When people ask me how I got my start as a writer, I say Cupsize. Cupsize was the stapled-and-photocopied zine that I wrote with my friend Tara Emelye. We wrote our zine back in the nineties before the Internet took off, when email was still exotic and blogs did not yet exist. The Internet has been a huge force for my work to take off, especially quirkyalone, but there was such an amazing power in making something tactile like a paper zine.
Tara and I called our zine Cupsize to ironically reclaim our ample bosoms. Our zine wasn’t about women’s issues, per se, but we were young women and we wrote honestly about our lives. We wrote Cupsize when we were in college. I also wrote for newspapers and magazines. It was thrilling to see my byline on the cover of the Village Voice, but it was really through Cupsize that I learned how to just say it. To explore whatever called to me. Tara and I had a great creative chemistry and we egged each other on, whether we were writing about the taste of grape soda or visiting a peep show in Times Square, bisexual chic or feminism and class.
Instead of Photoshop, we used tape and rubber cement. We traded zines with other zinesters in the mail and sold our homemade publication in record shops and bookstores. We didn’t officially join the Riot Grrrl movement, but we were part of that moment in time as young women writing honestly about our lives. Riot Grrrl was a cultural and political movement of young women who were fed up with the male-dominated punk rock music scene and who wanted to create a space where girls could be heard.
Now our writings from Cupsize are included in this awesome new book, the Riot Grrrl Collection. This energetic book will inspire all freedom-seekers and lovers of handwritten creativity. Each page of the book is an actual reprint of a zine page, with all the human touches of the girl or boy who made it.
Advice for writing and life: shock yourself with honesty
The excellent performance artist and filmmaker Miranda July has a blurb on the back cover:
“What zine-making taught me about writing: 1. shock yourself with honesty. 2. the truth is messy. 3. be brave like her. I use these skills every day.”
Miranda is right. Zines taught me how to just say it and be brave.
If you want to write and really connect, you need to take risks. You need to be bold. You need to say the stuff that makes you say, I’m scared to post that Facebook update, or I’m scared to hit publish, because it’s so real. I don’t know what other people will think. I feel triumphant when I say something that feels like gut truth to me, merely for doing it, even if no one responds.
Cupsize got me started on that path and I’m happy to still be on it. Believe me, it was easier to operate that way when I was 21. But I love it when we all meet out there saying what is really rawly true for us.
One of the biggest lessons I have gotten from this creative life is that you need to keep following what authentically lights you up and fills you with wonder and curiosity. That means telling the truth. That sense of wonder and curiosity and aliveness is in itself is the real reward, not fame, “likes,” or money (though money is great).
The Riot Grrrl Collection is a wonderful book, and you can read about it and the history of Riot Grrrl in this Guardian UK story. Images of great zines by Kathleen Hanna and other girl zinesters from back in the day are in this terrific slideshow.
Below at the end you will find some Cupsize covers for your enjoyment. What was once tactile is now digital, but it’s still fun to look at them. (Make sure you click “display images” if you are reading this in your email.) You don’t want to miss seeing the actual Cupsizes!
P.S. Are you free for coffee next Tuesday? We are hosting a free 20-minute phone chat next Tuesday at noon PT to talk about the connections between quirkyalone and quirkytogether. Being quirkyalone means accepting yourself and living a fully alive life when you’re single, and being quirkytogether means the same in a relationship. You’ll get to type in your questions and we’ll answer them. We would love to have you on the line. . . Sign up to get the call-in details here!
I bought Cupsize zine in the mid-’90s! I remember it well! <3