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The Long & Short of the Short Run Small Press Fest
Written by janice headley | Filed under Roberta GregoryPat MoriarityNewaveMegan KelsoJim BlanchardinterviewsFantagraphics BookstoreeventsAndrice Arp 9 Nov 2011 11:13 AM

Seattle has always had a reputation for its strong underground comics scene, but dang it, how is it we haven't had our own small press show before?

Well, that all changes this Saturday, November 12th as the Short Run Small Press Fest makes its debut at the Vera Project at Seattle Center, from 10:30 AM to 4:30 PM.

Fantagraphics won't have a table there ourselves, but many of our artists will be exhibiting, including Andrice Arp, Jim Blanchard, Jason T. Miles (with his distro Profanity Hill), Megan Kelso, Michael Dowers, Pat Moriarity, and Roberta Gregory.

Afterwards, the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery is thrilled to present the Short Run After Party and Art Show from 6:00 - 9:00 PM, featuring original comix art, illustrations and self-published books. Entertainment will be provided by DJ/musician "Brainfruit."

As we were preparing for the art show, I thought it'd be fun to chat with the organizers of Short Run -- that would be, Martine Workman
, Kelly Froh, 
Jenny Gialenes, 
Eroyn Franklin -- about the inaugural event:

So, how did the idea of Short Run come together?

Martine: I've been going to comics events since 2004, even though I don't really make comics. I always wanted to attend an event that welcomed all sorts of makers and small publishers of comics, writing, poetry, zines, and artist books. Last year Eroyn saw my work and contacted me out of the blue since we were both publishing our own books in Seattle. Our friendship grew out of conversations about self publishing, art, craftsmanship, and wanting to create a community for ourselves. Around this time, Profanity Hill was up and running for a bit, and it was exciting and surprising to see so much local work being made. After talking to my pal Jenny, who works in literary event promotion and moonlights as a zinester, it seemed possible to bring the self publishers of our region together by organizing a small press fest! She came up with the name -- which I love! -- and agreed to help coordinate the event. Kelly, a true blue mini-comix maker and fantastic organizer, joined us soon after and rounded out the group. We've had a lot of fun and I feel really lucky we work so well together as a team.

Jenny: The first night Martine and I spoke about Short Run, we were talking about the need for this kind of event - I had just come back from SF Zine Fest and felt like I found my mission in life. There was this sense of community there that I had only seen small glimpses of in Seattle.

What do you see as the main focus of Short Run?

Eroyn: Short Run hopes to extend Seattle's exposure to the small press world that exists within and around it. We want to expand the audience for small press work and let artists engage directly with the people who like what they do. Short Run will build on the small press community that we do have and foster communication between artists who work in different mediums and styles. As a group we don't commit to any particular medium or aesthetic -- we are not a comic-con or a craft fair or a zine festival but we encompass aspects of all of these because we think they can all be engaging.

How do you define what is "small press" to you?

Kelly: Small press, in regards to what you will see at Short Run, are hand-made, self-published, “short run” art books, comics, zines, and literary works. You’re going to see a lot of work that has been photocopied, screen-printed, side-stitched, glued, covered in gold leaf, stencil-cut, and folded in ways you can’t conceive of! Many of the artists and writers have had one or more of their books “professionally” published, or hope to some day, but Short Run’s heart is the home made.

Even though Fantagraphics won't have a table, several of our artists will be in attendance... like Megan Kelso! How did you get Megan involved?

Kelly: We are honored to say that Megan contacted us! In fact, when we received her email, we knew we were on the right track, and it gave us confidence. Megan might be a published cartoonist, but she has a career history built on DIY, Riot Grrls and self-published zines and minis. Her zine collection that was on display at Fantagraphics a few months ago was inspiring.

Speaking of Fantagraphics artists, also exhibiting will be Michael Dowers, editor of Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s... Do you think underground mini-comix are making a resurgence?

Kelly: We are totally excited that Michael Dowers will be at Short Run! We don’t think mini-comix ever went away, but the people creating them scattered and many new comic artists were not aware of any kind of “scene”. Seattle does not have a Fallout Comix anymore, or a Confounded Books, or even a Pilot Books. Besides a few dusty spin racks, there is no physical hub for selling and sharing mini-comics. There are lone creators and drawing groups all over Seattle that meet on different nights in difference places, and mini-comics are being made.

Eroyn: The capability to self publish is more attainable than ever and people are definitely taking advantage of new technologies and affordable printing to produce great work.

Kelly: The problem is that once they’re made, they’re usually not going very far out into the world. Larry Reid is bringing in an assortment of minis at Fantagraphics, and there is a small press section at Elliot Bay Books but for the most part, you are on your own to market your mini-comic if you make one.

Eroyn: Along with these stores and a few independent distros like Jason T. Miles’ Profanity Hill, we hope to help foster underground press in Seattle.

And, finally, what sort of future do you guys envision for Short Run? Do you hope to keep it small and local? Or will it eventually be the Seattle-version of an APE or Stumptown?

Jenny: I would like to see Short Run grow into itself organically. Big is not necessarily better - unless there is a solid community there providing the support. It's the difference between a stadium concert and going to see a local band at your favorite club - both have equal measure, they are just two very different experiences.

Kelly: It was our experiences at these larger festivals that helped us to decide what we did and didn’t want to be. We want to always be free to the public, and we want to always have low cost tables. Being local was really important to us as well, and one aim of Short Run was to draw out first-time tablers and try to reach people who had maybe shied away from other larger conventions. Looking over our exhibitor list, you will see that we have a lot of exhibitors from Portland. We can learn a lot from the comics community that they have built but Seattle has its own history of alternative cartoonists, and we need to grow from there. Short Run not only has a few of these “legends” of small press in attendance, but we have a ton of more obscure artists and writers, not only from comics, but from zines, animation, and the literary world. It’s a great showcase of artists and writers and we are really excited to share Short Run with Seattle!

The Short Run Small Press Fest is this Saturday, November 12th at the Vera Project [ Warren & Republican Ave N ], and the Art Show & After Party is from 6-9 PM at the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery [ 1201 South Vale Street ]. See you there!