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Pen & Ink

Pen & Ink Cover

Pen & Ink

Tattoos & the Stories Behind Them

By Wendy MacNaughton; Isaac Fitzgerald

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, Hardcover, 9781620404904, 133pp.

Publication Date: October 7, 2014


Every tattoo tells a story, whether the ink is meaningful or the result of a misguided decision made at the age of fourteen, representative of the wearer's true self or the accidental consequence of a bender. These most permanent and intimate of body adornments are hidden by pants legs and shirttails, emblazoned on knuckles, or tucked inside mouths. They are battle scars and beauty marks, totems and mementos.

"Pen & Ink" grants us access to the tattoos-and the stories behind them-of writers Cheryl Strayed and Roxane Gay; rockers in the bands Korn, Otep, and Five Finger Death Punch; and even a porn star. But it also illuminates the tattoos of the ordinary people living in our midst-from professors to thrift store salespeople, cafe owners to librarians, union organizers to administrators-and their extraordinary lives.

Curated and edited by Isaac Fitzgerald, who sports twelve tattoos himself, each story is like being let in on . . . secrets by . . . strangers who passed you on the street or sat across from you on the train (Strayed) and features Wendy MacNaughton's gorgeously rendered full-color illustrations of the tattoos on black-and-white drawings of the bearer's body. At its heart, beneath its colorful skin, "Pen & Ink" is an exploration of the decision to scar one's self with a symbol and a story.

About the Author
Isaac Fitzgerald has been a firefighter, worked on a boat, and been given a sword by a king, thereby accomplishing three out of five of his childhood goals. He has also written for McSweeney's, Mother Jones, and The San Francisco Chronicle. He is the editor of BuzzFeed Books. Visit him at and follow him @isaacfitzgerald. He lives in New York City.Wendy MacNaughton is a New York Times bestselling illustrator whose books include Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology, and whose work has appeared in places like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Lucky Peach, and Print Magazine. Visit her at and follow her @wendymac. She lives in San Francisco, CA.

Praise For Pen & Ink

"Oh my god, this gorgeous, gorgeous book. It will, like its subject, alter you permanently. We sometimes forget: each tattoo has its story. Many are lovingly recorded here—from the wicked to the profound to the ridiculous. This gorgeous, gorgeous book perfectly chronicles the stories that we wear on our skin." —Colin Meloy, lead singer of The Decemberists

"For anybody who ever looked at a stranger's tattoo and wondered why?, Pen & Ink offers a gorgeous, hilarious, and moving Because. In its pages, the most amateurish, outlandish, and bizarre tattoos become portals into their owners' lives and dreams. In the process, they become beautiful." —Peter Trachtenberg, author of Seven Tattoos

"In Pen & Ink, Isaac Fitzgerald and Wendy MacNaughton have captured the fascinating stories people secret beneath their skin, how they have marked their skin and why. The revelations in this remarkable collection are, in turns, poignant, charming, heartbreaking, and honest. Like tattoos, these stories leave an impression that will linger." —Roxane Gay

“Reveal[s] the often hilarious, sometimes poignant stories behind these permanent remnants of our fleeting opinions, passions and phases.” —O, The Oprah Magazine on the Pen & Ink Tumblr

“New favorite Tumblr.” —Maria Popova, @brainpicker on the Pen & Ink Tumblr

“The second my eyes met the beautiful drawings I was in love.” —Conz Preti, on the Pen & Ink Tumblr

"Pen & Ink is a Tumblr blog by Rumpus managing editor Isaac Fitzgerald and artist Wendy MacNaughton that tells the stories behind tattoos with the use of beautiful illustrations and hand lettering." —Laughing Squid on the Pen & Ink Tumblr