Andrew DeGraff on the Making of Plotted

Plotted: A Literary Atlas releases this week to wide acclaim. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review, calling it “a rewarding excursion across the literary landscape that will be cherished by map enthusiasts as well as bibliophiles.” Zest recently talked to artist/author Andrew DeGraff about these insanely detailed maps of some of the greats in literature’s canon.

Andrew DeGraffWhat is Plotted’s origin story? What led you to paint 19 maps from some of literature’s greatest works?

I’d been creating illustrated maps of movies for a few years, and I had been considering doing novels. The problem was time. Most of the movie maps are at least 100-hour and many times 200-hour projects. Combined with the length and breadth of reading and researching the novel, it seemed like too much to do alone. So when I was contacted by Dan Harmon about creating a book of literary maps, it felt serendipitous. I finally had the direction and support to take on the project, and away we went.

How did you choose which classic novels and stories to include?

Choosing the books and stories was an ever-changing process. I started with a list covering the scope of literary genres, creating about 40 or 50 map candidates. And then I just dove in. There’s so many great books; I was able to choose based on creating the collection as a whole as I went along (as well as what I could physically do in the time allotted).


What were your favorite books as a child and how has reading play an important role in your life?

I’ve always been a reader. My mom is a teacher and both my parents read to me and my brother, often from the greats, but also nonfiction and whatever they thought we would like: Lord of the Rings, Treasure Island, Voyage of the Kon-Tiki, and Little Women were some of my favorites. Nothing’s better than a good book, and that’s coming from an illustrator.

When did you start drawing and painting? And, more specifically, when (and why) did you start painting maps?

From what I hear from my folks, I started drawing as soon as I was able to hold a crayon. I played about with a few different career options as a kid: astronaut, marine biologist, space pirate. Once I found out that art—and illustration in particular—could be a job, well, that was that. I was lucky to have a few other working artists in the family, so it didn’t seem so crazy to my parents; they were very supportive.

I first started painting maps for travel magazines and soon started making movie maps. I loved creating miniature worlds and thought it would be a nice way to illustrate a film without relying on characters or actors. I liked the way the maps presented viewers with a new experience of a movie they had seen so many times. Those maps were the whole movie as complete as I could make it. I’ve tried to use the same, basic thesis with literary maps.


Some of the maps of Plotted are indeed very maplike—destinations, routes, landmarks—and others are representational. How did you set about each map when starting?

Generally, the process depended on the book and how many spreads I was using. Some were very natural—Hamlet’s five acts, or A Christmas Carol’s five chapters—it made sense to utilize the structure of the book in the structure and sequence of the maps. Some were broken up based on quantity or length of the narrative, as in Huck Finn. I really tried to have a slightly different focus in each piece. For instance, in Frederick Douglass I wanted to emphasize the dates of each of his moves around the Chesapeake Bay to show the disjointed nature of his upbringing.

Getting into the paintings or drawings themselves was more a question of “assembling” than a standard sketch process. I generally compiled a set of e-bookmarks and a photo-reference board in photoshop with all the visual reference I could find. It’s a lot of research. I had some great help from Olivia Ngai at Zest, but there were a thousand little details to check out as I went through the wording of the novel. I then created a flow chart and notated it with post-its in the actual text so I could go back and read the specific passage I needed. Sketches were pretty rough—laying the space I needed and trying to troubleshoot problem areas. The initial pencils for the piece generally served in the finish work. The finishes were completed with gouache and ink, and often assembled digitally.

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What would a sequel look like? Or, should we say, what will the sequel look like?

There are still so many good books out there and literary worlds to explore—I feel like it’s a never-ending project, in the best way. It’s a really involved process, but it’s so fun to immerse yourself is these books. There’s so many experiments I’d love to try and I’d love to just go bigger, and deeper, into the stories.

For more on Plotted, including where to buy, head over to the book’s homepage.

Back to School Reading, 101

It’s that time of year. The temperature turns, the fridge fills with brown bag lunches, and the kids are off to school. Whether you’re a parent, librarian, teacher, or a teen yourself, we think you’ll find these books a helpful supplement (but also healthy distraction) to the new semester. Happy reading!

History 101

The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing

From the New World to the new iPhone, The Next Big Thing pores over 3,000 years of culture to find the colorful and key steps (and missteps) that have led us to where we are today. Paradigm-shifting events, such as the spread of monotheism and the invention of the printing press, stand beside the aborted metric campaign and the misbegotten vogue for smart drinks. Perfect for history buffs!



History is full of whopper-telling liars—people who convince us of the most improbable, outrageous, and nonsensical. And we believe them! Whoppers chronicles history’s super-famous liars, lies, and/or hoaxes, as well as more obscure episodes. Shouldn’t the guy who “sold” the Eiffel Tower twice and Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, get their fair share in lesson plans?


English 101

The Weird World of WordsThe Weird World of Words

From the origin of words and their uses, to useful lists of things you never knew had names, palindromes, famous lines from literature and film, bizarre test answers and more, The Weird World of Words is bursting with truly oddball facts, making it a vital and thought-provoking guide for voracious readers as well as those bewildered but inspired by the English language. test test test test test test test test

Art 101

PrisonIslandPrison Island: A Graphic Memoir

In this graphic memoir, Colleen tells her story of growing up as a young girl on a prison island (her parents worked in the prison). Regular teenage activities like ordering a pizza or going to the movies became complicated if not precarious endeavors for young Colleen and her sister. However, readers will be surprised to see parts of themselves in this strange but tender coming-of-age story.

Little FishLittle Fish

Told through real-life journals, collages, lists, and drawings, this story illustrates the transformation of an 18-year-old girl from a small-town teenager into an independent city-dwelling college student studying art. Written in an autobiographical style with beautiful artwork, Little Fish shows the challenges of being a young person facing the world on her own for the very first time.


Social Studies 101


Rockin’ the Boat: 50 Iconic Revolutionaries

From the gladiator Spartacus to the Carthaginian general Hannibal Barca, from the inspired Joan of Arc to the abolitionist John Brown and women’s rights icon Margaret Sanger, Rockin’ the Boat provides a unique and powerful view of history  a view from the bottom up, through the eyes of people who dared to imagine a different world from the one in which they lived. test test test test test test test test

Gym 101

Holy Spokes!_9781936976232 Holy Spokes: A Biking Bible for Everyone

In this complete guide, find out how bikes work, why bikes matter (especially today, when gas is expensive and interest in green living is high), and how readers—whatever their level of experience—can indulge their tastes for mountain trails, competitive racing, city exploration, and just basic transportation from point A to point B, from home to school.

Tomboy_AGraphicMemoir_9781936976553Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir

Growing up, Liz Prince wasn’t a girly girl, but she wasn’t exactly one of the guys either (as she learned when her little league baseball coach exiled her to the distant outfield). But with the forces of school, parents, friendship, and romance pulling her this way and that, the middle wasn’t an easy place to be. Tomboy follows her early years and explores—with humor, honesty, and poignancy—what it means to “be a girl.”

Science 101

Debunk-ItDebunk It! 

We live in an era of misinformation spread by  media, politicians, and religious leaders. With so much bogus information from so many sources, how can anyone be expected to discover the truth? John Grant uses modern, ripped-from-the-headlines examples to clearly explain how to identify bad evidence and dismantle poor arguments. Debunk It! is the ultimate guide for readers seeking a firmer footing in this very slippery world. test test test test test


Super Pop_9781936976362

Super Pop!

School work is important, but so is having a good time while you’re young! Super Pop! offers a maximum-pleasure, minimum-effort way to become smarter, happier, and more likely to survive your next family function (or a shark attack). This hilarious and wide-ranging guide sorts nearly 500 different bestsellers, blockbusters, and underappreciated gems into quirky top ten lists, like “Outwit Death: Essential Lessons in Survival,” and “Achieve Mindfulness: Movies That Will Show You the Way (With Wise Elders Now Included).”  So whether you’re looking for some motivational workout music, need help planning a July 4th double feature, or just want to pick up some knowledge without straining your brain, this book has you covered. With new insights on old classics and fresh ideas for jaded eyes, Super Pop! makes sense of pop culture – and then puts pop culture back to work!

And, finally…

Make the Grade_9781936976386

Make the Grade

Make the Grade helps you stay on top of schoolwork by dissecting the school week as you actually experience it, and offering realistic solutions to common problems, from difficult teachers and over-booked schedules to boring homework and the endless variety of distractions. Also included: sections on memory tricks, reading tips, note-taking, organization, and test preparation.

Thanks for reading! Have a great school year y’all!

How to Write a Graphic Memoir: An Interview with Cartoonist Colleen Frakes

McNeil Island in Washington state was once the home of the last prison island in the US (accessible only by air or sea). Nearly everyone who lived there worked in the prison.Frakes_What

In Prison Island, a graphic memoir hot off the press this month, Colleen Frakes tells her story of growing up on McNeil. It’s a story simultaneously familiar and foreign (Colleen’s birthday party gets crashed by an escaped convict), but readers will be surprised to see parts of themselves in Colleen’s unique experience. It’s a perfectly ordinary childhood set in a perfectly extraordinary place.

Zest recently sat down with Colleen to discuss her inspiration and creation of Prison Island.

Zest Books: What led you to draw Prison Island?

pi2Colleen: I’ve joked for a while that the most interesting thing about me is where I grew up: once people find out that I grew up on a prison island, they have a lot of questions. And the stories I find myself repeating most often are the ones about the island. A good rule for autobio comics (which I first heard from Alec Longstreth) is that if you’ve told a story at least three times, it will probably make a good comic.

I started drawing mini comics (small, handmade books in limited print runs) about McNeil Island in 2011, right after the island closed. The experience of my hometown being “closed” was just so weird that I felt I had to get it down on paper. The more stories I drew about the island, the more details I remembered and the more stories I wanted to tell. Eventually it just made sense to collect all of these stories into a book.

Zest Books: What is your writing process like?

Colleen: While most of the cartoonists I know start with scripts, I tend to skip that step and go straight to drawing:


Zest Books: What was the most fun part of the process of writing and drawing Prison Island?

Colleen: For this project, it was the research! My day job is in a library, so research is probably my second favorite hobby (after comics). The phrase “I’m working on a book” opens a lot of doors, and I got the opportunity to return to McNeil Island with an environmental planner who’d gotten permission to be Prison Islandout there and take reference photographs of the remaining buildings. Former residents of the island were also eager to share their stories and photos of the island once they learned I was working on the project.

For more about Prison Island, including a peek into sample pages and where to order, check out the homepage here. Called, at turns, a “fascinating portrait of a very different way to grow up” and an “interesting look into a pretty unique childhood,” Prison Island will entertain adults and youngins alike.


Zest Weekly Roundup

This week’s must-see links! ZestWeeklyRoundup

How academic pressure to succeed is killing the love of learning: “Above all else, we taught her to fear failure. That fear is what has destroyed her love of learning.”

Youth sue the Obama Administration for contributing to climate change.

Girls Driving For a Difference is a road-trip based initiative encouraging middle school girls across the country to take risks, experiment, and embrace failures.

The costs of textbooks going virtual, over at Forbes.

LeBron James will pay for 1,100 kids to attend college, as part of his “I-Promise” program.

Target stores are moving toward gender-neutral toy aisles and features. Some people aren’t happy about it.

Stephen Colbert promises his new late show will be pro-woman: “women can relate to me . . . I have womanly hips — soft and grabbable, and they really fill out my low-rise Levi’s.”

Buzzfeed provides 12 things you’ll learn right away in college.

John Oliver on the importance of sex education in schools. Hilarious but also provocative and pretty spot on.

And in our small corner of the web:Frakes_What

Check out all our fall titles, recently announced here! From a prison island memoir and a history of hoaxes to literary maps and meals made in mugs, this season of releases will startle as much as inspire. Also be sure to check out our fall events on facebook: lectures, readings, and signings, oh my!

Thanks for reading! Tune in next week! adsense protection

2015 Fall Lineup

Prison islands, martyrs, mason jar salads, hoaxes and con artists, literary maps and more: our fall titles maybe don’t share a lot of common themes, but they each make for startling, thoughtful, and meaningful fall reading. So, in chronological order, Zest’s 2015 fall releases!

Prison Island by Colleen Frakes
Sept. 1  |  preorder

Prison IslandMcNeil Island in Washington state was once the home of the last prison island in the US (accessible only by air or sea). Nearly everyone who lived there—convicts the exception, of course—worked in the prison.

In Prison Island, Colleen Frakes tells her story of growing up as a young girl on McNeil. Beyond the irregularities of living in a company town near a prison, remote island life posed other challenges to Colleen and her sister.Frakes_What Regular teenage activities like ordering a pizza or going to the movies became extremely complicated endeavors on the island, and the small-town dynamics were amplified by their isolation from surrounding cities. It’s a story that is simultaneously familiar and foreign (Colleen’s birthday party gets crashed by an escaped convict), but readers will be surprised to see parts of themselves in Colleen’s unique experience.

Whoppers by Christine Seifert
Sept. 1  |  preorder

WhoppersHistory is full of liars. Not just little-white-telling liars, but big, honkin’, whopper-telling liars—people who can convince us that even the most outrageous stories are true. And the worst part is we believe them. Whoppers chronicles history’s greatest liars and the lies they told—sometimes for money, sometimes for fame, and sometimes just for the heck of it.

Providing an enlightening and fun romp through history, with an eye on the fundamental absurdity of human behavior, Whoppers is backed by solid research and offers a vital look into what humans are both capable of fabricating and believing—because, let’s be honest, everyone’s lied (though, hopefully never quite like this).

Mug It! by Pam McElroy
Sept. 8  |  preorder

mugMeals for one have never been so fun! From blueberry muffins and quiches to mac ‘n cheese and chocolate peanut butter cake, Mug It! contains 60 simple, delicious, recipes for every taste and craving. Perfect for after-school snacks, dorm room dinners, quick lunches at the office, and more, this book will change the way you think about mealtime. Easy-to-follow recipes and four-color photographs of quirky, playful mugs make Mug It! the perfect cookbook for nearly anyone who has a mug, a microwave, and an appetite.

Martyrdom by Hallie Fryd and illustrated by Julia Gfrörer
Sept. 29  |  preorder

martyrdomThe lives of the saints are filled with inspiring, life-changing moments—but the deaths of the martyrs are where you’ll find the real “Oh, hell no!” moments of history. This adult (very adult, as the body count will quickly indicate) coloring book gives aspiring crayon and paper artists the chance to hone their craft while buffing up their knowledge of Catholic history and tales. The attending stories will go down pretty easy at cocktail hours as well.

Each intricately detailed illustration leaves plenty of room for interpretation. How will you render the sea that drowned St. Clement (or the anchor that was tied around his neck at the time)? The clubs and arrows that stilled St. Valentine’s heart? The gladiator that finished St. Perpetua? And what about the scene surrounding St. Elmo when he passed on? The lives and deaths of the saints are shockingly detailed, but in the text they always appear in black and white—and now it’s time to color. (Pro tip: Make sure you have more than one red crayon handy.)

Speak Up! by Halley Bondy, illustrated by Jordyn Bonds
Oct. 6  |  preorder

speakupCulture teaches girls at an early age to be sheepish, unsure, and apologetic. Middle school is a tough time for nearly everyone, but it can be especially hard on girls who must navigate these social and cultural pressures in addition to academic challenges, family dynamics, changing hormones, and a growing awareness of the world around them. Young girls often end up feeling voiceless and powerless, an unfortunate position that can last into adulthood.

Speak Up! confronts these issues head on, with interactive exercises, lists, real-life examples, and attractive graphics. In a relatable, frank tone, this book lets young girls know that what they have to say is important and their thoughts are worth hearing.

Plotted by Andrew DeGraff
Oct. 20  |  preorder

frederick_douglass_1frederick_douglass_2This incredibly wide-ranging collection of maps — all inspired by literary classics — offers readers a new way of looking at their favorite fictional worlds. Andrew DeGraff’s stunningly detailed artwork takes readers deep into the landscapes from The OdysseyHamlet, Pride and Prejudice, Invisible Man, A Wrinkle in Time, Watership Down, A Christmas Carol, and more. Sure to reignite a love for old favorites as well as spark fresh interest in more recent works, Plotted provides a unique new way of appreciating the lands of the human imagination.

See more maps over at BuzzFeed.

UnSlut by Emily Lindin
Dec. 29  |  preorder

UnSlut1When Emily Lindin was eleven, she was branded a “slut” by her classmates. For the next few years of her life, she was bullied incessantly at school, after school, and online. At the time, Emily didn’t feel comfortable confiding in her parents or in the other adults in her life. But she did keep a diary.

UnSlut presents that diary, word for word, with split-page commentary to provide context and perspective. This unique diary and memoir sheds light on the important issues of sexual bullying, slut-shaming, and the murky mores of adolescent sexual development. Readers will see themselves in Emily’s story—whether as the bully, the shamed, or the passive bystander. For more, be sure to check out Emily’s organization against shaming, The UnSlut Project.

To stay apprised of fall happenings, be sure to connect with us in all the usual places: facebook, twitter, tumblr, instagram, ad infinitum.