Alumni Interview with Writer Sonya Cheney

This September, the English Department’s Kirsti Sandy talked to Sonya Cheney (BA English Writing 2013) about her life in the zine world. Zine is an abbreviation of fanzine, or magazine, is most commonly a small circulation self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images.


Sonya publishes Whatsername and Wonderlust, among other zines, and, on the side, raises chickens, an ornery cat, an energetic dog, and a baby hedgehog named Neville Hogbottom. She lives in Greenfield, Massachusetts in a house she is currently renovating with her fiancée, Dan Garant (BS Computer Science 2013).

KS: I remember zines from the 1990s and was so happy to hear that they are still thriving. Tell us a little bit about what got you into zines: When I was in middle school, Green Day’s American Idiot came out, and at some point within the first dozen (million) times I listened to the album, I started wondering who did the female vocals on the song “Letterbomb.” Checking the liner notes lead me to googling Kathleen Hanna. I still consider this to be in the baby days of Google and Wikipedia, whether or not it actually was, so I remember it being somewhat difficult to get straight answers then compared to now, but I did manage to get them with plenty of digging. Cut to me learning about riot grrl and zines, and considering I’ve always wanted to be a writer in some way or another but have almost zero patience for the traditional approach, it only made sense for me to fall head over heels for the concept of punk rock self-publishing. You could say it was all downhill from there—and I’m okay with that.

What are some of your current projects? I have pages and pages of ideas in this hot pink notebook that I snagged for $1 at Target last summer, and I’m always arguing with myself over what to work on in the moment. I have something like eleven ideas for one-shot zines, in addition to my two recurring ones, a per(sonal) zine called Whatsername (because after eleven years, I’m still in love with American Idiot) and a literary zine called Wonderlust. Whatsername is actually only in its first issue, as I kind of “rebooted” my perzine series with a new title because my old one just didn’t reflect who I am now. Sometime at the end of September/beginning of October, the fourth issue of Wonderlust is scheduled to come out, just in time for the Boston Zine Fest, which I’ll be tabling at with my distro, Nine Lives. On top of all that, I’ve been putting together my first poetry/prose chapbook and tossing around the idea of a zine podcast. Most days, I’m overwhelmed with ideas, but those are the ones I’m trying to focus most of my energy on at the moment.


What zines are you a fan of? My absolute favorite right now is my pal Jessie’s perzine, Reckless Chants. It’s this fabulous combination of punk and heartfelt and just generally amazing in my opinion. You can tell she’s been doing this for a long time, and it’s inspirational. I also love Telegram, by Maranda Elizabeth, which chronicles their life and experience with chronic pain/illness, witchery, and identity (See my review of the anthology for the Equinox a couple of years back). Some other quick favorites include Cometbus and Everyday Pants. In general, I prefer perzines because they’re so, well, personal. It’s a lot like how I love memoirs—I enjoy getting to glimpse the lives of other people and learn how they’ve gotten from point a to point b.

What would you recommend to a student who wants to create a zine? You can’t go wrong with Google as a basic resource because, unsurprisingly, you can find answers to just about any question you would have about zines. If you want something a little more tangible, though, I always suggest Stolen Sharpie Revolution as my favorite reference (I have three copies, so…). It has information ranging from rules on postage to zine distros to making your own paper. For such a small book, it’s got a lot of excellent information. And if you really want to jump right into things, zine fests are a great resource for workshops (so many workshops!!!), browsing the myriad zine styles out there, and connecting with others who might be creating certain works that pique your interest. It’s kind of amazing how accessible zines are now compared to when I first started, but it’s something that I find really exciting.


Distro: a distributor or distributed version, especially of Linux software or of webzines.

Perzine: sub-genre of zines, coined by contracting “personal” and “zine.” They provide a medium for zinesters to write about their own personal experiences, opinions and observations.

Riot grrl: Riot grrrl is an underground feminist hardcore punk movement that originally started in the early 1990s.

Zine: an abbreviation of fanzine, or magazine is most commonly a small circulation self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images usually reproduced via photocopier.



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