I teach a high school zine class and my aim is to show young people that zines can be about absolutely anything. Zines run the gamut from the silly to the philosophical, the messy to the straightforward, the political to the whimsical. The first day of class I tell students their zine can be about whatever they want (there are no rules in zine world after all!), and we spend a day or two discussing, sharing ideas, and collaging our thoughts onto a vision board of sorts. It is in this brainstorm process that I emphasize the medium’s openness. Despite the brainstorm sessions, the broad range of the assignment can leave some students lost at sea. For them—and for anyone suffering from writer’s block—I’ve made the following prompts to get the creative gears moving again.
While I created this list for my zine students, I think this is useful for any medium. The list spans a variety of artistic practices from digging through the trash for “treasure” to writing about something you want to change in the world. Notice that below the prompts are additional questions to inspire your practice. Happy artmaking (or, ahem, treasure hunting)!
Inspired by Whatchu Mean What’s a Zine? by Marak Todd, Esther Pearl Watson.
- Literally the Best Thing Ever: Write a zine about something you’re obsessed with. Write about literally anything you want—a T.V. show, a flavor of La Croix. You can’t live without it, right??
- It’s Genius: Create a zine about something or someone you think is pure genius. Explain why and introduce your reader to this person/thing.
- So Annoying: There are those things that just annoy the heck out of you! List them all or go on a rant about a few of them.
- Found Garbage: Reproduce papers you find in the garbage, at school, at work, on the bus, or on the sidewalk
- Found Material: This can be anything you find in your day to day—poems, newspaper articles.
- Treasure: Are you good at finding treasures at thrift stores or dollar stores for dirt cheap? Write a zine about your tips, your adventures, and your funny stories.
- The Punk Bible: Speak to the many forms/waves/aesthetics of punk—the beauty in ignoring rules, the beauty in amateurism, in defying any and all orderly behaviors, etc.
- My Mini-Manifesto: Write a list or go into detail about something that is offensive to you. You can be serious or silly. Why do you hate the color orange? What is wrong with zoos? Why do you hate scooters?
- On the Bus Again: Write a zine about public transportation. Include stories from riding the city bus. What are the cast of characters you meet on the bus? When was the last time someone got kicked off the bus? What thoughts do you have while riding the bus? Any epiphanies?
- Yard Sale Zine: Cut up old things in your closet or garage and make a zine out of the material.
- Lost & Found: Collect signs from public spaces (signs stapled to telephone poles, notices about public restroom etiquette in bathrooms, Lost & Found posters) and photocopy them into a collage zine. Add your own text or drawings as well.
- I Can’t Believe I Just Did That: Tell the story of the most embarrassing moment of your life.
- Rules, Rules, Rules: Make a list of absurd rules you believe people should adapt into their daily lives. It’s common sense…
- Pet Diary: Make a list of everything your pet does in increments of 10 minutes. 11:09am: my dog licked themselves. 11:19am: yawned. 11:29 am: barked at the air.
- In the Streets: Take photos and notes documenting your journey from A to B. It can be your journey from your house to school. It can be your walk from your house to your friend’s. Take photos of anything and write notes in a journal or your phone of things that jump out at you. Don’t forget sensory detail!
- Mass Consumption: Detail your experience in the world of franchises, technology, and constant barrages of advertisements. Steal the language and imagery from advertisements or other consumer material.
- Interviews: Write up a list of questions and then interview anyone and everyone—your little brother, your grandma, a person at the library
- The Critic: Write an entire zine about your opinion on a novel, an album, a movie. Or, write a review of the different pizza places in town—Dominos or Pizza Hut?
- Fiction: Write a “micro fiction” piece.
- Poetry: Make zine out of your poems!
- Fanzine: Make a fanzine about literally anything. Explain why Dolly Parton is the queen of modern music.
Stuck? Below are some questions to get the gears moving:
- What are you absolutely obsessed with right now?
- What is inspiring you right now?
- What brings you joy?
- What is beautiful to you?
- What is mysterious to you?
- Is there a topic/thing/subject you want to connect with others through?
- What is something you know a lot about?
- What is something you don’t know much about, but you’ve always wanted to learn?
- What is something you’ve always wanted to do?
- Is there something you find yourself thinking a lot about?
- What is a question you’ve always wanted answered?
- What is something you don’t have an opportunity to talk about in any other part of your life?
- What is something you want to speak up against?
- What is one thing you think everyone should know?
Sophie Daws grew up in the Sonoran Desert and her poems revolve around labor, memory, and architecture -- all of which are explored in terms of nature/ecology and a feminine-queer aesthetic. Sophie received her B.A. in English Literature and Creative Writing in 2018 and holds a minor in Plant Sciences. She received the Hattie Lockett Award in 2018 and graduated with honors for her poetry manuscript and thesis, Snag.