Interview: Sonya Cheney on Self-Publishing, Perzines, and Creative Honesty

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Today on the blog I'm interviewing Sonya Cheney, a full-time writer and zine-creator, who also reviews books, writes about horror, runs her own zine distro called Nine Lives Zine Distro, and takes photos in her free time. She confesses herself that she 'wears a lot of hats', and I can say whole-heartedly she does it all so well. Currently, she is working on her first novel...exciting! Sonya and I chatted about the beauty and versatility of zines, a love of writing, and her introduction to the riot grrrl scene. I hope you enjoy getting to know Sonya as much as I did! She has a lot of wise words to abide by, so keep your ears open, children.


Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Sonya! Would you like to introduce yourself and what you do?

Sonya Cheney:
Hi Megan! Thank you for inviting me to be a part of your interview series! I'm a writer who works mainly in the realm of self-publishing, specifically zines and blogging. I recently had the distinct luck and privilege of being able to start working full-time from home on my writing projects, and it's honestly been one of the best things I could have done for myself.

Magic & Musings:
Welcome to the blog! A simple-sounding question, but probably (definitely) not a simple answer: why zines?

Sonya Cheney:
Well, if there is a simple answer, it would be my total lack of patience. The long-form version is that I love the options you get when you're making a zine. It can be this $10, full-color work of art, or it can be a one-sheet mini zine that you whip up in a day just to get your voice out into the world. They're so personal, and while I love blogging and will likely never give it up, zines are a more tangible way to connect with people. It's much harder to click away from a zine that you paid for than a website you're just passing through.

Magic & Musings:
What was your first introduction into the wonderful world of zines?

Sonya Cheney:
I first learned about zines when I was in middle school and discovering the whole riot grrrl scene of the '90s a few years after it had already died out. I thought for years that they were cool, but it wasn't until I was in college that Etsy became a thing and it seemed to grow easier to actually buy and read people's zines. I don't know if there were any stores within driving distance from me that sold zines, but even if they did, they just weren't an option; I didn't get my driver's license until I was 21 and I lived in the middle of nowhere, so the internet has always been a haven for me. My first zines were actually a gift, though: A pack of old riot grrrl zines that a friend got me as a birthday gift one year off of eBay. I think that's what really opened the floodgates to finally purchasing them rather than just reading about them.


Magic & Musings:
What makes a good zine in your opinion? What are some of your favourites?

Sonya Cheney:
I'm particularly fond of personal zines (perzines), in part because that's most of what I write. But I'm interested in any zine that shows that some part of the creator was put into it. Sometimes that means they're fifty pages long, other times it means they're just a folded piece of paper with some bits of poetry, thoughts about life, or general opinions they want to share on just about anything. Basically, anything can be a good zine to me if the creator is authentic in what they're doing, whether it's a tiny fanzine or an opus.

My favorites would be Telegram by Maranda Elizabeth; Reckless Chants by Rust Belt Jessie; A Visitor in Myself by Nichole; and just about anything by Kate Berwanger.

Magic & Musings:
I will be 100% to check all of those out! When did you first start selling your creations online and did you find yourself overcoming any hurdles regarding your confidence?

Sonya Cheney:
I first started selling other items on Etsy early in college, but it was in my junior year that I made my first zine and began to sell it online. (I went through a fair number of Etsy shops before finally getting comfortable with the one I'm at now.) As for confidence, I didn't have much trouble with that because it's quite easy to remain anonymous through zines. A lot of zinesters use pen names when they publish, but I'm a sucker for attention when it comes to my writing, so I like people to know who I am. My problems lay more in being honest; I didn't know who would read my zines among my friends and family, and it can be hard to find a balance between being truthful and being careful not to hurt the people you care about. In fact, this is something I still struggle with.

Magic & Musings:
Onto your writing! When did you first start getting inspired to write?

Sonya Cheney:
I'm one of those people who would say they've been writing 'forever'. I have this distinct memory of being five or six with one of those black and white marbled composition notebooks on my lap, sitting in my parents' bed and scribbling out some story or another. It was probably in blue crayon. But I also started reading early, which I think is what really threw me into writing. I've always loved books and words, so it was only a matter of time until I started creating my own.

Magic & Musings:
Out of all of your work, zines, writing or otherwise, what are you most proud of?

Sonya Cheney:
About a year and a half ago I finished up a poetry chapbook, and I think that was a really satisfying moment for myself. It's one of the most personal things I've put out into the world, and while it took a lot of out of me to finish it up—and I barely wrote for months after—I'm so happy with every piece on every page of that little book. It honestly doesn't even sell as well as anything else, but I love poetry and I love reading through the chapbook and thinking, “Wow, I really like these and I wrote them.”


Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about women, f-identifying, and non-binary artists and their work. Who, if anyone, would you say has been an influence on your work? Do you have any favourites to look to when you need some inspiration or motivation?

Sonya Cheney:
Sylvia Plath, Amber Tamblyn, Kathleen Hanna, Amanda Palmer, Kat von D. I'll usually reread The Bell Jar every year or two and The Art of Asking, either in full or in part, any time I need a boost. If I'm starting a new poetry project, I'll read one of Amber Tamblyn's collections (her 2015 collection, Dark Sparkler, is probably my favorite right now) because her way with words is stunning. I can't recommend either of these books enough.

Magic & Musings:
The Art of Asking is endlessly inspirational to me, so I totally understand. So, do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done? A specific hot drink? A relaxing album?

Sonya Cheney:
I have a hard time getting out of the house on my own right now, although on nice days I'll make it as far as the backyard. For the most part, I'll float between my living room couch and my desk in my home office to write. I've tried for years to find the right routine, and I'm still working on it. I think the most consistent thing is background noise, either TV (Food Network or whatever show I'm rewatching) or, more often, music. My taste in music is pretty broad, but any kind of punk/pop-punk is a safe bet to get me going.

Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively? Are there any books on writing and creativity you would recommend to others?

Sonya Cheney:
My two favorites when I need a boost are Stephen King's On Writing and The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer, which I know I mentioned already. What I love is that they're not strict how-tos, but rather inspiration and lessons mixed in with memoir-style stories. Creative nonfiction is one of my favorite styles/genres to work in—likely because it lends itself so well to personal zines—so I love reading work by other people to feel invigorated. I also try to keep myself flexible. If I don't feel like working on a certain project one day, I don't have to. Sometimes it can be overwhelming to juggle two or three zines, a handful of blog posts, and a novel all at once, but it keeps me from getting bored. On the off chance that none of my projects is thrilling me, I try to give myself permission to step away for a bit. I actually spent a couple of days recently just baking—bread, cupcakes, cinnamon rolls—and listening to podcasts, getting out of my own head.

Magic & Musings:
And time for a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you’ve enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?

Sonya Cheney:
Book: History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera (Fair warning: I cried so much.)
Film: Crimson Peak
Song: 'Still Breathing' by Green Day


Magic & Musings:
Wonderful suggestions! Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish?

Sonya Cheney:
I hope this is interesting for readers! As much as I love writing, I tend to assume that people aren't going to be that into it (especially with all the options out there), so I hope at least one person found this enjoyable and maybe a little educational.

Magic & Musings:
It's been absolutely charming getting to know you, Sonya. How can people find out more about you and your work?

Sonya Cheney:
The easiest way to find out more about me and my work is to check out my blog, www.sonyacheney.com. From there, people can find links to my Etsy shop, the creative writing tag on my blog, and my poetry chapbook, as well as a bunch of ways to get in touch!

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