Masterclass Recap: Kieran Yates On Making Your Own Zine And Telling Your Own Stories

Photo courtesy of Yero Timi-Biu

Photo courtesy of Yero Timi-Biu

Our September free monthly masterclass was with journalist Kieran Yates, who gave us a step-by-step guide to making your own zines.

Print is not dead. That’s something we learnt from journalist Kieran Yates, who has written for Guardian, Vice, Dazed and Confused and NME amongst others. Kieran used frustration she garnered over the years in what she calls ‘white middle-class elitist spaces’ and recognised she had interesting stories to tell.

Kieran would often say: ‘I wish there was somewhere I could do that, I know my friends would find it funny. There wasn’t really a platform for that’.

She created a zine, (an abbreviation of fanzine, usually a small circulation of self-published work). ‘British Values’ was inspired by the satire of ‘Smash Hits’, she used her love of pop culture to satirise publications like ‘Elle Decoration’ and ‘Vogue’., magazines she didn’t see any representations of herself in. She took inspiration from homegrown zines likes ‘Born n Bread’ and read lots of tabloid media to make fun of the way in which British publications speak to audiences.

As young journalists, it’s really easy to feel like we’re not good enough, it’s often really frustrating starting out in an industry where you may feel completely underrepresented and want to get your voice heard. In comes zines.

source: helenaborthwick.wordpress.com

source: helenaborthwick.wordpress.com

Here are her top tips to get the ball rolling:

Kieran’s Top Tips For How To Start Your Own Zine

  1. 1) Be frustrated and use your anger.

If you’re unsure about what you’re doing or whether it will make money, don’t be scared. If you’re not being represented or being included in conversations, whether it’s about being a trans woman or feminist, or maybe you think your stories aren’t newsworthy – don’t worry, they are.

‘It’s hard work but you can make it. When you start these projects, you then become your own boss – you’re the editor’.

2) Be Your Own Boss, Have Good Ideas

Even if it’s not making money, and you have those anxieties a lot of creative have, just do it.

   3) Be Sensitive About The Stories You’re Doing

You have to be careful in how you create these stories. Fanzines came from the idea of feeling anarchic and out there. Know your medium, Kieran didn’t have to write a 5,000 word essay on Theresa May for ‘The New Statesman‘ to vent her anger. Whether it’s political or artistic, you need to understand and know your audience. Fanzine culture has always been really niche, you have to know your demographic and speak to them directly.

source: i-d.vice.com

source: i-d.vice.com

4) Be Brave About Your Jokes

Notice details and retain them.

When you do passion projects, it can feel quite insular – only when you’re outside is when you realise that’s what gives it detail. All of those tiny nuanced things you see every day in your life that you don’t really notice because they’re so normalised – from outside people find it really exciting. That’s the whole skill of journalism, being able to look at different life experiences.

Honest content and taking time to notice details make the best content. Retain information, you can always recycle it later. When you’re starting out, you can sometimes feel like the ideas that don’t get picked up by editors are failures, but they’re not, they are your stories and you have an opportunity to tell them in the best capacity person.

5) Understand Your Frame Of Reference

If you’re a writer, team up with a visual thinker – when you’re thinking about stories, it’ll help to also be image led, you can learn from each other when it comes to storytelling and what looks good on the page. If you have a great story, make sure it looks good on the page. Your audience will thank you for it.

6) Do Your Research

Have a network of specific writers and specific examples of things you like or want to emulate. When you’ve built up a book of ideas, your confidence will grow. You should be able to reach out to the editors you idolise and like what they write. Try and find someone who wrote something similar for a specific publication. They want to be hearing from you, so put yourself out there. Your zine will act as a recruiting tool, it’s something you can be proud of.

7) Think About Numbers

Kieran didn’t have a good understanding of distribution or print. She started off with 300 zines; she broke even through the printing costs. She paid out nearly £2000 from her savings. It’s a process to understand how a project works. It’s something physical that will represent you whether you’re a photography, illustrator, writer or filmmaker.

You don’t have to have a personal online presence, your work can galvanize a following behind the scenes when the thing you have created starts amplifying. You must also remember to have some evidence of how great you are. So that’s get, get zine-ing.

Are you a zine maker or want to become one? What are your favourite zines or magazines you get inspired by? Let us know@rifemag

Head down to the Bristol Comicbook and Zine Fair this weekend

Support more young people to have their voices heard

Rife is Watershed‘s online magazine created for young people, by young people.

We offer paid internships and publish work by young writers, photographers, illustrators, and filmmakers from all sorts of backgrounds, helping them get into creative careers. Rife has reached over 8,000 young people through our workshops, over 220 young people have made stuff for Rife on topics ranging from mental health to identity to baked beans, and last year, over 200,000 people visited our website.

In these complex and uncertain times hearing from and supporting young people who are advocating for social change and contributing fresh perspectives has never been so important. 

Through supporting Rife you can ensure that this important work continues and that more young people have their voices heard.