We were bored and we decided together to make a story and then it led to doing the zine," says Allie Donahue about the origin of biff. It may sound like a typical beginning for many magazines but biff is not quite your standard publishing venture. It's full of elementary school drawings, endearing reports from the editors' neighborhood, funny puzzles, and a wide-eyed love for every human and animal. It counts among its influences both Thrasher and Highlights magazine. It's the only zine I can think of whose editors are a 10-year-old girl and her father.
"It's genuinely a collaboration project we do together. If it was just me humoring her, I wouldn't endure," says Bill Donahue, Allie's dad. Bill has been a freelance writer for 18 years as well as a teacher at the Attic, a Portland literary studio. Besides his work in magazines like Mother Jones and the New York Times Magazine, he is a contributing editor for Outside. Still, his experiences didn't quite train him for low budget zine designing.
"That's the toughest part," he says, "we don't lay it out with any certain program, we just eyeball it, and kids like to draw to the edge of the page…"
Allie rolls her eyes as she recalls their last tribulation with a photocopier. "We spent five hours there and then my dad decided we had to deliver them on our bikes and it was a nine-mile ride from there to here and over there."
Still, other 5th graders must think it's cool that she has her own zine…?
"I can't tell if they're impressed or if they're just being nice," she answers. Besides working on the zine, Allie also takes a unicycle class and plays violin, but she has a secret dream of being a music star, and though she's written about pre-teen rockers the Black Peppercorns, she says her favorite music is bluegrass.
So, is editing her dad a challenge? "I tell him if I don't understand a word, then kids won't understand it." And that's what makes biff a pleasure to read--the balance between kid and parent.