Notes from the Underground

Jacksonville is behind on somethings. In our opinion and in our experience, the vital advantage is that our local soil is rested and rich. There is an opportunity to create the culture that you want in the city. Should you have the determination to plant your ideas, the chances of them taking root is well on your side.

There is a garden already sprouting here that most won’t see: self-publishers, people from all classes of society who create tangible forms of media such as mini-comics, alternative press and zines with whatever resources they have available to them. These creators distribute their works through independent bookshops, vending at local markets or leaving them in a bread crumb-like trails wherever they wander. Local zine maker Doug Knight leaves hand created zines all over downtown and Riverside, in defunct newspaper kiosks, and then posts a cryptic photo on his social media with the name of the street where someone might be able to claim it.

There are nearly no boundaries to content in the self-publishing world. You can find about anything one’s heart desires: how-to guides, memoirs, fan fiction, social justice literacy, self-help, recipes, photographs, collaborative anthologies, poetry, community showcases, board game zines and informational pamphlets. And because self-publishing is infrequently profitable, competition is almost non-existent. Experienced self-publishers are open to provide encouragement or assistance to those who ask. Self-publishing is a labor of love and bursting with creativity from all skill levels. To provide a guiding light on this path is like moving a flowerpot to the sunny side of a room.

My self-published project for the last seven years, River City Raunch, is a collection of stories that residents confess about their experience with love and sex in Jacksonville. The project began from conversations with strangers, which morphed into an investigation of human relation to sexuality and the repressed self. Ten issues later, the audience and interest in self-publishing has only grown. I now find myself listening less to personal stories and more providing guidance to people who are interested in creating their own self-published works.

In this secret garden of self-publishers, I was introduced to a mental health professional who believes in the healing power and empowerment of sharing one’s story in printed form. They began creating zines to cope with their own trauma narrative and disseminate important information on psychological well-being. After attending zine fests in other major cities together, we discussed the need for Jacksonville to host its own celebration of voices underserved by mainstream publications. Excitement took root in our minds, and we partnered together to organize Jacksonville’s first zine festival, Duval Comic and Zine Fest.

We agreed that the Jacksonville Public Library downtown was an ideal host. Our beautiful main library has the regions largest collection of zines in the entire Southeast, and the Jax Makerspace provides an area large enough to host the number of participants that we anticipate. With the help of the city of Jacksonville, we set a date—March 28—for this free event, which offers free tabling for self-publishers to showcase their work. There will be bookbinding and zine-making workshops as well as panel discussions featuring the local creators who helped lay the foundation for Northeast Florida’s DIY and self-publishing community.

Self-publishers are encouraged to register online through Feb. 15 to participate (visit Aspiring zine makers are encouraged to attend free weekly workshops every Monday night at Rain Dogs. There they can learn more or find guidance to create their own works. Readers and collectors can find updates on social media.

DCAZ will be Jacksonville’s first and only event designed to celebrate regional self-publishers and provide the public a place to experience what passions people have put down on paper and reproduced.


Anderson is a zine maker and a pillar of Jacksonville’s alternative community.