Bronwyn Mauldin is a zine maker and writer. She is the creator of the Democracy Series which is available in bookstores and libraries across the US. She’s also the author of the novel Love Songs of the Revolution and short story collection The Streetwise Cycle. Her work has been published by Akashic Books, CutBank, Literature for Life, Necessary Fiction, Gold Man Review, Dada anthology Maintenent 14, and others. Her poetry has appeared in Watchung Review, The Typescript, and Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California. She’s also a member of Artists 4 Democracy. Bronwyn has been a writer in residence at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado and Denali National Park in Alaska.
How did you first hear about zines? What was the first zine that you bought or traded?
I’ve known about zines forever, but it took me a long time to start making my own. I stumbled onto the L.A. Zine Fest one year in DTLA and walked out with an armload. Some of the first zines I bought were Wish You Were Me by Myriam Gurba, Golden State by Irene Lam, and Surviving the Collapse of Society by Sage Liskey. I also took a terrific zine-making workshop by Yumi Sakugawa at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena that inspired me.
Do you participate in zine fests?
Zine fests are great, and I’ve participated in several. They’re also exhausting! I love touring the tables and seeing what people are making, buying and trading zines, and talking with other makers. I’m looking forward to a day when we can all get back together and do zine fests IRL again.
Why did you start making zines?
After the 2016 election, I discovered many of my friends had never been to a protest before (which totally surprised me). I’ve been to lots of protests and even organized a few, so I thought I’d share what I know. At the same time, I was done with social media. I wanted to get off the internet and make things in the real world. So I put together a workshop on how to protest that I taught through Trade School LA and made a zine to go with it called Protest 101. I followed up a few months later with How to Recognize Voter Suppression in its Habitat Naturel, then a pocket guide for How to Change the World. Suddenly, it was a whole Democracy Series. Right now I’m working on the ninth in the series, Election Day 2020, a guide to help you get ready to vote. If you’re going to be 18 before November 3 and haven’t already, please register to vote today!
Have you gotten feedback from your Democracy Series zines?
So much positive feedback! Zines in the series have been finalists for the Broken Pencil Zine Awards. They’ve been sold in more bookstores than carried my first novel. Protest 101 was selected to be exhibited in an art show at the Irvine Fine Art Center. Several from the series were recently buried in a time capsule at the re-dedication of the Fort Moore Pioneer Memorial. I wonder what Angelenos will think fifty years from now when they open the capsule and pull out zines with titles like Why We Vote.
Who is your target audience for your zines?
The Democracy Series is about giving people knowledge so they can take action. When I’m making zines I think about people who want to make the world a better place but don’t know all the ways you can do that through the democratic process. Most people think democracy is only about voting, but it’s so much more than that. You can call up members of the city council and tell them what you want. You can testify at public meetings. You can volunteer for organizations that are helping people register to vote. You can get in the streets and shout. And if you still don’t get what you want, you can run for public office yourself. Best of all, you can get people together to do those things, because democracy works better when you bring friends.
Please explain the Minister for Sport series zines? It feels like a departure from the Democracy Series.
The Minister for Sport is a departure in format, a novella in a five-zine series, but it’s all about how to stop the corruption of our democracy. It’s an “emperor has no clothes” political satire where the good guys win. Corruption at the highest levels of politics has leaked into professional sports. A hard-working journalist joins forces with an honest civil servant who’s been fired for doing the right thing. Together they expose the awful truth, and the bad guys get the punishment they deserve.
What are some zines that you recommend?
In addition to the folks I mentioned above, check out anything and everything by Arif Qazi, Stacy Russo, Mr Benja, Jillian Sandell, Akina Cox, and Rosten Woo. Two great zine resources I recommend are Stolen Sharpie Revolution (website and print zine) and Broken Pencil, the magazine of zine culture.
How do you feel about having your zines accessible at the public library?
I love libraries. They make knowledge available to everyone while also providing entertainment and joy. That’s what I’m trying to do with my zines. Libraries are absolutely critical to democracy!
I publish all my zines under a Creative Commons license that gives anyone permission to copy and share them in any format and even remix them, but only if you do it for non-commercial purposes and give me credit for the original work.