It was The Lily’s “annual day of wild ideas” and I had one I’d been dreaming up: a zine for our one-year anniversary. Along with my co-worker, Multiplatform Editor Ashley Nguyen, we shared our vision for team Lily’s first print component, which we eventually named Incognito.

From the start, everyone was excited to bring our idea to life. We had just under six months to make it happen. I had never created a zine before, but I knew three things:

  1. I liked reading zines.
  2. I was inspired by the do-it-yourself, lo-fi culture surrounding zines.
  3. And I was excited at the possibility of bringing as many women as possible, including our readers, into the process of creating a zine.
The Lily editorial team (pictured) went out on a limb by creating their experimental, edgy zine Incognito — and the results were worth it.
The Lily editorial team (pictured) went out on a limb by creating their experimental, edgy zine Incognito — and the results were worth it.

To prepare for this undertaking, Ashley and I attended a zine-making workshop, hosted by Malaka Gharib, creator of The Runcible Spoon zine. Friends who collect zines graciously sent me feminist zines for inspiration. I checked out several independent bookstores and spent hours in the zine sections. I reached out to the Library of Congress Women and Gender Studies librarian, Meg Metcalf, who is currently putting together the library’s first zine collection. We had all the resources we could possibly need.

After brainstorming ideas for themes, stories, and visuals, we landed on the theme of “secrecy” — a topic that all humans can relate to. By sharing secrets or the feelings surrounding them, it can help us process, heal, and feel less alone. We thought a zine would be a good medium for this topic because the content would reside inside the zine and nowhere else.

We also wanted to celebrate the secrets that we have in common with others and the secrets that make us different. We wanted to explore the many types of secrets we have, everything from family secrets to disabilities to the secret objects we hold onto.

We wanted to share secrets in as many content forms as possible — essays, comics, and photographs. We wanted to include women zine makers and also women who had never even heard of zines. We wanted to include secrets submitted by our readers and secrets from our team.

Beautiful imagery, some of it created by illustrators and photographers well known in the zine world, and brave, personal stories captivated Incognito readers.
Beautiful imagery, some of it created by illustrators and photographers well known in the zine world, and brave, personal stories captivated Incognito readers.

Our zine featured comics by Ann Xu and Katie Wheeler; a photo spread of leftovers from ex-lovers from five photographers (Desiree Espada, Hatnim Lee, Emily Kinni, Kelley Shaffer, and Alicia Vera); illustrations by Sara Wong and Lydia Ortiz; and five essays by Brittany Couch, Emerald Pellot, Kerri Radley, @hiddenheartbreak, and Lily members Ashley Nguyen and Carol Shih.

I worked with Illustrator Xaveria Lopez to create the cover design, which stretches across the front and back covers. The illustration features a woman with long hair, which symbolizes the many secrets that we hide. I worked with Ammiel Mendoza, a local riso printer, on the cover and an insert that included secrets we asked readers to share with us. I designed each page, laying it out first on the computer and then printing, cutting, and pasting everything by hand. It was a blast to put together and a total learning experience

In the end, we made a 22-page zine with stories from more than 20 women. We lovingly printed, hand assembled, and stapled more than 300 copies. We sold a limited number to readers online for $10, did several giveaways, and sold them in independent bookstores across the United States.

It’s hard to put into words how it felt to have the final product in my hands. A beautiful, handcrafted zine filled with personal anecdotes and stories and secrets from so many women. This wouldn’t exist without the bravery and honesty from the women who entrusted us with their most well-kept secrets. I feel proud and honoured to have created such a special place for secrets to live.

The Lily received an overwhelmingly positive response from readers. I think our digital audience was excited to see us experimenting with a different medium. There is something magical about holding a physical object in your hands. If we do another zine, I would like to produce more than 300 copies so it can reach even more of our audience.