New Children's Book Illustrations

I'm splitting my time this week painting (a Christmas commission) and polishing some new children's book ideas. Plus, of course, running. I run a lot. 

When it comes to children's books, I usually write the text first (and maybe have a simple sketch or two in the hopper). After that, I like to sketch the entire book out in my notebook in pencil, run it by my agent for feedback and then settle in to work on the digital illustrations, which usually take me a few weeks working on and off. 

Currently, my agent Carrie is shopping this project, and I hope I have happy news to report very soon! Here's a little peek: 

 

More Stories about Children's Books

For Better, For Worse; In Art, In Writing

Jonathan is really, really supportive of my writing. He's given me time, space, encouragement and the occasional dry-your-eyes pep talk our entire marriage concerning my writing dreams. That's why my two novels are both dedicated to him. Without my husband, they would not exist. I mean that most sincerely.

We usually work on separate projects but over the past few years, we've melded our artistic brains together on occasion. Fat and Appy Modern Art for Children is probably the biggest effort. But we also joined forces for my middle grade manuscript, MAGICAL RAINTREE DAUGHTERS.

Our newest project is a picture book---my first one ever! I thought ideas for picture books only flowed to one Fenske in the house, but a story popped into my head this summer. I was kind of shocked. Then, I wrote it down. Pages and pages overflowing from my pen. I handed it to Jonathan, sure he would connect with the text and bow low before me. (Just kidding on that last part.)

Illustration by children's book illustrator Jonathan Fenske of a boy jumping on a couch.
Illustration by children's book illustrator Jonathan Fenske of a boy jumping on a couch.

He read it right away and then handed it back, saying kindly that I needed to get it down under 300 words. In other words, I needed to slash oodles and oodles of text. Words. Phrases. Helpful adjectives. You know, my stuff. 

Jonathan was completely correct. So I edited. Cut. Cut some more. Argued over word choice with Jonathan. Described some illustrations to him. Daydreamed about others that might come into shape once he started drawing.

It's still a work in progress, but Jonathan has given me a rough illustration style he's going for to match the sparse (now 199 words!!) text and the (I hope) evocative feeling of the story.

More details later. But I wanted to post this illustration because, to me, it represents love and dreams.

Have Some Happy Thoughts

Here are a few illustrations from Jonathan's picture book HAPPY THOUGHTS. It's not sold yet, but we're working on it. Excited about tomorrow: WOODWARD AND MCTWEE'S publication date! Yahoo! You can buy it in any bookstore or online, of course. Look for the Penguin Young Readers series carousel in your favorite bookstore. Thanks for supporting Jonathan's work...we are so appreciative.

A little girl sleeping next to a cloud

 

An illustration of a sunset by Jonathan Fenske

 

An illustration from Denver artist Jonathan Fenske

A Pig, A Fox, and A Box Finds a Home

Yeah! We're tap dancing here. Jonathan has sold A Pig, A Fox, and A Box to Penguin USA. We heart this, most completely. It will be a part of the Young Readers series and is set for Summer 2015. We love our people at Penguin/Grosset & Dunlap/PSS. And Jonathan is so very happy to work with his editor, Ms. Bonnie Bader.

Just a reminder: Woodward and McTwee comes out next month--March 20, 2014--also from Penguin USA. Thanks for the love you've given Jonathan's other two books. We think you'll like Woodward and McTwee, too.

Also, in other news: Jonathan has finished two new picture book dummies and is shopping those around. I have also completed the writing for the first book in The Magical Raintree Daughters three-book series for middle grade readers. I am editing and hope to have it all polished up soon. Then, I have to sell it. THAT'S NOT HARD, IS IT? Hahaha, I'm laughing over here, just all by myself.

An image of Jonathan Fenske's children's book A Pig A Fox and A Box
An image of Jonathan Fenske's children's book A Pig A Fox and A Box

#MSWL #MGLIt #MGlitchat

Crazy Like A Fox

We're in full swing here at Fenske & Fenske, working on our most recent projects. So, we hope you don't mind this second look at A Pig, A Fox and A Box. We hope to announce good news soon that this pranking duo have found a home. Soon, soon! The cover of the children's book A Pig A Fox and A Box by Jonathan Fenske

An illustration from a children's book by Jonathan Fenske

An illustration of Fox and Pig from Jonathan Fenske's children's book A Pig A Fox and A Box

Thanks for stopping by our blog, especially while we're working on new stuff. It's really encouraging and we think you are LOVELY. Keep up with Jonathan and Jennifer (that's me!) by subscribing to our blog at left. Or you can always check out what's happening on Fat and Appy, our online store for canvas prints of Jonathan's work. 

Buzzy Buzzy Creative Hive

Things are a little quiet on the blog lately. That's because Jonathan and I have both entered a season of writing and illustration projects. We're cranking to meet completely self-imposed deadlines for our literary pursuits. I am back at work, six days per week, on Magical Raintree Daughters, a middle grade (ages 8-12) fantasy adventure novel. I'm about halfway through with it. I'll be finished at the end of the month. I posted the first two chapters on the blog a while back. They have been revised a good bit but you can see where I am going. Here's a little hook I am working on: Cassiopeia Raintree can cheat death with her hands and feet. The middle child of three magical sisters, Cassie is a climber. But she’s always had to hide that gift until the night a smoak kidnaps and drags her to the land of the evil Aramynes. That’s when Cassie finds out the Aramynes were turned to monsters years ago…and it’s all the magical children’s fault.

Chapter_One_Dragoblin-novel-by-Jennifer-Fenske
Chapter_One_Dragoblin-novel-by-Jennifer-Fenske

I love writing again in novel form. As much as I enjoyed writing my first two novels (and publishing them..that's really fun!), writing for a middle grade audience is completely a blast. Each day, when my eldest daughter comes home from school, she reads the latest bit and tells me her thoughts and offers suggestions.

Some people have asked if I am going to post more of the book. I plan to sell it (hopefully) so at this point, I'll probably bring it back inside the studio and not post more of it for now.

Jonathan is working on a new children's picture book. He's not ready to release the title yet, so I'll just include one illustration here. I love this book and can't wait to share more with you. That hyena illustration really cracks me up. He is also excited to finish the illustrations for Poor Peter Burke (the manuscript is complete).

An illustration by Denver illustrator Jonathan Fenske
An illustration by Denver illustrator Jonathan Fenske

What's Your Favorite Children's Book? + Book News

If you have kids in your home, you read a lot of children's books. Books are everywhere around here. And beware the tidy mother who attempts to curate the collection. There were howls of protest when I started to "thin" out the bookshelves earlier this week. But we had to...shelves were stuffed and books were piled and the baby would drag them around, chewing and mewing for someone to read to her. (Kidding! She's in that stage where a book is simply not that interesting. We still read to her, of course, but she wanders off to see how her older sisters are clobbering each other. True story.) In any event, we filled a box-o-books to take to Goodwill.

Box of children's books

This book curating made me think of a guest post Jonathan did in February over at The Write Now Coach, Rochelle Melander. I've known Rochelle for many years and she's a true tour-de-force of a writing coach, author, editor...the list goes on. She kindly had Jonathan on her blog and he guest posted about his 5 favorite children's books. Here's an excerpt:

"When we had our first daughter seven years ago, I delighted in buying old picture books at thrift stores and discovering new titles at our local bookstore. When I wrote Love Is in the Air (indeed, whenever I write) all of my favorite books were (and are) swirling in my head, a beautiful, highly respected and influential mass of collective imagination."

In book news, we're pleased as punch to tell you that Penguin USA made an offer for Woodward and McTwee. It's one of several stories about a sweet, innocent hippo and a super snarky bird. The book will be published in 2014. We love Penguin, including Jonathan's editor, Bonnie Bader. Go book people!

Here's a homemade mock-up of the cover:

Cover of Woodward and McTwee children's book by Jonathan Fenske That's it from here! We invite you to head over to the new home of Fat and Appy, and our new collection of canvas prints for children featuring Jonathan's designs. Save 15% by signing up for our newsletter. Thank you for visiting. We adore you so much.

Tell us in the comments: what is your favorite children's book? 

Free Book Friday Winner and Er, Another Free Book Friday Contest!

Hi everyone! Thanks to those who entered last week's Free Book Friday contest. We had nine entries, so I used Random.org to pick the winner. Drum roll, please..... Screen shot 2013-02-01 at 10.29.41 PM

The winner (#3 on my Random.org entry) was Comment #3 by Gina who writes a pretty awesome parenting/DIY blog. Congrats, Gina! She wins a signed hardcover copy of Love Is in the Air.

That brings me to this week's contest. There is more than one hour left on Friday, so I still feel okay in my soul about this being a Free Book Friday post. Eastern time zone people are asleep, but here in the Mountain West, we're just getting started.

dog_Fenske

I've decided to give away two Love Is in the Air books this week since I think it might get monotonous to do this for five weeks straight as planned. So....for this week's contest, please simply share this blog. You can do so with the share buttons at the bottom of the post. (If you are reading this from the front page of the blog, you won't see buttons. You have to click the actual post and then scroll down.)

It's the honor system around here, so once you tweet, Facebook or whatnot, simply just post in the comments below where you shared it. The contest will be open until Wed., Feb. 6 and there will be two winners. Good luck!

Criminal Reshelving and Other Seedy Book Details

The first few weeks since Love Is in the Air published have been super fun, super exciting. We receive great pictures texted to us from friends and family around the country who have so kindly ventured out to bookstores to pick up a copy. Here's one from our dear friends, the C----- family who may or may have not engaged in a little "criminal reshelving." That's the practice of artfully promoting your loved one's books to the front row. Ahem, totally not condoning the practice but....thanks ya'll! http://www.jonathanfenske.com

 

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http://www.jonathanfenske.com

 

Other Fenske news: Jonathan heads into the studio tomorrow with Room 214 for some visual scribe work. That's where he sits and draws and they take like a million pictures of him and then editors stitch it all together into something really cool. He's also doing painting commissions, per usual. He's currently working on a commission of an Andy Warhol portrait and the other day, Jonathan had a slip of the tongue and called it an "Einstein portrait." We both giggled because there's kind of a big difference.

Jennifer (that's me!) is scheduling children's book blogger visits for Jonathan. Jodie from the awesome young readers blog Growing Book by Book has graciously agreed to post about Love Is in the Air; writing coach and all-around awesome author Rochelle Melander will also have Jonathan do some guest posts in February and then again in May.

I also work on Fat and Appy each day. Still find it crazy that we have an iPad app for sale on the App Store. Wild! People ask me what our next app will be and I think definitely ebooks. We both love children's books so much and it would be a cinch to take Jonathan's orphaned books and turn them into digital wonders. First, though, we have to get through promotion for Guppy Up! which comes out next month.

 

 

Love Is in the Air: Jonathan's New Children's Book Is Published!

This week was a fun one in the Fenske household. Jonathan's first children's book that he wrote and illustrated published Dec. 27. Love Is in the Air (Penguin USA) is the story of a lonely balloon and a lively kite and their special day in the park together. Jonathan is pretty excited and I am over the moon. It's not every day you get to walk into Barnes and Noble and see your sweetie's new book on the shelf. Proud of you, baby!  

http://www.jonathanfenske.com

 

http://www.jonathanfenske.com

 

Love Is in the Air is available in soft cover, hardcover and (soon!) it will be an enhanced ebook, produced by Penguin's awesome ebook partner.

 

http://www.jonathanfenske.com

 

What's next for Jonathan? Penguin will release Guppy Up! Feb. 7, 2013. Plus, he always has new children's books in progress, and Penguin is interested in some new titles for 2014. So, stay tuned!

Content Creators

I really do think that well-done, original content (whether that's books, animated series, webisodes, podcasts, cartoons, you name it) is a rare thing in this world. Probably it's not so rare, because there will always be starving artists, poets and writers who create. But does the world see their work?

Read More

Heavy Odds: We'll Take Them

Yesterday, we woke up to fun news and several "congratulations!" emails: Healthy Creatures, our children's app for iPad was featured in the Denver Post. We were interviewed by technology reporter Andy Vuong; Aaron Ontiveroz took our portrait. Both journalists were awesome and couldn't have been easier or nicer to work with. I liked Andy's angle in the story about the hard road ahead of us as indie mobile app developers in a crowded market. He's absolutely correct---finding mobile app success on the App Store without Disney or Dora in your name is really, really tough. But here's the thing: working our tails off in the creative world is all Jonathan and I have ever known. It was tough when Jonathan was a talented painter in search of a gallery. He walked in and out of galleries in Atlanta until he found one that believed in him. Jonathan's paintings now hang in collectors' homes across the U.S., a museum, foundations and currently, Santa Fe. His commission backlog is months long.

It was tough when I wanted so badly to publish my novel, I could barely step into a bookstore without being overcome by longing. I wrote query letters and was rejected by everyone on my list--until an agent took a chance and asked me to rewrite my first novel. That one didn't sell, but my agent sold the next one to St. Martin's Press. And the next one.

It was tough when I wrote novels at the kitchen table after working all day at my marketing job. Both times, my belly was swollen with a kicking, nutrient-sucking daughter. But Jonathan would not let me give up. When the development dragged on for Healthy Creatures, Jonathan told me to dig deep and keep at it---that we would see it through, together. And we did, with a third newborn daughter kicking on the floor beside me as I worked.

And it was tough when Jonathan kept rising to the top of the slush pile for his children's books that he wrote and illustrated. He came so close several times before a major publisher offered a contract. We rejoiced, champagne flowing, and then plummeted to earth when the publisher shuttered the imprint, dumping all of the recently acquired titles. I watched in awe as Jonathan picked himself up and headed back out there, pitching his books on his own. In December 2012 and then again in February 2013 Penguin USA will publish Jonathan's children's books Love Is In the Air and Guppy Up!

Do you have a dream? Of course you do. If you've read this far, let me tell you: it will be tough. You'll never work harder. But don't you dare give up.

The odds are heavy? Of course they are. You are short of money? Time? Connections? We are, too.

But here's the thing: the alternative is not trying. That's not an option for so many of us. So, for that, I'll take a longshot any day.

What's your longshot dream? Tell us in the comments so we can encourage you.

Fenske Art Roundup

It's been a while since I blogged, so we apologize for the tumbleweeds. Here's a roundup from the Fenske studio. Enjoy! Love Is In the Air eBooks Jonathan's first children's book with Penguin USA, Love Is In the Air, is publishing Dec. 27, 2012. We just found out that Penguin will be making ebooks for Love Is In the Air and for Guppy Up! which publishes Feb. 7, 2013. Hurray! Since we have just completed making an app, it was a joy to hear about the ebooks. Someone else will be in charge of every single detail. Someone else can test, test and test some more. Making an app or ebook is hard work. Even so, I think that Fat and Appy's next project will be an ebook of a fun children's book that Jonathan wrote last year called Happy Thoughts. It hasn't found a home yet, so we're thinking it's a perfect way to dip our toe in the book app market. (Wait---didn't I just complain that making an app is hard work? Well, it is, but we just can't stay away....)

www.jonathanfenske.com

Healthy Creatures Launches on the App Store Our first children's app for iPad launched one month ago! Healthy Creatures is a creative app for children ages 3-8 that allows kids to make creatures out of fruits and vegetables. It's .99 on the App Store and we're thrilled to have ten reviews of 4 and 5 stars! We've also been featured on awesome blogs such as 5DollarDinners.com, TodayIAteaRainbow.com and MileHighMamas.com. We've even been mentioned on the App Nanny's podcast! Along the way, we're learning the ropes of app promotion, app marketing and the general app-ecosystem. Want to see Healthy Creatures in action? Watch the app trailer.

Westgate Community School 5K Westgate is a wonderful charter school in our neck of the woods that just moved into their forever home (the first three years of the school's existence was spent in a rented old middle school). Jonathan designed Westgate's first ever 5K logo which celebrated the new building.

www.jonathanfenske.com

The Kitchen Sink Jonathan has been working with Room 214, a social media agency in Boulder, doing some visual scribe work. Jennifer is researching tee shirt companies to produce a line of toddler and kid's tees. We made two one-offs with Fat and Appy's logo for the Denver Startup Bash a few weeks ago. Jonathan is also working on a handful of painting commissions from clients around the country.

www.jonathanfenske.com That's it for now! As always, we'd love it if you followed us on Twitter (@fatandappyfun or @jenmanskefenske), Facebook or YouTube.

New from the Sketchbook: A Pig, A Fox and A Box

One thing I have learned being married to Jonathan for almost 15 years is that the guy never runs out of creativity. Never. My man can write, draw, sketch, compose and illustrate all day. And then get up and do it again. I'm very fond of something he says quite often: "I had another idea for a children's book..." Happily for him, Penguin USA picked up two of his books that will be published in Dec. 2012 and Spring 2013. They are Love Is in the Air and Guppy Up! You can learn more about them here.

Penguin is currently considering A Pig, A Fox and a Box. We hope they go for it---Jonathan has had an awesome relationship with his editor and the staff there.

Here's a sneak peek: