Reading Frenzy ~ An Independent Press Emporium

Interview with Ayun Halliday

February 28, 2010:

Ayun Halliday, the prolific author of the East Village Inky series and resident columnist at Bust Magazine, will be stopping by Reading Frenzy March 6th to celebrate and read from Issue 43! In anticipation for her arrival, we chatted about past issues, future projects and how one can become 'heine'!

The East Village Inky is starting to get pretty prolific, when exactly did this all start? And what initially drew you to put pen to paper?

The East Village Inky was founded shortly after my daughter, India's first birthday. The first issue came out in the fall of 1998, two months after I'd gone with her and her father, Greg, to Glasgow for the wedding of one of my best friends. Our great scheme, tax-wise, was to make it a business trip by taking a 3 week performance workshop the bride would be teaching there. I figured a breastfeeding baby who couldn't quite walk yet wouldn't be much of an impediment to my participation or other's experience, but it became immediately apparent that this was not to be the case. So I dropped out, very nearly wigged out, looked into the pit, and realized, "Shit, I'd better figure out some creative outlet that I can accomplish with my baby in tow." I'd always wanted to make a zine...I'd just never found a subject matter compelling enough to sustain multiple issues.

What issue have you had the most fun making?

They all have their highs and lows, but working on the Jambo Tribute issue was both therapeutic and enjoyable. It was fun to shift the focus from the kids to this wretched, misanthropic cat, who owing to his personality and longevity, had built quite a fan base of his own. The death of a pet seems like something everyone can relate to... I knew I wouldn't be drawing him much any more so I was savoring every stripe. It was fun to write about my ridiculous excess of emotion so shortly after I'd experienced it ... it was an indulgence in a way it wouldn't have been had Jambo actually liked me.

There are certain regular features or gimmicks that I always look forward to as well. I like formalizing digressions and tangents, and suggesting alternative titles to things in a sidebar. I love it whenever a Hippie Fantasy pops up. Bitchmother was a lot of fun when the kids were younger. She's kind of been elbowed aside for Mother Puma, who puts in a couple of appearances in the issues that's heading for the printer this week. I get a bang out of drawing her ears pinned back in indignation. Makes me feel powerful when I'm not.

What are a few defining differences you've found between the zine/small press scene in Brooklyn and Portland?

It seems to me like you guys have much more of a scene out there, with parties, and splits, and everybody knowing everybody else. Very supportive seeming from the outside! If I were to address it mathematically, I'd say Portland is to NYC zine-wise as Chicago is to NYC-theater-wise.

What do you hope people take away from your issues? A couple of belly laughs, the desire to leave 'em on the back of the toilet tank to foster repeat readings, and an impulse to purchase gift subscriptions for all their friends. Also, it makes me feel good whenever I hear that they've been helpful, or mood-lifting for parents who for whatever reason find themselves stuck in a community that's not too welcoming.

You've titillated our interest with "a harrowing tale of commercial television fame and fauxpendicitis" , can you give us just a feeew more clues?

No way. I already spilled the beans about Mother Puma! I don't want to spoil any surprises. I will say that for the first time in East Village Inky history, I was digging myself into one of those little sidebars where my handwriting is like, smaller than pepper, and midway through, I realized, "This is preposterous!" and bailed. The back cover was still open at that point, so I redrew the illustration there, and lettered it in a type-size that doesn't strain the ol' eyestalks so much.

You say, 'dare to be heinie!', who exactly is heinie and why? The zine's original slogan was "Fuck All Y'All" after a motto splayed across the t-shirt of this stroller pushing, smoking mother I once saw in the East Village. But then when Inky hit kindergarten and was starting to read, I was casting about for a clean update. One day, she just started chanting this. I was like, "What the hell? Okay, let's run with it." I don't know what it means, but I like it. I try to embody it.

Are you particularly excited for any upcoming projects, rumor has it you are working on your first graphic novel?

My work there is done, comrade! It is now in the hands of Paul Hoppe who's illustrating it. It's about a teenage girl who fakes a peanut allergy. I loved writing it - it's like a script! I love being able to put in stage directions, to let the pictures do at least half of the narrative work. The Zinester's Guide to NYC, which I helmed for Microcosm is barreling toward lock down. Once that's really in the can, I'd love to write another graphic novel about teenagers.

Interview by Anika Sabin