Most people have played broken telephone at some point in their lives, the game where one person whispers a message into someone else’s ear, sometimes adding a line or a word, completely altering the story once it reaches the last person. Usually reserved for children at daycamp, broken telephone has now been used as a literary device.
Soulgazers presents A Thousand Words is a zine written entirely from one artist creating a passage or a picture and passing it on to the next artist to continue. The four pictures and three stories were each drawn or written by different people who could only see what one of the previous artists or writers had done before.
The zine has been recognized as one of the best from the 2009 edition of Expozine and is one of six nominees in the English zine category.
A Thousand Words is a project by the Soulgazers, composed of Concordia graduate Jeff Miller and a few of his writer and artist friends. They get together about once a month to discuss what they have been working on. A Thousand Words is their third collective and was a special project they got ready just in time for Expozine.
“There was a picture in a book that I really liked, so I based a story on the picture,” said Miller, 30. “I gave [my story] to a friend of mine who did an illustration and that illustration was given to the person who wrote the next story, and so on.”
The picture that inspired Miller was a portrait of a couple of punks from the “80s in Olympia, Wash. Miller wrote a story and passed it along to Sarah Comfort, a fellow artist and Concordia graduate, who drew a black and white picture of a pair of Doc Marten boots and a broken record based on Miller’s story. Sean Michaels, the next writer, wrote a story about record collectors breaking their records, but there was mention of travelling on a train in Michaels’ story, which made the following artist draw a picture of a train which Miller describes as “moody” and “futuristic looking.” The final story, written by Anna Leventhal, was a science-fiction parable about doomsday. The final drawing is of a man carrying a woman on his shoulders that captures the apocalyptic terror from Leventhal’s story.
This collective was called A Thousand Words as a reference to the adage “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but that word limit was not applied to the 20-page zine. Miller believes that would have been too “intense” to enforce and would have made for too many rules. The idea was for everyone involved to do their best to interpret or be inspired by the previous works.
Miller has only missed two editions of Expozine in the last eight years. The exposure, he says, is extremely important for small and independent publishers.
A recent Concordia graduate in the English literature program, Miller currently works at Paragraphe Bookstore. After almost 15 years of work, his book, Ghost Pine: All Stories True, a collection of slice of life stories about growing up and family, is going to be published by Invisible in April.
The Soulgazers’ works are available at Depanneur Le Pick Up, 7032 Waverly St., 514-271-8011. For more information about Jeff Miller and his zines, visit ghostpine.wordpress.com