If only every university project turned out as successfully as Cockroach Zine.
Meg Crane had to produce and independent personal project during her final year in the Creative Communications program at Red River College. She’d grown up reading such legendary feminist zines-turned-magazines as Bust and Bitch, and wanted to give the process a crack herself. As it turned out, she had blast doing it, and continued the project far beyond the requirements of her class.
“I got a really good mark on the project,’ Crane recalls. “I got an A, so that was awesome. My professor said there were a couple of typos and issues, so she didn’t feel like she could give me an A+. So I hired a couple of copy editors.”
The zine - which focuses on the intersection of feminism and environmentalism - has grown considerably since then. The roster of writers now tops 20, with a handful of people writing for every issue and others who chip in only when they can. Six issues have been published since the November launch of the debut issue, which - in a fairly brave move - tackled the topic of religion.
“I thought it would be really interesting,” Crane says. “There are so many different things that you can write about. In hindsight, it wasn’t a great idea. I did have someone who was really upset about it and thought it was a Christian zine and was pushing my religion on people. It’d probably be something better to do now, now that I’m more established.”
Other themes that have been explored in the 20-to-24 page format have included sex, music and water. Next up on the agenda is that of disguises; Crane mentions one particular topic being the ecological impacts of wearing make-up. But it’s not all downer material. Take, for example, the water issue: one story’s on the lack of the clean drinking water in northern communities, while another features tips on having sex in the shower.
“I try to keep it really light and fun: environmentalism and feminism can be really hard, dark topics,” Crane explains. “But even if I’m covering something that’s really upsetting I try to make sure there’s a really positive spin on it. It’s fun for people to read and to write for, too.”
That’s a message that Crane wants to spread at the upcoming Cockroach Zine Fair, a two-day event that will combine music, vendors, vegan treats and free yoga. Taking inspiration from a week-long zine-making workshop in Montreal, the fair will also feature a how-to-make-your-own-zine station. There’ll be supplies and zine-making vets available to assist too.
“It’s to get people together to show them how easy it is to make their own zine and get out their own message or thoughts or stories through zines. I know a lot of people who say they’d love to make one, but it’s really intimidating or don’t know how. It’s a space to get everyone together to show them how easy it is.”