katharine reflects on canzine

Sitting behind a table at Canzine, I’ve paid to be an observer. I watch people interact. I watch how they browse the different tables.


I stand, I sit, I offer a nod and polite hello, I initiate conversation, I stand silent. I start to eat a sandwich and five people approach my table. All interested and inquisitive. No one buys anything and I don’t finish my sandwich. My mouth goes dry. No way out to use the washroom or grab a coffee or browse other tables. Crawling under the table may be punk rock but I’m bubblegum pop. And anyway, the other side of the table aggravates my social anxiety.

Some people engage with the table items or sellers. Other people keep a distance, as if they’ve paid to enter a museum. Some people expect to be sold to, pausing just long enough to see if an artist launches into a spiel. What message works on the Underground Consumer? Are you looking for product benefit? Are you looking for a fantasy to buy into? My book can change your life. My book can make you feel better about yourself. My book is the one thing you need more than anything else in this room. Well…what would you believe?

We’re all exposed. Artist facing direct, immediate rejection by consumer. Consumer pressured to react, afraid to react, afraid to interact. The 1% don’t come out to things like this and the rest of us can only afford what we truly love.

My stuff isn’t rough enough for this crowd. I don’t relate to 98% of this crowd. I’m too straight. I was raised to keep the freak flag at half-mast. My edges have been sanded down and rounded off. I’m strictly easy-listening, chicky baby.

I never fully connect with my table mates. It’s too loud, I’m too deaf, there’s too much stimuli, and then it’s over. Shouldn’t this be like camp? Shouldn’t we be like war buddies at the end of the day, counting up the loonies and toonies, the Lauriers and the John A’s together and laughing about the tense moments of the day? Or at least friending each other on Facebook? I have no idea how these things work for other people.

I can’t complain. My load’s a little lighter by the end of the day. My efforts and angst have been modestly rewarded. People met. Lessons learned. I swear I’ll never do it again. And next year I’ll have something else I want to share and I’ll be right back behind the table.

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One thought on “katharine reflects on canzine

  1. “…facing direct, immediate rejection by the consumer.”
    I fear this. I also fear being interuppted while trying to sooth myself with a sandwich.

    I’m a ball of anxiety at the best of times. I’ll be tabling at Canzine West in a couple weeks and I’ve been busy wondering what that will feel like. I appreciate your first person account. I think I’ll have to be tipsy so it’s easier not to care. Or at least take off my glasses so I can’t properly meet the cool appraising (and ultimately disinterested???) stares of people walking by. I can just picture everyone picking up my zines, fondling them – and putting them back down before moving away.

    I guess the most important part is having confidence in your content, even if the rest of the event is overwhelming.

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