Elly Blue is the creator of Taking the Lane, a feminist, cycling zine in Portland. She has been writing about cycling for seven years and is working on getting her first book published, “Pedal, Stretch, Breathe,” about yoga and cycling. Blue is currently on tour and was able to answer some questions over e-mail.
How would you define a zine?
Anything anyone wants to call one. Usually a small, DIY micro-publishing effort with an intense and specific focus and a really small print run.
When did you get started making zines, and what was your first one like?
I made my first zine when I was 15. I think it was called “Rain of Cloves” after a dream I had. It was a typewriter and glue stick operation. I think I made 3 or 4 total at that time and my circulation may have gotten as high as 30 copies, mostly trades.
What influenced you to start Taking the Lane?
When I was 30 I started to think a lot about those teenage years in the nineties and the extremely idealistic dreams I had then, and figured I’d better pursue them as far as possible. Starting a publishing operation is one way I’m aspiring to be true to my younger self. Around that time I started dating Joe Biel, who founded and runs Microcosm and he has really been an incredible mentor in terms of producing books and zines in a way that is true to values but also financially sustainable.
Where do you get material for Taking the Lane?
A couple of the first ones I wrote myself; people started sending submissions in unsolicited right away so I figured there was a need for an outlet for people to write about bikes from a feminist perspective. And wow, there is.
How may do you print? Are they outsourced or do you do them yourself?
I have them offset print by anarchists in Oakland. 1000 is my usual print run but that’ll be doubling or tripling soon and probably should have already.
What are some of your favorite zines? From where do you pull inspiration?
The publishers I look to as role models are others who have made the transition from zines to books (or to higher production values zines), and to a more adult audience along the way, without losing their DiY spirit or econocore budgeting abilities along the way. Microcosm of course is one; also Small Beer Press out east is really inspiring for how they’ve manage to grow into the mainstream publishing world and Chin Music Press in Seattle for putting out some of the most beautiful books I’ve ever seen at affordable prices.
Which of your own zines that you’ve made is your favorite? Why?
This used to be a difficult question but now it’s easy: my newest issue of Taking the Lane is a collection of feminist scifi about bikes. It was pure fun.
What are some obstacles of zine publishing?
Learning to run a business from the ground up. You don’t start by publishing zines I suppose if you really believe you’ll succeed in the mainstream. Which is a strength and a weakness. I’ve also had to each myself budgeting an accounting, and learn to not be afraid of money.What keeps you making zines?
There are so many new ideas to put out there. People keep wanting to read them. If demand dries up, I’ll do something else. It’s all about building the movement.