Creative Quarantine: Artist/Publisher Liz Mason

Liz Mason

1. How are you holding up?

I’m holding up OK. In terms of recreation and art practice, I have always enjoyed solo activities like reading and writing. So isolating at home isn’t that big of a deal for me. I am lucky that I still have a day job — I manage Quimby’s Bookstore here in Chicago. (Even though the store is closed to the public we’re still offering mail order and curbside pickup.) So my husband and I are living on one person’s income. That is a little bit more difficult, but we try to reign in the spending as much as we can.

2. Has Covid-19 had an effect on your work? If so, in what way?

I have found that my creative energy seems to be running at maximum efficiency right now. The heightened emotion at this time has made everything seem so much more poetic than usual. I feel like a hormonal teenager, because we’ve ALL turned into hormonal teenagers, where the sad seems sadder, the funny is funnier, the tender is tenderer. I find this to be weirdly inspiring in my creative pursuits, which I was not anticipating; I’ve never been very good about keeping a journal but suddenly during this pandemic I am filling up notebooks by the bushel. And since all events have gone online, my event participation is essentially video conferencing-related activities, like Dance Dance (Space) Party Party, an online dance party that BC (Before COVID) times took place in a dance studio. Video has inspired me to experiment with it as a medium, such as recording a snarky tour of Quimby’s for Chicago Zine Fest, live-streaming karaoke with my husband from our living room, or posting 30 seconds of a ridiculous skill I mastered like hula hooping while twirling a parasol. I would love to print more zines (and reprint older ones) but I don’t have the funds to do it right now. Any creative pursuits I do at this moment in time have to be either free to work on, have the option to pay for later or have some component that I’m being paid to do. I have contributed to a fair number of projects other people are publishing online or printing, which does inspire me, such as an article describing what it’s like to work at the store right now for as well as a piece for QUARANZINE published by Public Collectors.

I feel like a hormonal teenager, because we’ve ALL turned into hormonal teenagers, where the sad seems sadder, the funny is funnier, the tender is tenderer.

3. Is there anything you’ve added to your practice that you’d like to keep after this is over? 

Livestreaming is fun in a slightly preposterous way. But will anybody be watching when everybody goes back to work? I recently started live streaming on Instagram a run down of new stuff we’ve gotten in at Quimby’s since people told me they enjoyed the online Quimby’s tour during CZF. Perhaps I might keep doing that, but then, maybe not, because people could just come into the store. I will say that the relationships I’ve re-established with friends I hadn’t talked to in a while with video conferencing and messaging apps has been an absolute delight, and I would love to keep that going.

Liz mason, Hoopin’ and Twirlin’

I will also miss MST3King Governor JB Pritzker’s daily press conference. Whenever he talks about SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly Food Stamps) I imagine he’s saying “Snack.” I can’t help busting out laughing, because everything becomes about “SNACK assistance”:  “Expanding SNACK benefits,” “1.8 million SNACK recipients will be able to buy food online” and “This is a permanent new feature of the SNACK landscape in Illinois.” I had this idea that there should be a drinking game to go with his press conferences too like every time JB alludes to coming from a business background you take a drink, or every time he shoots down a ridiculous question with “Well, no, that’s not an ideal outcome but we’re working on that,” take a drink, and so on.

4. Of the artists you follow, who’s handling this particularly well?

Voiceover artists. It turns out, with the right equipment, recording in your closet sounds pretty good.

Liz Mason has been self-publishing for over twenty years. Recently published works include Caboose #12 and Awesome Things #3. Her work has also been published in such publications as The Chicago Tribune, Broken Pencil, Punk Planet, The Zine Yearbook, Third Coast Review, and more. Currently, she is the manager of Quimby’s Bookstore, home of wild and weird reading material in Chicago, where she has worked since 2001. She once appeared on the reality show Starting Over to provide instruction on publishing zines, which NBC executives referred to as “pamphlets,” as if they were Marxist propaganda. Visit her at