Fems To The Front | How ‘Eleanor: A Zine’ came to life
words and photos by Ilenia Pezzaniti
Twenty or so people quietly filled two living rooms, patiently staring in the direction of the microphone. Poet Lauren Olesh stood behind it, ready to deliver “Left-handed”, a poem about her renewed relationship with her father, from Eleanor: A Zine, Vol. 1.
Eleanor: A Zine, was an idea brewing inside 20-something Angel Cézanne’s head for years before it actually came to life. Angel was in a sex shop similar to Ambiance. Near the bachelorette party gifts, she spotted a button pin that said, “Do one thing every day that scares you,” with the authorship attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt.
“She [Eleanor] didn’t actually say that, but she said similar things in a book she wrote,” Angel explained. She named the zine Eleanor because, “I suffer from anxiety and that quote really drove me.”
In 2015, Eleanor was born. The eight-page double-sided 6×8 made with computer skills, glue, scissors, paper, and Kinkos, is an intersectional feminist zine for female-identifying and non-binary persons only. Entries include poetry, essays, photography, art, and selfies with blurbs about self care. While zines are traditionally printed in black and white, Angel chose the color route, “It was important to me to make it color because I got such beautiful submissions that it was like, I couldn’t put these in black and white, you know, they deserve to be in color,” something she hopes to continue in a way that doesn’t effect her bank account.
Angel, a recent summa cum laude graduate of Kent State University, studied magazine journalism, creative writing, and psychology. She interned at the Wick Poetry Center and at Cleveland Magazine, so she had her hands in the art long before Eleanor was born. She first created a Tumblr website dedicated to the zine where she asked for submissions there and on Facebook and received quite a bit, enough to make two zines out of them. One of the first submissions given to her was from a woman in her 30’s, who wrote a piece about body image, featured in Eleanor: A Zine, Vol. 2., specifically about how she had been afraid of her breasts because of the harassment she receives about them. It was the submission that gave Angel “hope,” a reassurance that this zine thing was going to work out.
Angel waited to publish the zines until she could have a release show, “I wanted to have a full-on DIY-show-what-girls-can-do kind of thing,” she said. On May 4, 2016, Eleanor: A Zine Release Show kicked off at 8 p.m. at It’s A Kling Thing! house in Akron. Among the poets and speakers were Maggie Duff, Hailey Knisley, Gov Naim, and Lauren Olesh, whose pieces are part of Vol. 1.
“It was really great to read tonight in a room full of mostly female identifying people because I felt like I could talk to people who could empathize with me and it’s great to have an outlet for my writing,” poet Maggie Duff said.
Between poets, musicians effin manifest (Mitchy Kahlo), Michelle Gaw, Maggie Sailor, and Human Petting Zoo (Rayne Blakeman) played separate original sets. Each female-identifier was unique with something equally as diverse to say, all of which was pertinent to the female-identifying existence as a whole. Amidst their expressive thoughts, themes such as nostalgia, sadness, anger, middle finger to the (non-feminist) man, love, self-preservation, self-advocacy, big ideas, sexual assault, and growth made their way through the speaker.
“I’m somebody who is scared of nearly everything so it’s nice to have a publication out there of any sorts that lets me, and other people like me, know that you don’t always have to be afraid and you can be brave,” said songwriter Maggie Sailor.
Eleanor was crafted as a safe haven for sharing vulnerabilities, a place for letting go and a source for inspiration.
“Everything I do is really overcoming my anxiety and overcoming being a victim of sexual abuse and I think that’s really important to talk about,” Angel said. “Since I started talking about it so many girls have come to me and said that they’ve had similar experiences and so that’s why I have to do it, it’s for them; they need to hear it. And that’s why I have to make this zine. These people need to have their voices heard and other people need to read them and be influenced by them.”
Angel’s 19-year-old cousin used the zine as a way to come out as trans.
“That is exactly the type of thing you hope will happen is someone will be so inspired and then probably inspire others,” Angel said. “That was just amazing to me that he was like, oh, this is an opportunity for me to use a creative outlet to express myself in this way that I’ve never felt comfortable expressing myself.”
Angel has other big plans for Eleanor and the website, including starting an Etsy, contributing regular blogposts, creating mini documentaries, and attending zine festivals.
Inspired to make your own zine? “Don’t be afraid and just be bold in asking random people to submit and, you know, just talking about it all the time because, you know, it might feel awkward talking about it all the time but that’s how people find out about it. Twitter is really amazing for networking. I actually got my first writing gig off of Twitter. You just have to not be a jerk and be vocal, and that’s it. You just have to put yourself out there,” Angel said.
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt (Forreal.)
Note: The author of “Do something every day that scares you,” is actually Mary Schmich, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune who wrote an essay which included this quote in June 1997.
Want to submit? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.