‘Free:’ Teen-created magazine provides artistic platform for students

Melissa Block

“[Artists] love how good it feels to share their work with others, to be really vulnerable, and for other people to be like ‘Hey I’ve been there,’” said Jasper Conacher, co-founder of her newly created magazine titled “Free.”

Conacher is a senior at Convent of the Sacred Heart High School in San Francisco, and just this past year teamed up with Zoe Young, a senior at Marin Academy, to organize their first issue of “Free”. The publication is more specifically considered a zine, which is a style of magazine that contains self-published work in small-circulation.

Conacher and Young began this project because of their own enthusiasm towards art and interest in poetry. Both girls have personally dealt with mental health and body image issues throughout high school. Through writing, they have reflected on those issues, and hopes “Free” will act similarly for others.

“I felt like if maybe I had an outlet to express myself, I would have really benefitted from it,” Young said.

“Free” focuses on the importance of vulnerability. Conacher and Young aim to bring a community of young adults together through sharing their personal stories of resilience, grit and hardship.

“I really think this is a process. We are creating the issues as to what people want to talk about, and what people want to read and discuss. With the magazine, it’s to open conversation about issues that high schoolers do not talk about, like anxiety and body image,” Young said.

According to Conacher, their first print issue launches next month. It will contain several themes, including self-expression, identity and freedom. In the future, issues will have more focused messages, such as gender, sexuality, racism and violence.  

The first edition cover of
The first edition cover design of “Free” featured above.

“It is really for people to share whatever they want. The whole point of “Free” and the title is that it is completely up to people. We don’t have a specific bias or angle that we are trying to get with the magazine,” Young said.

One of their largest challenges is deciding on which artists to publish in their paper, as each submission is unique, but they have limited space. In their first edition they received over 100 submissions mostly from local students in Marin, but were only able to feature 50 contributors.

“I feel like someone’s voice is so valuable, and I would never want to limit that,” Young said.

Conacher and Young have worked individually throughout this process to produce their zine with minimal support from adults. According to Conacher, it has given her a lot more confidence because in the end, they have the final say over what gets published and what doesn’t.

“There is definitely inspiration from other magazines and other zines we have seen, but the actual process was all self-initiated and discovery. It was really a learning process,” Conacher said.

According to a contributing editor, junior Parker Hanley from Marin Academy, creating the website with Young was a challenging process as they had to teach themselves the layouts with little previous knowledge.

This past summer, Young interned at UCSF and helped write Grit Magazine, which will be released within the next few months. Working for this publication helped her to decide what she wanted to incorporate into “Free.” Young expects to reach out to adults for support in the future, but as of now, they are still exploring this endeavor independently.

Towards the end of November, Conacher and Young will host a launch party, where all contributors are welcome to share their pieces with an audience. The goal of the event is to publicize “Free,” as well as to build a community. Additionally, the large scale of the event reflects the creators’ commitment to continuing “Free.”

One of the best ways for Conacher and Young to design their Zine is by creating collages as inspiration. This piece will be featured in their first edition coming out later this month.
Conacher and Young find inspiration for their zine by creating collages. This piece will be featured in their first edition coming out later this month.

“I will continue to publish issues of the magazine because I believe many teenagers can find solace in relating to other young adolescents who experience similar hardships and moments of strength,” Young wrote in an email interview.

Young is determined that “Free” will turn into something much larger than simply a project.

“Hopefully ‘Free’ will be something that will one day sustain itself. I’m kind of in love with everything that we are doing,” Young said.

She also explained that the reactions to “Free” are just as glowing as she hoped they’d be.

“The responses from people have just been so positive. It just really brings me joy. I wouldn’t do this magazine if people didn’t want it. That’s the whole purpose of why I’m doing this,” Young said.

Young wants “Free” to become well-known throughout the Bay Area because students can benefit from joining their community and being exposed to the words and art of other teenagers going through similar experiences.

“However, without attention or participation from people from a multitude of communities, like Redwood, the magazine goes unnoticed and a myriad of people are left feeling like they are the only ones feeling what they are feeling or going through these struggles of high school alone,” Young said.

If students submit their work, “Free” can become a unifying platform for students all over the Bay Area and eventually the nation, according to Conacher.

“I think Redwood is a perfect high school to spread the word since it is centralized in Marin and has such a large and diverse student body that has so much potential in terms of submissions,” Young said. “The most important part of the magazine is that it is by teenagers for teenagers. We wouldn’t be here creating what we are without hearing first hand experiencing the struggles and hardships of being a teenager in this day of age.”

If you are interested in submitting your own work, email [email protected] and check out and follow their Instagram and Facebook pages @freethezine. Their website is still in the works: freethezine.com.