SOLSC Day 9
Years ago I found a book (or maybe the book found me) called Whatcha Mean What’s a ‘Zine? I don’t remember where I found it, but it looked interesting so I bought it. Well, hello, this was the best purchase I had made to inspire kids to write in my classroom. I shared it with my teaching bestie and we came up with a plan. After we both read it and started using them in the classroom, we presented a professional development session for secondary teachers in our district. I was hooked and the kids loved them. This was back in the day when foldables were all the rage.
If you aren’t familiar with ‘zines, they are small, self-published mini-books, or tiny magazines, on any topic. They’ve been compared to flyers or pamphlets that were used way before printing and buying magazines was the norm. Think Ben Franklin’s pamphlets. We liked using these and the students responded well because they’re small and less intimidating than writing on full sized sheets of paper. We had students use them for note-taking, free writing, mini-graphic novels for those who wanted to give it a try, publishing their personal narratives, and even for a variety of responses to reading. In our PD session, our handouts were two separate ‘zines that participants folded with us. They were a hit.
As COVID made its entrance, I became restless. Connecting with my friends on social media was great, but I wanted something different. I wanted connection with snail mail. I posted an invitation for friends to DM their snail mail addresses so I could send them a little something. Unexpected snail mail from a real person is a treat, at least it is for me. Close friends and family whose addresses I already had were default recipients. However, I wanted to reach out to those farther out of my everyday circle: new colleagues, old high school friends, new friends.
I planned to mail a quick note to say hello and sticker bomb the outside of the envelopes because as a true child of the ’80s, I’m a sucker for fun stickers. Then I got an idea. I’d make a ‘zine. I knew everyone was going through tough times adjusting. I’m not a naturally optimistic person, so I decided to make a Little ‘Zine of Happiness and send some happy mail. I created my first (and so far, only) ‘zine that isn’t classroom related.
After I made the original ‘zine, I unfolded it, scanned it, and printed copies. Assembling them was therapeutic. I bought stationery, collected addresses and sent them out. I used all the Christmas stamps I had since I didn’t get around to sending cards, a delayed little gift. I didn’t send them all at once. I’d send out two or three, wait a few days and then send a few more. I made sure to tuck in the little ‘zine.
I received delightful messages from recipients, some of whom snail mailed me back. Many told me it arrived at the perfect time and put smiles on their faces. I left a blank on the cover for personalization. My ‘zinester teacher colleague, now an instructional coach, passed them out to her teachers earlier this year to lift their spirits. That was my intention, to spread joy during a tough time.
More topics roll around in my head for new ‘zines. I even created an Instagram account for people to share there, but it’s quiet right now. I plan to make more, but following through has waned. I’m sure inspiration will visit soon. Feel free to get your copy here and share some happiness.
*This is sometimes referred to as a “smoosh book” or an 8-page book. No fancy tools required. Not even scissors, unless you want a clean line. Video directions for folding are here.