A few weeks back, I got some mail from someone I didn’t know. As I opened it, these cute little booklets fell out, and a letter addressed to me: Hello, Mr. Daniels.
The letter writer, Pacific Northwest Quaker Natalie Ramsland, told me a little about how she came into zine making and why she was sending me some of her zines. She came across a blog post I wrote nine years ago on Quakers, Zines, and Participatory Culture. For the seasoned readers of Gathering in Light, you’ll know that these are themes not only close to my heart but are topics within my first book, The Convergent Model of Renewal: Remixing the Quaker Tradition in a Participatory Culture (and see the “zine version of the book here“).
While I have been very interested in participatory culture and its many spin-offs, Zine-making, DIY, fandom, and more, I really haven’t been that active over the past few years at blogging and sketchnoting (two of my preferred forms of creation) due to phases of life, work, and more. Having said that, receiving Natalie’s Zines was an instant shot of inspiration. And I love that in the letter, she asks me about what has happened in the intervening years since I wrote that post. I have been puzzling over this quite a bit, and I have been starting to think about what I need to have in place so that my own creativity can flourish.
But back to Natalie’s Zines:
Since receiving her mail, I’ve been sharing it with everyone I can. The zines are well designed with sketchnotes and great visuals. They are also well done in terms of what they are about.
The four she sent me:
- A Quiet Quaker Gets Loud – About Natalie’s experience of Shapenote Singing
- Pickles: A Stuffed Gorilla with a Consent Culture Ministry
- Let’s Be Friends: Meet the Unprogrammed Quakers through 3 Radical Beliefs and 3 Countercultural Practices
- Tools for Spiritual Wayfinding: Betsy Kenworthy Quaker Nomad
I shared her zines with the pastor of my meeting in town, and she loved them so much she’s already ordered some for our meeting!
You can find and connect with Natalie over on her substack, where she regularly posts.
Her most recent post You Are Here is a timeline of the history of zine-making with Quaker history intertwined. Yes! More of this!
If you’re reading this, Natalie, thanks for adding me to your timeline (it’s my first time being on one!!!).
One thing I have been writing a little about, and Natalie’s timeline raised new questions on this: What has been the impact of Social Media and especially Facebook and Twitter on Quaker pamphleteering as a practice? With the proliferation of Social Media Quaker, blogging dramatically slowed down and shifted to new platforms. As Quaker writings moved away from the free and hosted versions of Blogspot and WordPress, where users had more control over what content, ads, the impact of algorithms, and what we used to talk about as “our living rooms on the Internet,” to the money-making and ad-revenue-generating engines of Facebook and Twitter, Quaker writing and sharing underwent change.
Not only did it become more ephemeral and much harder to keep up with, find, and archive for later (or as some of us used to do, social bookmarking – RIP Delicious), our posts became controlled by someone else and someone else’s interests and, at least in my experience, seemed to move away from the joy of discovery and connection that earlier Quaker blogging – and I am sure zine-making/pamphleteering – had and became more about self-expression as a kind of end in itself, creating a kind of platform to express our views regardless of the larger communal connections.
What was lost – if anything – in that transition away from Blog-as-Zine to Social Media as mode of self-expression. As much as I enjoy the ways Mastadon are unlike Twitter and Facebook, I am not sure Mastadon is different enough to allow for this either (time will tell). This is why I am working to move most of my writing back to this blog that has had a little corner of the internet for almost 20 years now. It is stable, it contains its own context and history, and I am content with whether 5 people see it and “like it” or if 100 do. It doesn’t matter. I’m writing for that person who in 10 years may find a connect, the joy of discovery.
I hope, just maybe, that I get more real mail in the process.
Am I being too hard on this transition from slower forms of media and sharing to the Social Media question to trend? I’m not sure, but like I said, Natalie’s lo-fi work, took me back to the roots of what this Quaker practice is about and has me pondering not just these questions but the question: what can I do to share what I have and how can I make space for creativity as a spiritual practice?
Could Natalie be leading the way for a Quaker pamphleteering renaissance? I sure hope so!
I would love to see a return to slower forms of media that are meant to share, connect, and discover not only the joys of being a part of a global Quaker community but the ways the Spirit of God is in each and every one of us connecting us together.
Thanks Natalie and blessings on your work!
Connect with Natlia Ramsland:
- If you’re a Quaker and planning to go to FGC, I would encourage you to take Natalie’s workshop: Fold In The Light: Zines as Spiritual Practice.