Olympia Zine Fest, handmade and self-published uniqueness this weekend

Zines are handmade self-published works that contain unique content and perspectives not often found in the mainstream media.


Last week, I was browsing at the Olympia Timberland Library (full disclosure: I am a member of the Timberland Regional Library Board of Trustees), and I noticed a display about Olympia Zine Fest. As we have lived in this area for going on four years, and I am a fervent observer of festivals, I was surprised that I had not yet heard of this one. This called for some investigation!
What is Zine Fest?

I learned from Kelsey Smith and Aggie Burstein, both organizing members of Olympia Zine Fest that this is an annual community event that promotes zines and other forms of DIY (Do it yourself) culture (read on for more explanation). “We strive to create a supportive and accessible safer space for people to promote their work, share new ideas, learn skills, and make new friends,” says Smith and Burstein.

The fest is organized by a non-hierarchical core group of volunteers with intentions to:

  • Spread the love of zines as an accessible form of creative expression.
  • Strengthen community partnerships through outreach and collaboration.
  • Prioritize and amplify the voices of underrepresented communities.
  • Operate and make decisions from an anti-oppression framework.
  • Highlight Olympia as a destination with a diverse creative culture and history.

We started organizing and fundraising in 2014 and held our first 3-day event in October 2015,” said Smith and Burstein. “Most of us organizers have been around since the beginning and since we started holding our annual fest in 2015, we have seen our community's love of zines and independent publishing grow,” they said.

The Olympia and Lacey Timberland Libraries both have zines available to check out, many of which are purchased annually from tablers (a new word for me) at the event. “We have hosted multiple zine workshops for schools, support groups, and library patrons.

Zines give a voice to underrepresented and marginalized people and amplify perspectives and subjects that aren’t often explored in mainstream publishing. We love the rich variety of content that can be found in zines. Olympia is full of original thinkers, so it’s not surprising that our community has embraced zines and zine culture," they said.

The zine's of Tabler K. D. Hume in 2022
The zine's of Tabler K. D. Hume in 2022

What is a zine?

I appreciated the explanation but was still confused – what is a zine? (And am I showing my age by not knowing what it is?) According to the Olympia Zine Fest website, zines are handmade self-published works that contain unique content and perspectives not often found in the mainstream media. They are usually made in small amounts. They can be hand-written or drawn, typed on a typewriter or a computer, copied and pasted using found images, photocopied in color or black and white, or bound with staples or thread using any variety of techniques.

Evidently, having a zine festival is a great way to celebrate zines, connect with others who are interested or involved in the zine community, buy, sell, and trade zines, or just learn more about this awesome form of expression! You can learn more about previous Olympia Zine Fests by clicking here.

The proliferation of zines

“Our bread & butter is the annual Olympia Zine Fest, held in various locations in downtown Olympia over the course of a weekend,” said Smith and Burstein. “The pandemic put a wrench in our game for a few years, but we are working back up to a full weekend,” they said.

This year’s event is happening this Saturday, September 9, and Sunday, September 10.

Saturday night, there will be a kickoff event at the Olympia Timberland Library with a procrastination station for finishing last-minute zines, zine-go bingo, button making, a zine swap, and open mic readings.

Sunday there will be a table expo day, featuring over 80 zine creators selling their wares outdoors behind the library from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday’s event also includes workshops, a merch-on-demand screen printing station, two tables for youth aged 6-17 to sell their zines, a hand-drawn photo booth, and two local DJs. On Sunday evening there will also be a zine reading at Le Voyeur. Click here for the full schedule and details. All events are free and open to all ages.

Want to zine?

“We’re always looking for volunteers as the fest approaches. Anyone who’s interested this year can sign up by clicking this link and completing the form. We love it when our community helps to spread the word, attends the fest, and buys zines. This event is a labor of love, and we love it when our zine creators who travel from near and far to sell their wonderful creations feel supported and welcome in our town”.

Soliciting your ideas

If you know of a nonprofit that is doing something great, celebrating a success, needs some outstanding volunteers, or hosting an event, let me know! This column (aside from a little education) celebrates nonprofits!

Mary Beth Harrington, CVA (Certified Volunteer Administrator) lives in Tumwater. She travels the country speaking at conferences and to individual organizations articulating issues facing nonprofits. Send your ideas to her at


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