By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Apr 16, 2024 at 6:01 PM

Milwaukee Zine Fest – a celebration of independent and DIY publishing – will host its largest festival since its inception 16 years ago. The free event is organized by The Bindery and in partnership with the Milwaukee Public Library.

“This is our biggest Milwaukee Zine Fest yet, with over 100 different zinesters accounted for,” says festival coordinator Quinn Blackshere.

During Zine (pronounced “Zeen”) Fest, people buy, sell and trade zines. (What is a zine? Keep reading!) Most zines sell for $10 or less. Screen-printed posters, T-shirts, stickers, buttons and other DIY items are also for sale. 

Milwaukee Zine Fest 2024 takes place Saturday, April 20 at the opulent Milwaukee Central Library, 814 W. Wisconsin Ave., from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

A "zine" refers to a self-published, handmade periodical that is usually reproduced and distributed for free or a nominal fee. Zines usually have a small circulation, appeal to a niche audience and are just as likely to be handwritten or typewritten as created via computer. Often zine include hand-drawn art, cartoons and anything else the authors – called "zinesters" – want to include.

“Zine topics range from self-care to comics to even hot dogs! There’s something for everyone to enjoy,” says Blackshere. “And because our zinesters are selling their work in person, attendees have the opportunity to physically touch the artwork and ask questions to the artists themselves.”

Zinesters will table/sell their work in various parts of the library. Free activities will take place all day long and include workshops, screenprinting, typewriting, creative collage, a "Rubber Stamp Jam," an educational panel organized by The Bindery and more. Plus, kid-friendly zine-related activities will be held in the Central Library’s Children’s Room.

All activities are open to the public and free of charge. Go here for a full list of activities.

“This year, we are utilizing even more of the library to showcase our zinesters. We’ve doubled the amount of panels, workshops and hands-on activities available to our attendees,” says Blackshere.

During Zine Fest, two food trucks – MKE Bento and AY! Chihuahua Coffee – will be on site.

About half of the zinesters are from Wisconsin, with many from Milwaukee. Others will travel from Chicago and New York, among other states. They are chosen via a lottery system. The Bindery ensures that at least 30 percent of participating vendors are local and represent various communities, such as LGBTQ and BiPOC.

“We have purposely built Milwaukee Zine Fest to be one of the most diverse gatherings of artisans. It's the talents and voices of our zinesters that make this event so special,” says Blackshere.

The creation of zines, originally called fanzines, dates back as early as the 1930s.  The name was shortened to "zines" in the 1940s when sci-fi and horror became the most common genres. By the 1970s zines were popularized in punk culture. The invention of the Xerox machine made reproduction fast and cheap, ideal for DIY sensibilities.

In the 1990s, the Riot Grrrls created zines to promote feminism, women's bands and the revolt against patriarchy and authoritarianism. Today, zines have become an outlet for just about anything. They range from political to silly and are always unlike anything published in the mainstream media. 

The Milwaukee Zine Fest is one of the longest-standing zine fests in the Midwest.

“Each year we are incredibly impressed with the variety of work, creativity and community our vendors bring to the fest,” says Blackshere.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.