Lancaster Zine Fest poster

Lancaster Zine Fest poster by Sadie Bartch

What do punk rock, pets and Patsy Cline have in common? Nothing, except that all three are examples of potential subjects that would be perfect for a zine.

Zines — small, hand-made, self-published magazines — were to be the focus of an event called the Lancaster Zine Fest.

The Lancaster Zine Fest, which was set to take place at the Station One Center for the Arts on June 13, is one of many local live events that have been forced to cancel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But festival organizer Erin Dorney, a Lancaster-based author, co-founder of the literary organization Fear No Lit and all-around champion of the local arts scene, sees a silver lining.

Dorney is now in the process of distributing 500 free zine-making kits on a first-come, first-served basis to anyone that requests one and will reach more people than the 200 to 300 she anticipated would attend the festival. The free kit, which is available to those living in the city of Lancaster, includes a Lancaster Zine Fest color poster created by local tattoo artist Sadie Bartch, a mini-zine with instructions (in English and Spanish) on how to make a zine by Dorney, a pencil and pencil sharpener, stickers, and white and colored paper. Anyone interested in receiving a free kit, or distributing kits, can fill out a request form at fearnolit.com/lancaster-zine-fest or contact Dorney at fearnolit@gmail.com.

Dorney has already partnered with a number of organizations to distribute kits, including the Lancaster Housing Opportunity Project, in order to maximize reach.

“I think that it’s a pretty good remix,” says Dorney, who received funding for the festival through a Pennsylvania Partners for the Arts project stream grant. “But it was a pretty big letdown because I was awarded this grant in September of 2019, so I’ve been working on it for months now and gearing up for June 13. I had to go back and remove it from all the community calendars. It was a lot of undoing work, which was kind of sad.”

Dorney hopes to reclaim some of the zine sharing that would have happened at the live event by urging participants to post images of their zines made from the kit on social media with the hashtag #lanczinefest.

“What I love about zines is that they don’t have to be perfect,” Dorney says. “A zine is a pretty safe place to digest and explore uncomfortable situations and feelings. I have a really personal zine about my body that I wouldn’t want to be published broadly even if I could. It’s something I only want to share on a small scale; it’s more intimate.”

Zines can be about anything. As Dorney writes in her zine-making guide: “There are no rules with zines. You can write poems, draw pictures, glue things in.”

She added, “You can find a zine on anything. And if there isn’t one, you should just make one.”