My zine fest season is officially done!!! Whew. I am so, so grateful to have gotten the opportunity to travel up and down the California coast this year.
When this whole thing started about a year and a half ago, this didn’t even seem like a possibility. At my very first fest, all I had was my li’l copies of Wallagalore, some business cards, and a whole lot of self doubt. Fast-forward to my last fest in Pomona, and I had six (?!) published works, an actual tablecloth, a candy dish, and the same self doubt!!! I have grown immensely as an illustrator, storyteller, and human. I have met tons of talented artists. I have explained to a white man why the fetishization of Asian women is wrong. I feel like I’ve done everything and nothing at the same time and it is all so exciting!
But before looking forward to next year, some thanks are in order.
Everyone who puts on these events is amazing. Each fest I attended was so well organized and everyone was incredibly welcoming, even though things get hectic during check-in. In my entire life, I organized one event for 75 people, and wanted to curl up into a ball and cry, so I know this shit ain’t easy. Cheers to those who dedicate their time to organizing such large groups of weirdo artists!
Meeting people is awkward. Being assigned a tablemate that you don’t know is awkward. People who make art are awkward. Put all of these things together, and you have a good idea of what zine fests are like. That’s just real, especially for me—an introvert that would rather check every room on every floor of a building before I ask someone where the bathroom is. But what’s also real is that I’ve made some fantastic connections as a vendor.
I started making things to express very specific things I was feeling, like having to eat a ketchup sandwich at age 23 because I couldn’t afford lunch. What I didn’t expect was that something so specific to my life would also ring true in other people’s lives. And what was even more unexpected is that I would… gulp… be able to talk to strangers about how weirdly similar our lives are. Am I still afraid of people? Yes. But do I now know that people at fests are good folks who make great art? Yes, definitely!
My family and friends are my biggest fans, for real. If you’re reading this, and have come out to an event to hang out with me or bought something from me, you are officially the best. My friends have showed up at the farthest, most random fests I’ve tabled at. They’ve driven through the desert to get to Joshua Tree and risked getting stuck in a sand dune like half of the vendors did. They’ve found me in the middle of San Francisco, where I was surrounded by waaaay cool Bay Area creators, and one-hundred percent not expecting it to be freezing cold. They’ve been the first to order from me when I announce a new project. They’ve just been there.
My mom volunteers to buy me things I otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford, like a rolling cart (I was literally storing everything in an old cardboard box that was falling apart) and a folding table when I was freaking out about how to even get one. She even showed up at a fest and bought out most of my inventory on what was otherwise a slow, kind of depressing day.
My partner has traveled with me to all of my events, and acts like it’s nothing to drive me, carry all my shit inside, and then go hide somewhere for 8 hours because I don’t want a white man trying to sell my books about Asian-American identity.
Without this core group of people, I’d be lost and sad and would become hungry and grumpy at fests, and I just really, really appreciate them. So, if you’re reading this, thank you times a million!!
For now, I’m going into hiding for a little to recharge while I reflect on how everything ran this year. I’m planning to draw and write and paint and read and go to Disneyland to eat. I have some projects in the works that I am super excited about. I also have some stuff that I’ve been putting off that I am not so excited about. I feel overwhelmed and underwhelmed and everything in between. But most of all, I am thankful for all that has happened, and can’t wait to do it again next year!