this joy + ride: issue 70

We're most delightfully pleased that Jonathan is featured in this joy +ride issue 70 today. this joy + ride is an elegant compendium of art, designers, photographers, poets and other creative folk, published twice per month by shari and sheri. What's awesome about today's edition is that it features the illustrations from STUFF, a new picture book that Jonathan worked on all summer. I've been dying to show you illustrations of this project for months, but I kept it under wraps so this joy + ride could feature it first. So, here's one illustration to enjoy. Hop over to this joy + ride for the rest!

An illustration of the children's picture book STUFF by Jonathan Fenske
An illustration of the children's picture book STUFF by Jonathan Fenske

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Giveaway Winner & When Things Break

Congratulations to @beingkeri for winning a copy of Jonathan's children's book Woodward and McTwee! Keri, just send your address to Jennifer (jennifer AT fatandappy DOT com) and I will send a hardcover copy to your attention. Thanks to those who shared, followed and tweeted! On a completely different topic...

Are you experiencing broken things? We feel you. We know your pain.

A few months ago, we unwittingly entered a season of broken things. And we're not talking about small items. In no particular order, this is what failed, broke or burned in the last few months:

> Car AC (our mechanic broke it when he repaired something else but we still had to take the car back to be fixed, gratis. This involved Jonathan biking forty miles back and forth from the repair place in Denver in one day since we car share.)

> House AC. Not even kidding. This is a BIG expense. Currently, we are saving to replace the unit. So, this summer, we enjoy the great outdoors, indoors. All of our windows look like this:

An open window in a suburban house

This also means we buy allergy medicine. Having a lot of open windows is actually kind of fun; it's not too hot here in Colorado and you can hear the kids playing outside. You can also hear your neighbors discussing trimming their hedges; yelling at their dogs; and jumping on trampolines. This part is a little weird.

As a southerner, not having air conditioning seems like not having a lung. Or a dinner table. It just feels like a major THING is missing. But once we realized that saving up for the replacement compressor unit was really the only option, well, I just kind of accepted it. And cranked open sixteen windows.

> Garage Door. The torsion springs were apparently put in by the neighborhood builder using the cheapest product available. So, along with all of our neighbors, our garage door broke down like an old donkey.

> Dryer. When we moved into this house almost seven years ago, we purchased a very pretty middle-of-the-line Whirlpool washer/dryer combo. At some point, the heating coils overheated, tripping every fail safe inside the dryer. Melting ensued. Jonathan YouTubed the heck out of that thing and then ordered $125 worth of parts online. After watching videos over and over, he was able to get the dryer back on its feet.

> Dishwasher. Again, another nice Whirlpool appliance. Something plugged and whatever...I stopped listening. A few dollars online, another YouTube video and Jonathan had the dishwasher up and running again.

I know these are all first-world problems. I know I am blessed to have a newish house filled with modern conveniences. I know all of this. And hopefully, things are about to stop breaking down around here. 

But when you are facing hundreds or thousands of dollars of repairs you weren't expecting, it can get a little panicky. So, if this is you, take heart. We're going through a Season of Broken Things. It's not fun and it's not cheap. I hope that your brokeness passes quickly. And I hope our story encourages someone, somewhere.

Also this: if you stop by for a visit, dress in layers.

Denver Illustrator Mad Skillz

We're feeling a little punchy tonight: it's the end of Spring Break and we enjoyed a staycation. Which is to say we searched desperately for free or low cost things to do each day with three kids of varying ages (8, 5 and 2). Anyhoo, tonight's meal was stir fry whipped up at home and supplemented with delicious potstickers from Thornton's own Heaven Dragon. Plus: gigantic slices of navel oranges. Bring on that weekend! Here's a cute illustration from Jonathan's latest picture book project called STUFF. He's been working on this character this week and he says he's finally there. Have a great weekend, ya'll! And thanks for stopping by.

A picture of a boy looking up by Denver illustrator Jonathan Fenske
A picture of a boy looking up by Denver illustrator Jonathan Fenske

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

Under Construction: Unicorns and Body Parts

Thanks for your blogging patience as Jonathan and I continue to crank out some special projects. I have discovered that I can't blog and work on my middle grade novel, Magical Raintree Daughters. I can do one or the other, but not both. Jonathan has finished his latest picture book and I'll give you a hint: it concerns the lowly chin. That's right, folks, we're all about the chin up in here. And what's this with unicorns, you say? Well, I have noticed that when Magical Raintree Daughters starts to bog down, I think of my eldest girl and I know she would be chomping at the bit to see more action. So, I think to myself, "Throw in a unicorn!" And then the story gets moving again. I haven't actually added a unicorn, yet, of course. But I have been writing in the equivalent.

I should be done with the novel in about 5-7,000 words. It's challenging to pull it all together, but I am excited to end this particular story. Then, I'll take a break and start on Book Two, which will be about the oldest magical Raintree daughter, Penhally.

Until then, here's a picture of our middle girl, reading away. We love books around here, we sure do.

A little girl reads a children's book
A little girl reads a children's book

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

Happy Halloween from Poor Peter Burke

First off, I would like to wish a happy, happy birthday to my dear sister, Katie. I hope it's a great one. In Katie's honor, and since it's Halloween, I wanted to share with you a snippet of Poor Peter Burke, a new children's book I am working on currently. Peter Burke has some rather eccentric tastes, much to the confusion of his parents. Here's an excerpt from the manuscript and a sample illustration, below:

POOR PETER BURKE by Jonathan E. Fenske Poor Peter Burke, peculiar lad,

Began to worry Mom and Dad

When he developed little quirks

That most perturbed the elder Burkes…

 

He loved to read and loathed to gab,

And leaned a bit to the macabre

At bedtime snubbing Mother Goose

To sample Poe’s dark omnibus…

 

He had a pet, a raven that

He rescued from the neighbor’s cat

And promptly named Sir Edgar Allan

(Alas, the cat retained a talon)…

A picture of young Peter Burke and his pet raven by Colorado illustrator Jonathan Fenske

Love Is in the Air Review + A Cybils Nomination!

We were delighted to see that Laura Purdie Salas posted a review of Love Is in the Air yesterday on her blog. Thank you, Laura! She is the author of BookSpeak! Poems About Books and Stampede! Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of School, both with Clarion, and a rhyming nonfiction picture book from Millbrook Press called A Leaf Can Be. Image of Love Is in the Air by Jonathan Fenske

Here's an excerpt of the review (we love her writing!):

"Drama! There aren’t many easy readers where I think, “Oh, no, how is this going to work out!” But I did with this one. When Kite floats to Earth and Balloon is going up, up, up, it’s very foreboding. And it seems hopeless..."

Read the rest of the review, here.

Also, we have learned that Love Is in the Air was nominated for a Cybil, the children's and young adult bloggers' literary awards. This is terribly exciting to be honored by bloggers in this way because literary bloggers were the first people to embrace Love Is in the Air. We have such a place in our heart for the bloggers who reviewed Jonathan's first book. Thank you to Katie Fitzgerald at Secrets and Sharing Soda for the nomination. We're also thrilled to see Jodie Rodriguez from Growing Book by Book on the judging panel, as well as Katie. She reviewed Love Is earlier this year. All three of these bloggers have been such an encouragement!

Housework: I Am Not the Maid

We have this thing in our home where little pink and polka-dotted socks roll inside-out and then beach themselves all over the house, apparently in a last-ditch effort to enjoy life before succumbing to a long, slow journey to the laundry. I find these socks, these mournful little piles of cotton, in all rooms. It's heart-breaking. Who will take a stand and care for their lost plight?

A picture of a sock on a floor

Sometimes, pedestrians walk past without a second glance. Cold, unfeeling monsters. In cute pajamas.

photo 2-4

Oftentimes, the socks stick together against all odds, defying the inevitable, and link hands, for one last fling.

A picture of brown socks on a couch

This is life from here. Lots of little girl socks. All over the house. And a lone woman crying, "I am not the maid!" This falls on deaf ears. And naked feet.

A sample illustration from Guppy Up! by Denver illustrator Jonathan Fenske

Buy Brick: A Jonathan Fenske Illustration

Jonathan has always been fascinated with fairy tales. Here's a recent illustration of the Three Little Pigs, with both the industrious Pig #3 and the Big Bad Wolf thinking that bricks come in pretty handy. An illustration of the Three Little Pigs by Jonathan Fenske

Jonathan is a Penguin USA children's book author and illustrator available for commissioned work. He's collaborated with some fabulous agencies and creative firms. For more information: jonathan (AT) jonathanfenske (DOT) com. 

A Family Portrait

Today, I updated Jonathan's website with a new image showing his children's books (those published, soon-to-be-published and not-yet-found-a-home-but-we're-hoping). I love this collage because it kind of lays out Jonathan's style which is playful and steeped in vintage comics and general cartoon wackiness. Illustrations of Jonathan Fenske's children's books

Here's a key for those playing along at home:

Clockwise, starting at top left.

Love Is in the Air (Penguin USA, 2012)

Bright and Dim (unpublished)

Woodward and McTwee (forthcoming, Penguin USA 2014)

Guppy Up! (Penguin USA 2013)

Chicken Legs (unpublished)

A Pig, A Fox and A Box (under consideration)

Guppy Up!

Center: left, "Buck" from Grubby and Buck (unpublished); right, A Pig, A Fox and A Box

How to Be Happy

My twenties went something like this: graduate college; try to write a novel in a cabin for a year, fail; go to graduate school in N.Y.; return to S.C. and fall crazy, crazy in love. Get married. Move a few times. Start real jobs, making real money. A man hikes to Mills River, RMNP

My thirties were a beautiful mix of career building, novel writing, national parks camping and then parenthood, something that I thought was waaaay too mundane for Jonathan and I. Turns out, it's awesome. And so we had two girls, and as I was inching into dried-up-egg territory, having just turned 40, we gorgeously, blessedly welcomed a third daughter. She eased into the world in a simple tub of water at Mountain Midwifery Center. She was almost ten pounds, and floated up in the water like a chunky, swollen little monkey, one eye cracked to meet me, and the world.

A woman walks through Bishop Castle CO

I think of the years I have been an adult, and by far the best is my 40's. I am just a year or so in, but a lot of things are coming together. I think, mostly, because I know how to be happy even when life isn't perfect.

Simply, I have learned how to be grateful.

A pot of succulents in Colorado

Grateful for what I have, and even for what I do not have, because it teaches me patience, peace and contentedness. For an amazing book on the subject, check out Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts. The subtitle of the book is "A dare to live fully right where you are." I met Ann a few years ago when I was newly pregnant with that fat, gorgeous baby mentioned above and roiling with ante-partum depression, working a job that provided for us but was not my true calling, and desperate to see my husband's talents finally recognized. Yep, it was the right book for me and I took it and ran with it. To say that her dare to live fully even when life is grinding on your back resonated with me would be an understatement. I panted for the message she brought on paper.

A picture of a blooming chive

And so, in my 40's, I am thankful for so much. My gratitude for this imperfect life is messy and frequently uneven. I have been known to have temper tantrums with God. But happiness? It's the joy in the smallest of the small.

Back to the Drawing Board: Guppy Up!

Back to the Drawing Board: Guppy Up!

When you are writing a book, some scenes don't make it in for various reasons. For my second novel, my editor wisely cut about 20 pages that were truly terrible involving a cult-like artists' colony (bless her).

Here's a fun illustration that didn't make the cut for Jonathan's children's book, Guppy Up! (Penguin USA). He ended up writing some other rhyme, which left this scene with no place to go. Enjoy!

New Work: A Pig, A Fox and A Box

   

 

 

 

 

 

Jonathan has written a new children's book, A Pig, A Fox and A Box. I have to say, this might be our collective favorite. We both laugh reading it---he laughs because I am laughing, I like it so much.

The book has three chapters and features the spry and impish fox. Pig is a kindly, slower-moving creature. The two play together one fine day until things go awry. It reminds me a little of the Looney Tunes cartoons we used to watch as kids (and have purchased for our girls). Think rocks and casts and some good-old-fashioned slapstick.

We'll let you know where this one ends up! Fingers crossed, on a bookshelf near you.

An illustration of pig and fox by Jonathan Fenske.

 

Keep up with Jonathan and Jennifer (that's me!) by scrolling to the bottom of the page and subscribing to our blog. Or you can always check out what's happening on Fat and Appy, our online store for canvas prints of Jonathan's work. 

3 Pieces of Art That Make Me Happy

It's snowing (again!) and I'm having a quiet afternoon to write and work. I've been home from my corporate job for about a week a half and my new way of life is still sinking in. (I resigned from my social media job to run Fat and Appy and help Jonathan's career; you can read more about it here.) The house isn't perfect: clothes are strewn about and stubs of crayons the baby has chewed litter the floor. But there are signposts of peace--small pieces of art around the house that tell me I am home. They make me happy. I thought I might share a few with you.

1. Elephant Tea Pot

I realized I loved design and decor when I got out of college. I was in possession of my first apartment outside of Asheville. On a cool, fall Saturday, I wandered into an antique store in Asheville. I spied this elephant tea pot and bought it, relishing in the freedom that came with having a little money in my pocket. (I am sure it was a small amount of money, but still, it was mine!). This little pot has been packed and repacked a half-dozen times...it always goes with me.

Picture of an tea pot shaped like an elephant with baby

2. Blurry Pop

I love this painting by Mr. Jonathan Fenske. One humid summer day in Atlanta, Jonathan decided to lay out some popsicles on a board in the front yard. As they melted, he took pictures every 15 minutes or so. The art project came to an end when Kemp, our Australian shepherd, discovered the pops and ate them. (Want your own Pop? We have a Giclee print version inspired by Blurry Pop in our online store.)

A painting of a creamsicle by Jonathan Fenske

3. Swinging Bird Timestone Clock

We picked up this clock for super cheap at a thrift store. This hangs in our kitchen and is just delightful. It makes me happy just to look at it. You have to see it in action for the full effect (I took a five-second video).

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2OB_WI2Pmc]

That's it from here for today...what pieces of art do you have that you love and make you happy? If you liked this post, you may enjoy our blog post, Art on a Budget: Six Ways to Find Art That's Affordable

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? 

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

 

IMG_3494

 

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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.