Raw, uplifting and empowering is how DePaul senior and editor Riley Reed describes “Messy Misfit Club,” their newly created zine.
Starting in December 2021, this queer-centric zine seeks to uplift the voices and artwork of queer artists in DePaul and Chicago while also transforming the way publications handle conventionally taboo or inappropriate topics.
“It began as a way to do something unique, while also becoming a space to talk about things that are not talked about,” Reed said. “I’ve never seen a zine really talk about religion that much, or sex too.”
Unlike traditional literary magazines, “Messy Misfit Club” prides itself on engaging art around commonly disapproved subjects that do not often get published. Whether it’s fiction, poetry, illustration and every other medium under the sun, “Messy Misfit” accepts all creative mediums of every style.
“A motto we follow is ‘out of bounds,’ we do things that are really untouched and out of bounds, we want to get to the nitty gritty of topics,” Reed said. “I know a lot of publications really censor writers and creators and that’s not what we want to do at all. We’re out in the open, welcoming everything from sex positivity to religious issues.”
A unique aspect of “Messy Misfit Club” is its desire to preserve the artists’ work and keep it as original and unfiltered as possible.
“I’ve seen a lot of publications, but never one that does what we do, which is talk so deeply but not censoring anything,” Reed said. “We don’t cut down people’s pieces, the only thing we have is a word limit, not a restriction on what you can say.”
Since the zine’s initial launch, it has already published one edition, with its first theme concentrating on love, disenchantment and everything in between.
Each edition from “Messy Misfit Club” is organized into multiple sections, each highlighting a unique aspect of the queer identity. From “Out of Bounds,” which features pieces regarding direct issues that are not discussed, to “Skin to Skin,” a portion dedicated to intimacy and real people talking about real sex, according to the zine’s Instagram.
While it is not uncommon for zines to organize their work beneath a shared idea, “Messy Misfit Club” possesses a particular blend of relevancy while not hindering the artist’s creativity.
Editor Flower, who preferred to use only her first name, detailed the process of coming up with the most recent subject matter of religion and spirituality.
“From the start, we knew we needed to take on religion in some shape or form, since it is a topic that touches so many in our community,” she said.
Despite “Messy Misfit Club” managing to address so many different topics and questions in under 30 pages, Flower’s takeaway remains clear.
“I want individuals to know they are not outsiders and are perfectly who they should be,” Flower said. “I grew up in an outsider box and was shamed for everything and continued to get stuck with the wrong crowd. It wasn’t until I moved to Chicago where I found my communities and the people who constantly make me feel so safe and so seen.”
Editor Emma Cholip said that one of the zine’s overarching goals is continuing to cultivate a sense of belonging amongst its readers.
“Our main thing has always been growing our community and being able to hold conversations with people who are similar to us but can be different from us,” Cholip said. “We want to continue showcasing that queer people can be real, while also acting as a safe space where you can talk about what you want without feeling guilt.”
“Messy Misfit Club’s” dedication to showcasing the link between queerness and artistic expression creates a one-of-a-kind atmosphere, exceeding the boundaries of traditional literary magazines.
“I don’t know a single queer person who doesn’t have some form of artistic outlet,” Cholip said with a laugh. “Art is something you can put your all into, and because a lot of the time queer people can’t get behind themselves or always be their own biggest supporter because they have lots of people who don’t necessarily believe in them.”
No matter the artistic ability, creativity is related to relieving stress, boosting self-esteem and making individuals feel happier, according to NPR.
“I think being able to teach yourself how to write well or put together a poem is really inspiring,” Cholip said. “There is something special about feeling proud about what you have created.”
DePaul senior Ava O’Malley expresses her love for the zine and how it differs from traditional publications at the University.
“I really connected with the romantic aesthetic of the first edition, as well as the call to tell ‘out of bounds’ stories that push the boundaries of what we consider acceptable to talk about, especially in regard to queerness,” O’Malley said.
As for why she chose to submit her work to “Messy Misfit Club,” O’Malley’s response remained simple.
“I love how committed to elevating queer voices and taboo topics Riley, Flower and Emma are…To be able to organize a live-event for the first ever edition, and attract such a large audience really proves how fantastic this zine is. Riley has done so much for queer DePaul students through her work in SGA, and I’m really proud of her for bringing Messy Misfits into the world. I feel very affirmed and celebrated as a queer femme writer.”
Although submissions have recently closing the second issue of “Messy Misfit Club,” which will be released on May 13, the editors expressed their excitement for their impending issue.
“I’m even more ready for this edition since we’ve got the groundwork underway, and I feel this [edition] is even more impactful to the community. I’m excited for the stories we’re telling and the positive message we have!” said Reed.