First: I’ve moved my newsletter from Mailchimp to Substack. The former might be the best tool for email marketing, but that’s not what I’m doing. The latter is nicer for writing words. I want this email to feel like a letter—not just for you, the person reading it, but for me, too. I enjoy writing letters. One of my oldest internet friends is my oldest internet friend because we both love postcards and really nice pens.
I miss having penpals. Remember the back pages of Tiger Beat and Bop? Where kids would send their mailing addresses and ask others to write them? I had penpals through Girl Guides, too: one from Finland and one from Ontario, both random matches, and another whom I met at a provincial camp. We wrote about life in our different cities and traded stickers and mix tapes on cassette. It makes a lot of sense that I would find myself in the internet because I was already writing to strangers.
A blog is a letter you write in public. A zine is a letter you fold into a book. An email is a letter that can’t wait for a stamp.
For much of August, I’ve been working on a love letter to the XOXO festival. Since it began, in 2012, I have watched from afar as some of my favourite internet artists gather in Portland. We had Twitter then, so I could follow along, and all the talks are available on YouTube afterwards, but festivals and conferences like that are often frustratingly out of reach for a lot of us. But last year I was lucky to receive a free pass. I was lucky to have that chance to effusively introduce myself to people I have long admired like Matt Haughey, Helen Rosner, Cabel Sasser, Sydette Harry. I was lucky to be a part of those old internet feelings.
I wanted to put those feelings down on paper, but I didn’t. I thought about it a lot! It just became one of those zines I thought about making, but didn’t. A good project needs a deadline (I get on the bus September 4th), a structure (paper, def, but also PDF), and a purpose: I didn’t want to go back to XOXO empty-handed. And now I had a community to help me.
We each made a page—text, comics, collage. We made a zine to print and fold and share. It’s about making friends, feeling weird, but also books, art, jumpsuits, bingo, and the internet, of course, because that’s what led us to XOXO in the first place.
Love letters can be printed on paper, or they can be an email typed straight into a text field and sent out to some internet friends.
PS. I’m gonna take an offline break in September, some time to think about a new project. You may or may not hear from me next Friday.