The La La Theory is produced by Katherine Haegele, USAKatherine Haegele responds:
How would you describe your zine?
I've made a number of different zines over the years, most of them featuring first-person writing or small collections of poetry. The La-La Theory is my serial zine, now in its 7th issue, and it's little essays and tidbits, games and poems, all having to do with language. I call this one my flagship publication. (I call it that in the same spirit that I call this whole enterprise the Zine Factory). The La-La Theory comes from a nineteenth century idea about the origin of language. Apparently this was a popular thing for philosophers to speculate on at this time, and some of the theories were pretty fanciful - the la-la one suggested that language was borne of the human need to express poetry and love. Both Darwin and a Danish linguist named Otto Jesperson liked this idea. Jesperson wrote "[Love] inspired many of the first songs, and through them was instrumental in bringing about human language." Nice, right?
What can your zine do that a mainstream publication can't?
Well, I can say whatever I want, and I can make my own audience too. I've worked professionally as a writer in one way or another since I graduated from college, and these days I mostly write book reviews, and arts features for newspapers and a few magazines. I actually enjoy doing this very much, but on its own it wouldn't provide enough of a creative outlet, and though it varies from person to person, writing for an editor is necessarily pretty limiting. There is nothing to compare with physically designing a book yourself and writing whatever you please. I find that having this freedom affects the process of writing from the beginning. It opens up my mind, relaxes me in such a way that I think of some eccentric ideas and execute them, just to please myself. Like, once I filled in the pages of a blank geography workbook I found at a yard sale, which created a kind of loony poetry. To make it I simply wrote in the book and reproduced it on a photocopier, so I couldn't have shared this as a piece of writing in any other way but as a zine. It's not just the writing but the construction of zines that gives me a thrill, knowing that something I've made with my hands is now in someone else's hands, a stranger's - that an object I created in my home now lives in other homes. It fulfills the desire for connection that drives my basic interest in writing in a very complete and satisfying way.
Does the look of a zine matter?
Yes, I think it does! I get a real kick out of thinking of inexpensive ways to make my zines graphically interesting and attractive. I use the cut-and-paste method for my lay-out out of both necessity and choice. I don't know how to use most design software, and I can't afford it, and I prefer the on-the-cheap aesthetic anyway. I find that other zinesters feel the same way. It's fun to solve the problem of making something look the way you want it to within whatever confines your circumstances create. I can't draw so I've asked artist friends (all of whom I've met through doing zines) to collaborate with me, and I'll use illustrations from old books and advertisements. I sometimes use recycled materials that are easy to come by and have an interesting look, like brown paper grocery bags for covers. (I've done this with a couple of my zines, though I didn't think of the idea myself.) I sell and trade my zines at fairs and I find it fun to make a pretty table arrangement, with a tablecloth and handmade signs, and cigar boxes and easels to display my work. Learning to think of a book as an object, a made thing, has enhanced my relationship with writing and reading, and it's made me a bit of a huckster too. When you're the one selling your own work the challenge of getting people to stop and look and consider buying it is a fun little problem to solve.
Please recommend a zine for us and tell us why.
Vanessa Berry, an Australian zinester, is as good a writer as you'll find published anywhere. She's produced more than 100 zines of her quiet, intelligent memoir-style writing.