Quit Gawking!

Since I apparently am done with poetry, writing — and therefore poets and writers, including, but not limited to, myself and all my friends — books and reading, I thought I would provide some personal background on the topic:

Towards the end of a blog entry about writing, I mentioned my zine called Quit Gawking. Back in September, Amanda (not the same Amanda…let’s call her New Amanda) randomly asked me if I’d once had a zine. It was so out of context that I was hesitant to admit to it. Anyway, apparently she had submitted a poem that we had printed! Now this is a pretty small world occurrence, since in total we probably only printed like four poems by people we didn’t know (almost everything else came from our friends). Now what are the chances of our paths crossing over a decade later?

As if an omen of what I was to face with critics and The Dears, Quit Gawking got this review from Broken Pencil (the Canadian zine directory):

“Quit Gawking: zine / issue 4, 20 pages / no known publisher / main creators: Natalia Yanchak and Heather / free

Submissions for this are welcome. Send them stuff, poetry, artwork, fiction, opinion, questions for Marijuana Mickey, nifty images and the like. Send this stuff so the next issue will be fuller, since this one left us feeling we hadn’t even started gawking when they up and finished. There was a good story, lots of white space and cool images, but not enough heft, except for the text page that overlapped itself and looked cool and would have been great if it weren’t visually painful to actually try to read.”

So classic. Basically we busted out of the traditional overstuffed, cut-and-paste zine trend that was the style at the time, and got bashed. Sorry, everybody: we used a computer for our layout instead of a glue stick and crayons. The lesson, that I realise now, but that began so long ago? Normal is boring because it’s what everyone else is doing, but it’s also what everyone else takes to easily. So the less normal you do things, the more time it will take for people to like you. Anyway, my zine (co-founded with BFF, Heather) had a printing of I think 200 which we would photocopy and hand assemble in the conference room at my dad’s office on Sundays. We even bought one of those long-armed staplers to bind the folded legal-size pages. I think we made 8 issues, and I took it pretty seriously. I hand delivered copies to a few shops in Toronto, made stickers, and filled mail orders (free with stamp). I even networked with other zines, (my fave was .tiff, about the slacker’s casual love of computers, technology and art. Also, .tiff was borne of my old stomping ground, Roncesvalles Village.

In 1994, my friend Carly and I went to one of the first CanZine festivals, held at the perpetually seamy Spadina Hotel. There were bands and tables with the A-list of zines upstairs and like five tables downstairs where I guess the B-list zinesters were. It was kind of pathetic and boring, actually. Our only entertainment was provided by Gavin and Shane who were at the next table.

And so that is the story of my zine, and the beginning of the end of, well, many things. Back then, writing, drawing and making music were my artistic outlets. I have a lot of embarrassing, high school poetry, prose, comics and demos archived in our basement, and I would encourage every teenager to start working on their personal collection of self-conscious musings immediately. The creation of art, music and poetry should be free and unfettered. Just not everybody should be allowed to do it for a living.

3 Replies to “Quit Gawking!”

  1. Thanks Natalia,

    I just finished recording my first podcast – which will likely be my ‘Quit Gawking’ 10 years from now, but still – doing is more fun than not doing.

  2. Ha, yes, Quit Gawking! As if I could. I have a bunch of these in storage somewhere, and always remembered that you published a couple of my own bad poems (and I should have known better, being so much older than you!).

    Thanks for the memory! And readers, pay attention! See what can happen if you encourage your creative daughters to create!

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