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The La-La Theory:
"The Language of Love...For Zines!"

An interview with
Katie Haegele
from Philadelphia, PA, USA

by Haydeé Jiménez & Elke Zobl


March 2008

 

"Being part of the zine community is one of the most important things in my life."
-
Katie H.

*****


The La-La Theory Issue 1




Can you tell me a little bit about your personal (age, place of birth and residence etc.) and educational background?
I'm 31, and I live in a town just a few minutes
outside of Philadelphia, which is where I was born and
raised. For college I went to the University of
Pennsylvania and studied linguistics, which turned out
to be a very dear and special thing to me. I figured I
would major in literature in college since I've always
wanted to be a writer, but then to fulfill a math
requirement I took a class in this strange thing
called linguistics and fell in love with it.

What are you currently doing, or involved in, besides your zines?
Well, I work as a freelance writer, which means I'm at home on my own a lot. I write articles for newspapers and magazines; these days I most often write book reviews, and I have also been reporting on new kinds of literature that people are making using digital media. I write poetry and am currently  finishing my first collection--a book of poems inspired by obsolete words, one for each letter of the alphabet! I also love to write personal essays. So I spend much of my time reading and writing. I also like to take ridiculously long walks while talking to myself, visit thrift stores and rummage sales for treasure (and writing inspiration), listen to music and look for new (and old) bands to get into, write letters, do counted cross-stitch and a bit of knitting, visit art openings and go to performances in the city, and go hiking and camping when I'm able to.

Can you tell our readers about La La Theory and any other zine you have done?

The La-La Theory is my zine about language, and it's the only serial zine I've done. I have 5 issues of that one, all touching on different oddball aspects of language. My other zines have been one-offs, like poetry things and a couple of personal zines. This past summer I made White Blackbirds, a collection of interviews with women who don't plan to marry. The name comes from an Irish expression that goes, "There will be white blackbirds before an unwilling woman ties the knot." I felt frustrated by what seemed to me to be a lack of public discussion about the ways marriage is changing, and I was curious to see what my fellow feminists had to say on the topic. So I reached out to the zine community to find women who don't want to marry, and I asked them why. The results were so interesting--enlightening, smart, funny, both personal and political, and in many cases surprising. The La-La Theory is very dear to me and has sort of become a catchall name for my whole existence. :) The name is a reference to theories of the origin of language. Apparently philosophers in the 19th century were interested in figuring out how human language started, and some of their theories were very colorful. A Danish linguist named Otto Jespersen named one of them The La-La Theory: the theory that langauge was borne of the need to express poetry and love. .

How long have you been doing zines?
I made my first zine four years ago. It was a collection of found poems that I called Word Math. I came of age during the riot grrl movement and I was really into the music of that era, so zines are something I've enjoyed for many years and in some sense have felt a part of all along because the culture felt like part and parcel of the feminism of my generation. But I didn't make my own zine until I discovered found poetry, which is poetry comprised of text from other, non-poetic sources. I got on a real tear of making these poems and I wanted to share them, but I didn't feel like submitting them to journals and
I wasn't sure if I could anyway because of copyright considerations. I thought: This could be a zine! I asked Lesley Reppeteaux (
http://www.reppeteaux.com/), an artist whose work I really love, to make a cover image for the zine, which she was kind enough to do. I made a whole bunch of copies of Word Math and brought them to the Philadelphia Zine Fest, where I nervously sat at a table with my sister. I ended up meeting a bunch of wonderful people, a couple of whom have become good friends. I was thrilled by this experience and that was it for me; I was hooked. I dreamt up and started The La-La Theory that same summer.

Where/how are your zines distributed? Who are your readers?
What kind of responses do you get from your zines’ audience?
I sell and trade them myself by taking them to
the Philly Zine Fest, and I make them available to order from my personal website (
www.thelalatheory.com). I sell them through a bunch of distros too, and for the most part those relationships came about through zine friendships rather than submitting them for consideration. I also have a shop on etsy (thelalatheory.etsy.com), the craft-selling site, which has been a huge boon to my ziney lifestyle. I have had fun making the shop by taking pictures of my zines posing quirkily in various spots throughout my apartment. Etsy is cool because it has a huge reach beyond the zine community, and I have been able to share my things with interested people all over the world, some of whom had never read a zine before. Being a part of the zine community is
important to me, but so is introducing zines to people outside of that community.







White Blackbirds
How did you become introduced to the culture of zines?
As I say, I think since I was a young teenager it's something I've been aware of. I don't remember the very first time I learned about zines. I do have fond memories of reading about them in Sassy magazine when I first started high school. Sassy which introduced me to lots of ideas that existed outside of my small world, like punk and indie music and the idea of cutting and altering my own clothes, which I tried and made a mess of, but still--revolutionary!

What do you hope to accomplish by making and distributing your zine?
I guess my primary motivation for making zines is the same as my primary motivation for all of the writing that I do: to express myself, to make sense of something, to share an experience I've had, to make that human connection. Zines are beautiful to me because they make that connection more obvious than it is when you publish something in a magazine. Often someone who has liked something you wrote in a zine will write you a handwritten letter telling you so. Voila, you've made a friend. What's better than that?


Transcribing Birdsong
  Which role does the Internet play for you?
I love the Internet for the good things it's done for my writing and zine making. A couple of years ago I made a very basic personal website to promote my zines and other writing. I also took the plunge about two years ago to make a myspace page for my zines and zine distro, which is also called The La-La Theory, where I carry poetry and fiction zines. I was wary of and intimidated by those large social networking sites before I used one, but I kept hearing that bands were using myspace to share their music, so one day I thought, Well, *I* don't have to have a myspace, but my zines can! Of course I soon discovered that lots of zinesters have myspace pages for their zines or distros. I've made friends and a few really interesting artistic collaborations through myspace. I also have to shout out the *best* online zine community I have found, Photocopied Heart
(http://www.photocopyheart.proboards79.com/index.cgi).
Everyone on there is supportive and positive, and I've met people to trade zines and fliers with and so forth. Being online has really helped me to spread the word about my work and find others whose work I have enjoyed and learned from.

Please name some of your favorite zines and the reasons why you like them.
My friend Laura-Marie Taylor is a very good poet, and she makes a zine called Erik and Laura-Marie Magazine (http://erikandlauramarie.blogspot.com/) that always includes small essays on different topics, like cooking, music, and religion, as well as poems she's recently finished. She's a wonderful writer. Another very good poet is Amanda Laughtland. Her work has inspired my own with its quiet passion and succintness; through reading and enjoying her poems I
think mine have gotten a little better. She does a poetry zine called Teeny Tiny (
http://www.teenytiny.org/) that is made from one sheet of 8 1/2 x 11" paper, cunningly folded. Fabulous! Another person whose writing I have recently discovered is a French Candian writer named Iza Bourret (http://www.geocities.com/girl_w_cat/) who does the zines The Happy Loner and Girl w/ Cat, among others. Her English has a delightfully unusual turn of phrase and reading her zines you get the sense of this very full person behind the writing, someone really vibrant and unique.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start a zine?
Remember that zines can be about ANYTHING. Personal zines like diaries are very satisfying to do and fun to read, but they aren't the only kind. I have read interesting interview zines, cookzines filled with family recipes, how-to zines that give advice on fixing your bike or how to make a podcast...you name it. So my advice is to think first about the things you feel most passionate about in life. Like Morrissey sings, "Step right up to the microphone and name all the things that you love, all the things that you loathe ... sing your life." Write an open letter, write poems, make a collage, or whatever. The openness of zine culture reminds us that writing and art belong to everyone, as they always have. No one person or organization or "expert" is more entitled to these things than you are.
Do you feel part of a (grrrl or general) zine community or network and what does it mean to you? What is the zine scene like in your community?
Being part of the zine community is one of the most important things in my life. I participate in this community whenever I get or send a letter, trade a zine through the mail, post encouragement on a zine message board, GET encouragement from a fellow zinester, or share ideas or read a call for submissions on a myspace bulletin. I find that feminism happens easily within this space, so yes, I feel a part of the grrrl zine community too. A cool feminist distro called Little Bigfoot in Kentucky in the US now carries my zine White Blackbirds. Little Bigfoot has relationships with feminist organizations so they're able to sell zines through these networks too.


Word Math
 
For me the zine community is local when I attend the Philadelphia Zine Fest every fall. I love this event and look forward to it all year. Philadelphia has a very vibrant, eclectic, and active art scene, and the zine fest draws lots of interested people from the community. There are also quite a few independent bookstores and little shops that carry zines. I am happy to be from here and to live here still. My friend Sage had a fantastic zine library here for a while, but she has moved back down to Georgia (
www.eyecandyzine.com). I should seek out more of a connection with my local zinesters though, come to think of it. If any of you are reading this, send me an email!  We can get together for coffee or tea!


Do you consider yourself a feminist?

Yes!

What do you think about feminism today? How would you explain what feminism is to someone who has no idea what it is?
Oh gosh, there's a lot to say about this, and not all of it is easy for me to find words for. I know that there are lots of feminists doing lots of good work, but I also know there's much more to be done. For every step forward there have been some confusing steps backward, particularly for today's girls and very young women. About a year ago I read an article in my college's alumni magazine that reported on a talk Gloria Steinem gave on campus. She'd been invited by an undergraduate women's group to lecture on the theme "Is feminism still relevant?", which flabbergasted her. It amazed me too. But of course I am fully ten years older than the girls who asked this question, and the culture is changing rapidly. This is an interesting moment to look at in terms of how things have changed, and how feminism is perceived. In part this kind of change is inevitable and even good, but there is something insidious happening if a woman can look at the despicable depiction of women that is constantly being crammed down our throats by so many media, or see the way many women are participating in their own degradation, or know that sexual violence is a huge problem for ALL WOMEN- something that causes us all terrible pain and limits our human rights in a real way, every single day--and not see a need for feminism. What's the old expression? "The smartest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist"? Yeah.

However, some of the changes are good ones. A few years ago I did an interview with a smart woman who'd worked as a professor until she opened a beautiful yarn shop in Philadelphia. She designs patterns and had recently published a book of them. We talked about the social implications of the recent resurgence of interest in handmade goods and crafts. One of the things she told me--she is probably around 15 years older than I am--was that, growing up, her interest in knitting was problematic for her as a budding feminist. She explained that many women at that time felt they had to turn their backs on traditional women's work in order to be accepted as equals to men, socially and professionally. She viewed the popularity of knitting as something very positive: "healing the split between women's work and feminism," as she said it. I have remembered this comment very warmly. We have a long way to go, but we can feel good about and enjoy the progress we've made.


What would a “grrrl”-friendly society look like in your view? How do you think society might be re-envisioned and transformed tin order to become an “ideal” world for women, grrrls and queer folks? Do you have any suggestions for the development of women/grrrl/queer-friendly policies?
Well, I guess I think it would be a good start if more people identified as feminists, and found a way to make feminism their own. I also think these things should start young. Rather than going at problems like crime, teenage pregnancy, poverty, domestic abuse, and illiteracy in a sort of literal, individual way, we can look at the way boys and girls are being raised. It's our responsibility to help young people to feel good about themselves, encourage them to take charge of their lives and use their voices. I believe zines can be a way for this to happen. I have a friend, Taylor Ball who runs Parcell Press (www.parcellpress.com), who does zine workshops at middle schools. I think this is an awesome thing to do. I plan to do my first zine workshop at a book fair later this year--woo-hoo! I'd like to do more of these kinds of things, play a more active role in my own community. That's how good things happen, I guess. That and being true to yourself, being something like the person you would have wanted yourself to be when you were 6 or 10 or 15. Being strong and living with integrity, as much as you're able to, is in itself an important contribution. People look to each other for examples of how to live, especially very young people. I know I did.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I encourage everyone to make a zine. You don't have to think of yourself as a writer or an artist to try it, though you may end up thinking of yourself as one. You have things to say, things you find hard to say in your day-to-day life, right? These are things you can say in a zine. Expressing yourself this way feels good, and in sharing your zine you will find your readers, people who understand you. There is no other feeling in the world like that kind of connection. Everyone should experience it.


*****


info:


katie [AT] thelalatheory.com
e-mail

www.thelalatheory.com
web site

thelalatheory.etsy.com
etsy

 


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