This Week I Have Been Mostly…Launching A Zine

The official launch events of the zine have been slightly delayed due to me being extremely close to a new draft of the mysteriously titled (for now) THIRD BOOK… I know. Very, very exciting. More on this imminently…

This last week however, I received the printed zines (60 pages), and have been posting them to the contributors. British essayists and artists began to receive their copies this week; international wordsmiths, cartoonists, and illustrators will find their issues landing in post boxes over the next fortnight (several of our contributors are from the Southern Hemisphere, including a trainee nurse who has news for you about the fabulous, and shrewd, work of a new domestic abuse charity).

The tongue-in-cheekily titled I Hope You Like Feminist Rants (known colloquially as Rants Zine due to our Twitter handle @RantsZine), has its roots far back, in my work with British performers’ union Equity’s Women’s Committee (lots of apostrophes there). When I got my O1 work/live visa for the good ole U.S. of A in 2013, I stepped down from my work with the committee, and as chair of the union’s Young Members’ Committee, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford to fly back four times a year for the meetings. Pragmatism had to win out.

Still, I wanted to do something, personally, for women. I think a lot of us feel an emptiness inside if we are not doing something for the good of others, or the planet (I sound like a Miss World competitor). I always wanted to leave the world better off for my being here, and I think most people either want the same thing, or, if they haven’t realized they want it, feel empty for the lack of that ambition. Writing Golden Boy and presenting lectures on intersex and gender helps me feel good about who I am, but, although my gender politics are likely to infect every book I write, it’s not enough.

Over the last few years I’ve scratched this ‘do something good’ itch by writing articles for British newspapers about libraries, donating to charity, and volunteering for political campaigns, including manning phones for Obama for President 2012, and producing videos for the Green Party’s Romy Rayner for MP in 2015. In autumn of last year, I concocted a plan for a women’s retreat, and ran it earlier this year (see the blog from January 11th).

For the retreat, I created welcome packs to set the tone for the event. I included a tampon from Time Of The Month, producers of 100% Pure Certified organic cotton, unbleached, hypoallergenic tampons with no chlorine, perfume, viscose, rayon, pesticides, or chemical fertilisers, a steal at £2.80 for 10, and with none of the nasty chemicals linked to reproductive problems or cancer. We also had Fair Trade, vegan, organic, ethical condoms made in the U.K., from our sponsor French Letter (try their Aroma Passion or Ultra Thin 3 packs now on offer for £1.99). For the packs too, I planned a zine.

The zine would be called I Hope You Like Feminist Rants as a nod to its content. I asked incredible, intelligent, talented women from around the world if they had any topic they would love to rant about, and encouraged them to write in whatever fashion they liked, as the typical journalistic style was created in a patriarchy, by men. They didn’t have the constraints of a required word count, or format. The only guidance writers had before they wrote their pieces was a short chat as to the subject, to make sure we didn’t have lots of people writing about the same thing! (The theme of essay “Boys Will Be Boys. Girls Will Be Sluts” by K.C. was suggested by at least three writers, so it must be a hot topic.)

Everyone submitted first drafts to me in November. Some essays needed only a comma adding here or there, some needed restructuring for the idea to be communicated, and all were a joy to read. You can’t imagine how wonderful my mornings in California were that month, opening my inbox to find yet another riveting, passionate essay.

I really love editing. My approach is simple: editing is about cutting out the chaff and working with structure to a) reveal the purest version of the writer’s voice and b) (particularly in non-fiction) communicating as best as one can the thrust of the essay or story. I always say to writers that they can reject any suggested change – they decide the final version of their work (which is how it is with novelists, at least, with my editors), but that I won’t publish something that will embarrass them, or me, mostly meaning poor grammar, spelling, or something incorrect presented as fact (creative grammar can be interesting, but if it gets in the way of my understanding your work, it’s working against you).

I can’t understand when writers balk at having their work edited. What I wouldn’t give for someone to edit my work for free, and how grateful I am to my editors, past and present, for helping me see where I am going wrong – and what I’m doing right!

The zine is a contribution; a platform for women to talk about subjects they can’t speak about

My Reply To A Contributor
My Reply To A Contributor on Twitter

elsewhere. This might be because those ideas go against the grain, are controversial, or oppose accepted feminist ideas and approaches; or it could be because contributors are not ‘famous’ enough to get asked to write for mainstream publications – our contributors include a fourteen-year-old school pupil, two trainee nurses, and a nursery school worker and expectant mother.

We also have, of course, some household names writing for us. Kit De Waal is an author and funder of a creative writing scholarship at a University in London. Eminent and frequently published mathematician Leila Schneps writes for Rants about growing up in Boston, Mass, in the 1960s, in the heart of hippydom. Comedian Samantha Baines, Time Out’s Featured Blogger of the Year 2015, made me laugh my head off with her contribution.

Shelley Harris, bestselling author of Richard and Judy book club pick Jubilee, and new novel Vigilante, provided more giggles with her piece on the menopause. Lastly, I was excited to have a book recommendation by Natasha Minoso, blogger and creator of Book Baristas. Natasha warmed my heart with her loyal support and frequent recommendations of Golden Boy on her blog, Instagram, and twitter, and I ‘followed back’ two years ago, when she had about 1500 followers… she now has 76.5k on Instagram alone, and a smashing job at Penguin in New York to boot!

Like most independent zines, contributors are unpaid. No one is forced to write; they submit because they want to reach other women, and I edit and publish the zine because I want to make a space for women’s voices which would otherwise go unheard, on topics which would otherwise not be broached. The cost of the zine – available to buy here online – recoups the production costs only, in printing the zine and posting to contributors. Costs are kept to a minimum, so content doesn’t have to be. Any extra funds will go to the printing of issue #2; the aim being that slightly less will come out of my own pocket next time.

Believe me when I say, it is so worth ordering. These essays and pieces of art were so, so brilliant to read, and make fabulous material for book clubs, youth groups, schools and women’s communities to use as starting points for serious debate. So, enjoy, and… please consider contacting me to contribute next time! I will start work on issue #2 in March, and am looking for diverse voices in general, women from developing countries, innovative forms of expression, and points you feel you’d be shouted at for making. If you are a shop owner: I will be announcing news on stockists soon, and would love to add your name to the list! Send me an email at abigailtarttelin [@] hotmail dot com.

Longest blog yet, and now I will reprint the editor’s letter below:

“Imagine for a moment a world in which women of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, nationalities, professions, and feminisms, are important and worthy of attention. Dedicated to discussion, Rants rejects a journalistic style developed in and by a patriarchy, allowing women to speak in their own voices, be they conversational or formal; in their own format, including thoughts, essays, poems, and art; on topics that might not be current; with opinions that might be controversial, and might not be popular, but are relevant, thoughtful, and have worth. We will not always agree with every rant we publish, but feminism is a critical project, and its advancement relies on fearless exploration. We stand by the rights of women to have differences of opinion, to debate, and to discuss. It is the only way we as a society, and as a movement, have ever progressed.”