Kelli Callis is a recovering riot grrrl and English teacher in the suburbs of L.A. Her zines: That Girl, 20 Bus, and Kurt Cobain Was Lactose Intolerant Conspiracy Zine were the most fun she ever had with a keyboard, besides the decade she spent as a shadow priest on World of Warcraft. She can be found on Facebook and Instagram as ThatGirlZine.
How did you get interested in zines?
When I was in college, I met some girls who were musicians but who also made their own stickers and published their own zines. I didn’t know what a zine was, but these girls wrote about their personal lives and their opinions and then copied them on copy machines and gave them to their friends. I really wanted to learn how to play drums but making a zine was much easier and more immediate. I had already written short stories when I was younger, so writing came easily to me. I started my zine then in 1993, my freshman year of college.
What are your zines about?
My zines are of the "personal" genre, which is where you just write about your thoughts and feelings in an attempt to deal with yourself or to connect to others. At first, each issue had a series of essays about things I cared about at the time or things I was frustrated about, but then I started writing about one particular theme for each issue. For example, #12 is about a trip to India, and #17 is about body image stuff. In between, I have written about being pregnant, raising an autistic kid, my senior year of high school, music that influenced me, etc.
What are some of your favorite zines and zine makers?
Honestly, I am out of the zine scene and haven’t read anything in years. The zines from back in the day that most influenced me were Power Candy, Pathetic Life, and Sweetheart.
Your zines are in our library collection for patrons to borrow. What do you think about that?
I think that’s really exciting because that means my work can reach a wider audience and be read by people who are outside the normal realm of zine readers. I feel like only selling zines on Etsy has limited my audience considerably. It’s also kinda trippy since when you sell zines, you get the reader’s address, mostly, and usually, they aren’t local, so it’s weird to think some dude in Chatsworth can just check out the zine and read all about my life, and I have no idea he’s doing it.
What do you think is the future of zines?
Most of the zines I have seen lately are more colorful—printed with color printers. A lot of them are comic-based or have a heavy graphic design element. I feel out of touch with the zines of the 21st Century because my zines are text-heavy and black and white, but I’m hoping there will always be a niche audience who gets it.
Why are zines important?
Zines allow anyone to publish their thoughts to the world without intermediaries like editors or publishers. It’s exciting that anyone with the gumption can just make a piece of literature with a glue stick or printer. I’m so grateful that I was able to write at a time when I discovered the fun and the power of self-publishing.