The San Diego Women's History Museum is full of noise. It's the sound of creativity, and at this particular Grrrl Zines A Go-Go workshop, creativity sounds like the rise and fall of young women's chatter, the beat of music by Chk Chk Chk and the noisy clack and occasional ping of an old-school typewriter.
The participants have gathered around two long tables in the middle of the museum's current 'zine exhibit. Attached to thick string and safety-pinned to floor-length gray curtains are more than 100 national and locally produced 'zines, with colorful covers and titles like Hippo Hank: Daily Domestic Trials Personified, Placenta: Punk Rock and Vegan Parenting, and I Have Herpes-And It Really Fucking Sucks.
Armed with boxes of glue sticks, pens, scrap paper, scissors and the obligatory manual typewriter, Grrrl Zines A Go-Go members Margarat Nee, Kim "Riot" Schwenk and Ari Perezdiez have set up shop in the Women's History Museum to share the power of self-publishing and, hopefully, generate some inspiration.
The trio kicks off the workshop by giving a brief history of 'zines, from the "OG 'zine"-Thomas Paine's 1776 pamphlet Common Sense-to punk-rock fanzines of the '70s, the Riot Grrrl movement and the third-wave feminism of the early '90s.
"It's a real liberating feeling to be able to self-publish something," says Shwenk. "In this country, we have a lot of privilege-you do it because you can."
Today they will be making a collaborative 'zine, which means each of the participants will be responsible for one page. Following the traditional cut-and-paste model of 'zine assembly, the group is encouraged to take any found text or images that resonate personally and use them to create their own individual message.
Perhaps in deference to the venue, Nee proposes a theme for the day, directing the group to think about who writes history.
"Think of something about your history you want to make sure is marked down," says Nee.
"But you can rebel," she calls out with a chuckle as the group sets to work. "We don't mind."
Nineteen-year-old Kathleen Baca already knows how to make a 'zine-she made her own when she was 15-but she came today because she and three of her friends plan on putting out a UCSD-related 'zine next quarter.
"It's a really good way to express yourself," Baca says as she pecks at the typewriter keys. "It's more of an intense feeling knowing that someone will read your thoughts. You can say on paper what you can't say out loud."
"I'm feeling inspired," says Carina Tapia, a 20-year-old volunteer at the Women's History Museum and newcomer to the 'zine scene. Tapia reveals that her volunteer work at the museum was actually court-appointed, but she hasn't told anyone-until now.
"['Zines are] blunt," she says, looking up from scrawling her confession. "They don't paint anything pretty for you, but it's still beautiful. It's the truth."
Sarah Williams, 30, executive director of the Women's History Museum, says she came of age at the peak of 'zine popularity in the early '90s and was a fan of Riot Grrrl in high school.
"I thought the exhibition would be a great idea," she says. "It's in the now. [Women's history] is more than suffragettes."
But the question of the Internet looms large, even in this happy little hive of creativity. What, some might ask, is the point of 'zines now that websites like Livejournal and Blogspot provide people with free and easy tools to express themselves.
Perezdiez, who also runs an online 'zine distribution site, says she thinks 'zines and the Internet don't necessarily have to be in competition.
"The Internet makes 'zines accessible to people who wouldn't be exposed to them [otherwise]," she points out.
"There's always going to be a respect for cut-and-paste," says Shwenk. "As long as there is activism and people willing to speak out, I think 'zines will always exist."
Grrrl Zines A Go-Go will hold a youth workshop on Saturday, Oct. 21, from noon to 2 p.m. at the Women's History Museum. The 'zine exhibition-including the results of both workshops-continues through Oct. 28 at 2323 Broadway, Suite 107, Golden Hill. 619-233-6327.