Textually Active

by Alison Braid

illustration by Moses Magee
illustration by Moses Magee

Ever wondered how to get involved with the underground world of zines and independent culture? Still hung up on wondering what a zine is? Ponder no longer, as Canzine West is back this year with a one-day festival that will knock your hand-knit socks off.

Canzine West is an offshoot of Canzine Toronto, which first began in 1995, and has had a hugely successful history. The event, organized by Broken Pencil: the Magazine of Zine Culture and the Independent Arts, features a wide array of artists, writers, and performers specializing in zines and independent publishing.

For those who’ve never dipped their big toes into the waters of alternative culture, coordinator Laura Trethewey says the biggest reason to visit Canzine West is that “you’re just not going to see this stuff anywhere else.” And she’s right. In a world where online publishing is becoming more and more prominent, the focus of Canzine West is on artists who know it’s not all fun ‘n’ games. They know it’s worth it to create something unique by hand.

The variety of talent you will see at Canzine West is also unparalleled. “You get…indie publishers, artists, and creators…people who create artwork and zines in their basements or at home, people who run micro-presses on the side, Emily Carr artist collective, [and] high school students,” says Trethewey. The list goes on and on.

And for attendees working on their first piece, Trethewey encourages them to bring them along. “[For] anyone who [does] not have a mainstream way to get it out there…this is their chance to showcase their work to the world.”

illustration by Moses Magee
illustration by Moses Magee

This year, Canzine West will feature a couple of its tried and true events as well as some exciting new additions. Back again is the popular 1-2 Punch Book Pitch, where participants are given two minutes to convince the judges why their manuscript is a must-read.

The day will also include an artist panel covering the challenges and craft of using the graphic art to portray real life, a Vancouver writers series, and four eight-minute hyperspeed talks.

A few well known presenters from Vancouver’s publishing scene include Brian Kaufman, Kevin Chong, Sarah Leavitt, Colin Upton, Geoff Mann, Catherine Owen, Catherine Busby, and more.

Due to its incredible lineup and impressive turnout each year, Canzine West is also a fantastic place to make connections. Trethewey recalls an example from Canzine Toronto, where comedians Amy Lam and Jon McCurley met. They now run the improv comedy group “Life of a Craphead,” and host a popular monthly comedy night at the Art Gallery of Ontario. So no matter your experience, niche, or particular talent, Canzine West has something for you.

Before November 2 rolls around, go home, get inspired, and try your hand at being a zinester. There are no limits: you can create whatever tickles your fancy, be it a zine about the dangers of umbrella spokes, the perils of the jungle, or the 103 uses of garden gnomes. So pull up those socks, drag that dusty craft box out of the attic, and get creating. In the time it takes you to do that, I’ll have thought of garden gnome use #87.


Canzine West will run from 1-7 p.m. on November 2 at Ukrainian Hall (805 Pender St. E.) Tickets are $5 at the door and will include a fall edition of Broken Pencil. For anyone hoping to participate in the 1-2 Punch Book Pitch, it’s run on a first-come, first-served basis. Sign up by emailing with your name, email, phone number, and two or three lines describing the project you’d like to pitch.