We welcome you to our stop on the Little Fish: A Memoir from a Different Kind of Year blog tour. This is our first YA graphic novel and our first tour with Zest Books. We have a lot today as we feature this unique autobiographical book. There is an interview with the author and illustrator Ramsey Beyer, a giveaway, and our review. Have a wonderful weekend!
Little Fish: A Memoir from a Different Kind of Year
by Ramsey Beyer
Young Adult graphic novel
Hardcover, 272 pages, illustrated throughout
Published by Zest Books, September 3, 2013; distributed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Ramsey Beyer's debut autobiographical graphic novel, Little Fish: A Memoir from A Different Kind of Year, is the coming-of-age story of a small-town high schooler's transformation into an independent city-dwelling college freshman. Told through a blend of journal entries and lists plus comic-style artwork and collages, the book touches on challenges every student meets when facing the world for the first time on their own, and the unease - as well as excitement - that comes along with those challenges. Everyone can relate to Ramsey's journey from childhood to independence - from adjusting to being away from home to navigating new friendships and finding the right path.
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with author and illustrator Ramsey Beyer
It wasn't really one thing. I've always been a blogger, a letter writer, a journal writer, a photo documenter, a list maker, and a drawer. I'm not sure why but I've always been compelled to document my life in various ways, and I love connecting with people who do the same. I think it's an easy way to feel a really personal connection with someone else. It makes you feel a little less alone in the way that you're feeling to know that someone else, maybe someone else that's even very different from you, has gone through a similar experience or shared some of the same feelings, fears, excitement, etc. I like sharing things that document what it's like to feel human.
I have years worth of stuff I've made about my own life, just for fun or to share with others with similar interests. Most of it wasn't made with the intention of collecting it in a book. When Zest asked me to do a book about my freshman year, however, I knew that I had a lot of authentic stuff I could pull from, things I had actually written when I was a freshman. And I think because I wrote all of it without knowing it would be used for anything, it was written without a filter. I drew the comics specifically for the book and I pulled specific experiences from memory and used those pages to push a more specific narrative along.
2. How has yor road to publication been? Has it been what you expected and more?
I was really hesitant to work with a publisher, honestly! I'm a zine maker and self-publisher. I love having full creative control over my projects, and I love the thrill of producing something from start to finish all on my own. Generally, they're much smaller projects, obviously, since it's hard to fund self-publishing projects on your own, but there's a certain sense of satisfaction knowing that you saw something through to completion and didn't have to compromise a single thing along the way - even if that means fewer people see it in the end.
I also care about access for all sorts of people and want to make my work as accessible as possible for people of all means, and often you give up a bit of that when someone else's funds come into play. However, I will always have work on my website for free and zines and comics to give away.
With all of that said, I had no idea what working with a publisher would be like and decided to go for it for the learning experience, and to try something new. I don't have anything to compare working with Zest to, but it seems as ideal as I can imagine coming from a DIY standpoint. They were very hands off with creative control of the book. Every step of the way, they asked me how I preferred to work and let me steer the book in the direction I wanted. I ended up cranking it out MUCH faster than I would have on my own to meet specific publishing windows, and at times it was stressful - especially on top of working a regular full-time job, but sometimes a real push is nice. It's nice to know how hard I can work and that I CAN make it happen, even on top of normal life stuff.
The most surprising thing is how much wait time there can be between finishing a book and its slotted release date. I finished Little Fish in May and had to wait for it to release in September! A true lesson in patience.
3. What advice would you give high school seniors facing the next milestone in their lives?
Have an open mind and constantly question yourself. At every point in your life, at one time or another, you'll feel like you have all the answers - but you don't. If you think you have things figured out, put yourself in someone else's shoes and re-imagine it from their perspective. You'll probably see that there is a lot more for you to question and think about. Being mindful of other people and their experiences, and how they relate to you, is one of the hardest things to remember as a younger person. I was wrapped up in trying to figure out all sorts of things for myself for the first time, and I would often lose site of the bigger picture and what is going on for people around me, especially in regards to the decisions I made and how it may effect others.
Also, don't compare yourself to others. People approach things with such different skill sets, levels of experience, etc. Constantly comparing yourself to others will get you nowhere and make you feel self-conscious all the time. We all get places at different times and with different intentions.
4. Will you be writing memoirs for the rest of your college years or other milestones?
I'm an autobiographical comic book artist. I don't think I'll dive into the world of fiction, so I'm sure I'll continue to tackle different chunks of my life at different times. I'm not sure if I'll write about my other college years, or skip to other formative time periods. But who knows? Maybe eventually.
Ramsey Beyer grew up on a farm in Paw Paw, Michigan, before escaping to city life in Baltimore, where she earned a BFA in experimental animation. She currently lives in Philadelphia and Little Fish is her first (traditionally) published book.
About Zest Books:
Zest Books is an award-winning publisher of smart and edgy titles that focus on the colorful chaos of teen life, covering timely topics in creative ways by incorporating solid life advice, practical how-to instruction, and humorous commentary. Little Fish is part of Zest Books' line of True Stories memoirs and first person accounts. Distributed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ZestBooks: Facebook | website | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest | Instagram: ZestBooks | Tumblr
This is the first autobiographical graphic novel I've ever read and studied. Ramsey Beyer's collection of her college freshman year captures all of the emotions we face as we transition from high school to (many times) a different school in a different place. The title, Little Fish: A Memoir from a Different Kind of Year, says it all as does the cover graphic. Ramsey grew up in a small town called Paw Paw in Michigan and decides to attend art school in Baltimore. The change from familiar small town to big, busy city is rendered in Beyer's artwork, chronicled in her lists, revealed in her blog posts, and candidly shown in her illustrations. I like the various changes in fonts, how some pages look like a notebook or memo page, ripped from a magazine, some look like art projects and more. This is all so cool and in a way, also private, because the reader feels this intimate connection with Beyer through these ingenious forms of communication.
I enjoyed looking at the illustrations and reading the lists. There was a lot conveyed across the pages. I especially liked the scenes depicting friendships, events, and crushes and would have liked more of these graphics with dialogue to increase the warmth of the storytelling.
The nerves, confusion, worries, upset stomachs, new friendships, coping with schedules and demanding courses, crushes, dating, activities, and life in general--these are the things everyone goes through that first year. I think Beyer truly captured freshman year, even if one doesn't leave for a city school or the exact opposite of a city kid heading off to a small school, there are universal feelings and things we all experience and I found it on the pages of Little Fish. The wonderful thing about Little Fish is the book has to be read since everyone's experiences are so different. Also, this graphic novel would make a great gift to that senior as he or she packs to leave.
As I said earlier, this is my first memoir-like graphic novel. Little Fish: A Memoir from a Different Kind of Year is a charming, poignant, whimsical and generally touching look into the milestone we call freshman year of college.
This illustration perfectly conveys that first time as one takes in the place they're moving to, that "Oh, wow, what did I get myself into?" type of moment. Love it!
I received a promotional copy from the publisher in return for my honest review during a blog tour.
The prize packet includes a copy of the beautiful hardcover book and poster, as well as some Zesty swag.