it because of the use of alliteration and warm, happy image it conjures up. I don't own a cat though, but I have been stealing the neighbours one lately to hang out with. His name is Feebles.

What topics are most often discussed in your zine?
Myself. Ha Ha. Oh it's usually purely self-indulgent stuff. I like sharing stories and anecdotes. SK and MIT were more light-hearted and funny and silly zines. I'm a real kid at heart and I like being self-deprecating. Through zines I've received positive feedback about my writing, which has been wonderful. The stuff I've been writing lately has been a bit darker in content, but I think it's important to not write the same zine every issue, to push yourself to write differently and to challenge the concept of creating a zine.

What do you hope to accomplish by establishing your distro and zine?
Just to get the zines I love out to a wider audience as mentioned, and to see the zine scene in Australia grow. I want more kids to discover zines as they're a way to deal with angst, boredom and depression. With my own zine I just like the idea of my writing being read and having people responding to it. I love independent publishing. I also love zines as an artistic expression.

What does zine making, distributing (and reading) mean to you? What do you love about zine making? What ís the most challenging aspect of making and distributing zines?
Oh these questions are too hard! I find it really difficult to explain why zines mean so much to me. It's always the things that mean the most to you that are the hardest to define. I just think I'd be lost without zines. They give me purpose and I love reading other zines. I like to learn about things I mightn't normally come across in mainstream media. And I'm interested in people and human nature. The most challenging aspect of zine making is deciding what to put in the zine and what to leave out, deciding how much you want to share and what to keep private. And trying to stop the negative thoughts about your zine making abilities. You also need to edit heavily and it can take a long time to make a zine, to the point that you are ignoring friends and family because you become obsessed with completing it. It's not too hard to find places to distribute your zine if you look around and find your market.

Do you consider grrrl zines as an important part of a movement of sorts? Do you think zines can effect meaningful social and political change? What does the zine community mean to you?
Oh well there was the whole riot girl movement and zines were a big part of that because women were sharing stories about abuse and survival and feminism and helping each other and forming collectives. So yes zines can definitely foster social change, but they'll always be a sub culture. The zine community in Australia is quite different to that in the US. It's fairly small here and not as open to criticism or debate.

What advice would you give others who want to start a zine or a distro?
Make your own zine and be involved with zines for a while before you jump headfirst into starting a distro. Order from other distro's and note what was good and/or bad about their service and selection. Ask distro owners questions. Have definite goals set up and a focus and understand how distros operate. The most important thing though is that you have the time and the desire to make things run smoothly. Nobody wants to order from a distro that is unreliable or bad with communication. There is quite a lot of work involved, more than you might think, and you need to anticipate that

What are some of the zines you admire?
I love Vanessa Berry's zines ( I am a Camera, Adjective Stories etc). She's an amazing writer and kind of the queen of zines here in Australia. My other aussie/ New Zealand favourites are Westside Angst, A Show of Hands, Relaxbaby and Speak-easy, Vortex, and Child that Mind. My favourite American ones are That Girl, A Renegade's Handbook to Love and Sabotage, Red-Hooded Sweatshirt and Hope. I could list many more, but I'd be here all day... To
see my favourite zines go and visit the Smitten Kitten website at Http://tbns.net/smittenkitten

Could you please describe a little bit the grrrl zine community in your country?
Riot grrl is an American term and I don't really know if there was ever much of a definite movement here in Australia. It was cetainly a huge influence though and some Aussie zinesters desribe themselves as riot grrls. I am not really involved in any feminsit collectives so I don't know if there is a riot grrl community currently active in this country.

Do you define yourself as a feminist? What does being a feminist mean to you?
Yes I am a feminist. But I don't go to protests or academic panels. I'm more a believer in diy feminism and how personal attitudes can influence others.

What are the most pressing issues you are confronted with in daily life (as a woman/feminist)?
I guess the biggest issue is safety and security for women. I hate knowing I can't walk down the street late at night by myself if I want to, because there's always that fear of attack. Also dealing with body image and unrealistic expectations, mental, physical and sexual health and access to education and decent working conditions/ housing.

Are you active in the feminist movement?
No. There are different types of feminists and you should not be dismissed as not being a feminist just because you are not a political activist.

Which role plays the Internet for you? Does it change your ideas of making zines and doing/reading zines?
I'm such an internet geek. It makes the zine world a much more accessible place and easier to find out about zines and distros. If the internet wasn't around I think it would have taken me a bit longer to discover zines and restricted my knowledge and contacts. So yay for the net!

Do you have any suggestions? Something you want to add?
Visit Smitten Kitten for a great zine selection. Thanks! :)

 

Smitten Kitten Zine Distro
PO Box 1179
Blackburn North, VIC
3130 AUSTRALIA
Http://tbns.net/smittenkitten

You can contact me via the following mediums:

Postal
Smitten Kitten Fanzine Distro
C/- Kristy
PO Box 1179
Blackburn North VIC 3130
AUSTRALIA

Email
smittenkitten [AT] ozemail.com.au



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