I am doll parts

Before I was The Turnip Farmer, I was Doll Parts.

It was 1994. I was sixteen.  I lived in a small rural community full of kids that all grew up together. I unwillingly invaded their space in the middle of sixth grade in 1988 when my parents thought it was an awesome idea to move in the middle of a school year. (FYI: it was NOT a good idea.)

I started out as a fairly normal looking kid:
I'm aware that the hair is tragic. We've discussed this already.

Try as I might to fit in with trends and such, it really just was not in my nature. Over time my creative side broke through. If I wasn't drawing on my jeans, I was doodling in my text books, coloring my hair with markers (before moving on to Manic Panic), experimenting with make-up, clothing and music.

I was a pretty lonely kid throughout high school but by my Senior year had a nice core group of friends but I was pretty lonely all the same. I still never felt as though I fit in. 

I had weird hair.
A rare smile for my English teacher, Mrs. Chastain.
It was hard to not smile in her presence.

I wore weird make-up.
I was goth before Goth was cool...which essentially means I was not cool. 

I did weird stuff.

That's Debra, the cosmetology head, with one of Delaware's finest. (also, yes, I really liked that Ministry t-shirt but to be fair, the last 2 photos were taken on the same day.) 

I wore weird clothes.
God bless Nick. He was such a good not-my-boyfriend-for-reasons-that-I-was-completely-oblivious-to-back-then. Also, my mom made that dress and she was super pissed that I wore those sunglasses for the photo. Seriously. I look like a baked potato.
I spent too much time in my own head (and still do to some extent) to really allow others to get to know me. And even though I did probably everything humanely possible to separate myself from the crowd, I still wanted to be part of a community. I wasn't into sports, I was over doing community theater and the art club, which I was a part of, was pretty much a joke. When I realized there was not an existing community that I'd be satisfied with, I created one. 

When I was sixteen, before blogs, before people journaled on a public platform, before most people even had internet access in their home, I published a zine. Three sheets of 8.5x11 paper, usually collated and hand-folded into a convenient tri-fold format during the wee hours of the night. I didn't have a home computer and barely had access to one at school so most of my zine was hand-drawn, pasted up, handwritten or typed up on an electronic Brother word processor. 
And like any good renegade - I stole time on copy machines wherever I could and whenever I could gain access to a key to unlock one. The librarian at school was not amused. Not one bit. 

I worked so hard on my zine. My days were spent daydreaming about themes for each issue, crunching numbers in my head on how much I'd need to earn at my part time job to spend on paper, copies, staples and a P.O. Box. How quickly could I work in secret between the time my mother went to bed until my father got home from his night shift job? Everything I drew had the zine in mind, everything I wrote, every story I was a part of - all of it had zine potential.

Each issue began with a letter from the editor - penned under the pseudonym 'Shade'. 
I asked for art, poetry, stories and whatever people could dream up. It was all anonymous. My hope was that the freaks, geeks, jocks and homecoming queens would all have a place to express themselves freely without ridicule.
I suppose I was always meant to be a blogger. Journaling my experiences and sharing them has always come naturally to me.

It was supposed to be an anonymous venture, but everyone knew it was me distributing the zine. Issue number one was barely emptied out of my backpack before people were asking for another issue and handing me their submissions in the hallway between classes.

Not everyone got it though. For as many students that fell in love with this idea, just as many thought it was stupid. The few teachers that quietly supported the creative effort were far outnumbered by the ones that were made uncomfortable by it. I nearly got suspended from school because of the language and content in issue #1.

However one of my best and worst qualities, tenacity, left me undeterred. With my friends cheering me on (of course, because they wouldn't be suspended!) I quickly started working on issue #2 - only to have it come to a screeching halt. One of our school's beloved teachers, Mr. Worden, had committed suicide, leaving behind a wife and a young child. What would be Issue #2 of Doll Parts was scrapped in favor of memories and thoughts on this teacher that touched so many lives. Students used it as a tool to process their shock and grief. That would become my favorite issue, though a close second was the Thanksgiving issue that featured a good-natured roasting of our Vice Principal, Mr. Sechler. The cover was an illustration of his head on a turkey (and boy do I wish I had that issue on hand to show you). He got quite a chuckle out of that and it scored me yet another reprieve from total shut-down.

Doll Parts was relatively short lived, only producing eight issues. I went away to college in the Fall of 1995 and no longer had the time or money to produce more issues. But I kept the P.O. Box for a while and letters, poems, art and short stories continued to pour in (all of which I still have). There were offers of partnerships to ease my burden or requests to take the reigns so that the zine could continue on. That was really powerful for me. I had really done it. I created something that other people cared about. I thought I was the only one with a need for community - but it turned out that so many others needed it too.