In pricy San Francisco, it’s hard to believe you can snap up a sassy indie lit/art zine filled with “slap happy poetry and art” for around the same price as a daily Starbucks fix. San Francisco transplant, Alexandra Naughton, says she was unemployed and feeling desperate when her indie zine Be About It debuted “on a dark and stormy day” in September of 2010. Four issues later, it’s still going strong. With the exception of Issue #1, each issue’s theme is based on a specific word.
Rachelle Nones: Why publish a zine?
Alexandra Naughton: Why not? I am constantly writing and creating things and a lot of my friends are doing the same. I wanted to create a space for us all to share our visions and ideas.
RN: How do you choose the word for each issue’s theme?
AN: I kinda just pull a word out of the air. With the “Horror” issue; Halloween was coming up and I love a good ghostly tale. For “Triumph,” I was listening to the album Wu-Tang Forever and thought, “Man, triumph is a good word.”
RN: What’s special about your zine?
AN: The intensity. Everyone in the zine really enjoys what they do. I think you can feel that energy rush from the pages.
RN: Describe your typical reader. Who would enjoy the content featured in Be About It?
AN: Anyone with a sense of humor and an appreciation of strangeness and sincerity.
AN: I sell my zine online and if you happen to corner me in a dark alleyway I will probably just give you one for free.
RN: How many issues have sold out?
AN: Sold out is kind of a tricky term because I give away a lot of copies for free. I have run out of every issue thus far, save for the one copy from each cycle that I keep for myself.
RN: Your “Divine Lorraine” Tsaritsa Sez blog post is a sentimental and eloquent homage to Philadelphia’s Divine Lorraine Hotel. It resonated with me because I love grand old buildings like the Divine Lorraine. Do most of your contributors learn about your zine like I did—via your Tsaritsa Sez blog?
AN: The Divine Lorraine is such a special place for me. I have never been inside, but there have been many times when I have just stood outside and wondered what the place was like in its heyday. I do get a lot of contributions and some purchases from people who have somehow found my blog in the mysterious realms of the internet. A few small bookstores have Be About It on their zine racks, which I am very grateful for.
RN: Are most of your contributors located in San Francisco?
AN: I have contributors from all over the world, which is really exciting to me: England, New Zealand, Spain, Ethiopia, Canada, and all across the United States. The Internet is a wonderful thing, truly.
RN: What are the challenges of staying afloat as a writer and indie zine publisher in uuber expensive San Francisco? Or, do I have it completely wrong—is it easier to be an artist in San Francisco than it is elsewhere?
AN: It’s so hard in San Francisco. Thankfully, I now have a job which pays pretty well and allows me to eat and sleep comfortably. I think most artists and writers in San Francisco would agree that more money would help us all live more comfortably. It sucks to have to put your passions on the back burner because you have bill collectors hassling you at all hours.
RN: Are there days when you wake up wishing you’d chosen an occupation that is stable and less chaotic than writing?
AN: Not really. I didn’t choose writing—it chose me. That sounds corny, but it’s true. I’ve been writing stories, poems, song lyrics, cartoons, ever since I was a kid, though I never really thought about writing as a profession. I didn’t realize that this is what I wanted to do with my life until I picked up a book my parents had given me for Christmas one year—Ariel Gore’s How To Be a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead. She speaks on the topic of self-publishing in her book and encourages novices like myself to just do it. When I finished reading that book, I felt like an epiphany had been struck: “You’re a writer. You’ve always been a writer. Just go frickin do it!”
Back Issues of Be About It are posted online here.
Rachelle Nones is a freelance writer with a serious love of photography. Twitter: @rachellenones. One of her was published in Be About It’s #5 “Surprise” issue.