Broken Pencil and Canzine: We need to talk about this. (Part Two)

This is a follow up to Part One.

Strangely enough, this past Sunday was probably my best experience of Canzine yet. I had a good day, I did not freak out, I talked to all sorts of wonderful folks, and I sold a lotta zines. I am, however, still critical of Broken Pencil and Canzine. As I’ve mentioned, every year I say I’m going to quit, and every year, I go back. I am not entirely opposed to tabling again next year. The thing is, I think that if if rad folks and zinesters and suchnot and whatforth quit going, we will only remain un/der-represented, and what good does that do? I think it would be more useful and constructive for us to continue showing up, continue our criticisms and conversations, support one another in the processes, and figure out ways to change things. I’d like to see more affordable zines, queer zines, feminist zines, perzines…

I do have some suggestions. One, I think Canzine needs to be an accessible event every year. I think Canzine needs to be held in a space with access for folks with physical disabilities, and I also think they need to put some gaps in their rows of tables so we don’t all become trapped. Many of us have been telling the folks at Broken Pencil for years now that we want the space to be accessible. Toronto is a big city. These spaces exist. Tabling at Canzine is difficult because the tables are always way too close together, meaning I’ve got some dude bumping into me from behind every time he scrapes his chair across the floor to get up, and I have to crawl under the tables to get out. This year, some dude actually lifted my chair while I was sitting on it to get out. It was disgusting. Ramps and elevators are obvious, but we also need wider aisles and more space for tablers to do their thing in relative comfort. Canzine gave a little lip service to accessibility this year, advertising the event as accessible, then backing out and letting us know it wasn’t after all. In an email to vendors, they claimed that accessibility is a priority. But Canzine has not been an accessible event in the six years that I’ve been tabling, so I call bullshit.

I also think Canzine tablers must be required to have the majority of stuff on their table actually be zines. When you advertise your event as a zine fair, you are you going to attract zinesters, and some of us just plain don’t care about your cupcakes and your screenprinted t-shirts. They are always overpriced anyway. Um, a lot of us are broke, and when you charge a lot of money for your “art”, you have chosen to make your creations inaccessible to many of us. The lack of zines at Canzine is disappointing. It sucks to write your heart out as a means of survival, then get stuck at these events filled with bougie hipster pretension. Speaking of, the food at Canzine this year was embarrassing. Five nachos delicately arranged on a tiny plate? Tiny hamburgers with toothpicks in them? What the fuck? We had to leave the event to get food we could actually afford, food that would fill us up. Serve cheap food with veggie and vegan options, and maybe we’ll hang around. I want cheap(er) tables, cheap(er) cover, and relevant workshops. Accessibility also means affordability. By selling expensive items and charging so much for food, the organizers of Canzine need to think about who they are excluding.

And on a related note, I would totally love to have an apology from Broken Pencil for choosing to fuck up my pronouns after I explained the situation, and then acting like it wasn’t a big deal. It was. And I don’t want a “Sorry you were hurt” faux-apology; I want a “Sorry we fucked up” apology.

Broken Pencil and Canzine hold too much power in Canadian zine communities, which is why it is difficult to just give up and walk away. I feel like every time I mention them, I hear yet another shitty story, yet here they are, throwing what is supposed to be the biggest “zine fair” in the country, and we keep going and keep complaining. So now I have some questions for you. Yeah, you!

For those of you who are local(ish), why do you go to Canzine, or why don’t you go to Canzine? How do you feel about Canzine in general? What would you like to change about the zine fair, and what would you like to stay the same? How do you feel about Broken Pencil? What do you wish you were seeing in that magazine? Whose voices would you like to be hearing?


I am very interested in having conversations about this, not just complaining, but thinking about and discussing solutions as well.

Canzinally Yours,

P.S.: I say “fuck” a lot.

P.P.S.: If you’ve benefited from my writing in any way – if my words have inspired you, helped you feel less alone, or sparked some weird feeling within you; if you’ve felt encouraged, or curious, or comforted – please consider compensating me by offering a donation of any amount. Whether you’ve been reading my writing for years, or just stumbled into me this afternoon, I invite you to help me sustain the process!

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