When Ayun Halliday answered the phone last week she was sitting in Central Park, gazing out over the Harlem Meer watching a basketball float toward her. In her lap was a page from issue 57 of her zine — East Village Inky
. The page that she was working on was a quote about "invictus" — a Latin phrase meaning onward.
"I am always looking for good ways to sign off a letter," laughs Halliday, with the half-finished page in her lap.
The phrase was one that she picked up in 2013 when she and her son were studying Latin before traveling to Rome. It was a memory and a moment that she wanted to capture — as are all of her zine pages.
Halliday started Inky
in October of 1998.
"Shit, it's almost 20 years," says Halliday.
The 40-page black and white zines are sent out to around 500 subscribers four times over the course of a year or two. It was birthed from a creative over-boil that Halliday — an Indiana native who is coming back to share her zine at Gluestick Festival — experienced after moving to New York with her husband.
The two met at a late night theater that she used to run in Chicago. By 1995 they packed up their cash cow show and moved to the East Village.
At the time she didn't have a laptop, but she could carry card stock and a black pen in her purse anytime she took her daughter India (whose nickname is Inky) out for walks.
"Whenever she happened to fall asleep I would pull it out and work on it for an hour; if I was lucky maybe two," says Halliday.
"It was my extremely low budget guide to the East Village," says Halliday, who is also the author of several books.
"When I started freelancing and working with editors for books I started to enjoy writing these discursive, long, long run-on sentences," laughs Halliday. "That's kind of a hallmark of East Village Inky
quality — the writing would never make it in any publication, ever."
She wrote and illustrated everything: from going to a six-year-old's birthday party, to her husband winning a Tony Award, to their travels in Yugoslavia and Japan.
One her favorite things is writing about the small moments of living in New York — like Ethan Hawke stopping her on the street to ask how her daughter is doing. (Her son and daughter have been extras in a few movies with him. They also used to live across the street from Heath Ledger.)
"Those kinds of things happen in New York and I can put them in the zine, and I can put them on a showcard of an ordinary citizen's experience of living in New York," says Halliday
But for Halliday the golden heart of zines is being able to tell any story, any experience, in a way that claims her humanity and connects her with the rest of it.
"It doesn't matter if you think of yourself as a writer or an artist or somebody who has a story to share," says Halliday. "You might think you might not have anything worth printing but of course you do. [Making pages at Gluestick Festival] will hopefully show people that there is no subject matter that is too small to put in a zine. You can put in a memory of the swing set that you had in 1974 or your time at Gnaw Bone Camp, or for Indiana, corndogs at the state fair. It's all subject matter.
"There is power anytime you want to connect with another person in a one-on-one way, which I think zines do that," says Halliday. "It is egalitarian."
Her zine has been called a "mommy zine" before because she often writes about her kids.
"I don't even like that phrase," says Halliday. "It's like the equivalent of a mommy blog, and I don't like that. It feels reductive. I am a mother and I am a lot of other things too."
To her the act of making a zine is an act of feminism in itself.
"If you are woman and making a zine — unless you are saying you are supporting Trump or something — I think it's a feminist act that you are telling your story and making it available at a very low price and that you make it available to people who don't have computers," says Halliday. "One of the most radical things you can do with having a zine is giving it to a stranger. Particularly a stranger who doesn't look like you, whether they are a different race, age or a guy and you are a woman, if they are a trans person and you are not ... It's a way to connect and a way to say 'I am interested in your story, here you can read about mine.'"