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

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

I Love My Anythink

I love my Anythink. I say this statement at least once per week, and all of my friends know I can't stop yapping about how great our quirky library is. Anythink is seven libraries in Adams County, Colorado, a suburban community north of Denver. Anythink is a true Cinderella story: Rangeview, our local library district, was the least-funded in the state with dilapidated buildings and dusty, dispirited collections. We moved to Thornton in 2007 and visited our closest branch once. We never went back. But behind the scenes, things were changing.

Back in 2004, the Rangeview Library district became an independent entity from Adams County. In 2006, voters approved a mill levy increase to fund improvements. Flush with this cash, and led by library director Pam Sandlian Smith, Rangeview was reborn as Anythink: A Revolution of Rangeview Libraries. From worst to first, as they say, and the world noticed. Awards started flying and the Anythink staff now advises library communities around the world.

So, how do I describe Anythink? First of all, the flagship branch, Wright Farms, is two blocks away from our house, so it's bikeable, walkable, it's just close. I love that.

But for everyone else, it's stunning, modern architecture with an outdoor landscape rich in hands-on experiences. It's no late fees and self-checkout. It's the cafe. It's The Studio. It's the soaring ceilings, gorgeous furniture, friendly staff. It's great programming, like a week and a half ago when I took my two youngest to hear author and illustrator David Shannon read Duck On a Bike, our One Book 4 Colorado selection. We also recently attended the opening of The Studio and interacted with cool technology (all five of us, no easy feat, but the staff made it easy).

Thanks, Anythink. Our lives are better because you're here.

David Shannon reads Duck on a Bike

 

Fun Art Today: Illustrator Alex Mathers

wiredmountainillo_mysite Twitter is the best place to discover illustrators. I keep a Twitter list just for illustrators that I follow. I love scrolling the list to see what some pretty talented people are up to. Alex Mathers is one such illustrator. He's a globe-hopping freelance illustrator who works with the Google+ design team, among others. Alex is actually to blame for making Jonathan and I dream a crazy dream: going overseas with our gaggle of girls and working for a time at our projects. Why is Alex to blame for this scheme? It's because he wrote this absolutely wonderful post about his nine months freelancing in Tokyo. He makes freelancing abroad seem so...so...I don't know, something like possible. He's a dangerous man.

Another thing about Alex Mathers: He's an encourager. You know I love this. Alex runs this cool contemporary art site called Ape on the Moon along with the very talented Phillip Dennis who tweeted with me once so we're like practically best friends. Alex and Phillip post about other creative art makers who are doing very cool things.

Secret Pro Tip: Alex also runs the Red Lemon Club, a site dedicated to helping creatives find more clients, network and promote their work effectively in a very classy way (read: not email-blasting hundreds of creative directors.)

Last day to enter the Free Book Friday contest! We're giving away a hardcover copy of Love Is in the Air, Jonathan's new children's book from Penguin USA. Click here, comment and you are entered to (maybe) win!

 

Space Bug Eats Cheery Astronaut

As you may know if you read our blog, Jonathan loves vintage toys. He often sets them up in funny or poignant situations and then photographs them to see how the scene works. He takes the scene that he likes best and then paints with acrylics onto board. Voila! Sometimes, I see him processing an image from one of these photo shoots that makes me laugh out loud. This is one such image. It's called Final Transmission.

http://www.jonathanfenske.com

From the Studio: Paintings

Jonathan is having a rush of post-Christmas commissions. I thought I would show a recent one called "Working Well Together." This was commissioned by a Colorado client in honor of her brother's wedding. This picture isn't the best---in real life, the painting is brighter. You can still get the idea. In my opinion as the artist's wife, I like commissions the best because they are pre-sold. In a gallery, a painting can hang for months or years before they sell. A commission is just a visitor...there's no time to get attached. Working Well Together

A Colorado Christmas

We're just back from the library. A chicken psole cooks in the crockpot, courtesy of my sister-in-law who is visiting from Santa Fe. The house is full with six kids, 10 and under. To say things are in an uproar would be an understatement. But it's a good kind of chaos, the kind where adults carefully plan an outing to Which Wich, Starbucks and then to Anythink. I love Colorado. I don't think I've ever written that here, but it's true. For several years, we longed for the South, our home. But now, six years in, we are Coloradans. We have found the right neighborhood, school, church and we are blessed with more friends than we can carefully tend to. And then there's the beauty that is Colorado. In about an hour, we can be in Rocky Mountain National Park, flash our annual pass, and be off into the wild.

Last month, before we were laid low with influenza, strep throat and pneumonia, we took visiting Fenskes to RMNP. Here are a few shots of the snow, the hike and the gorgeousness that is Colorado. Happy and blessed to be here.

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This Is My Husband's Arm

Jonathan has been doing some visual scribe work for Boulder social media agency Room 214 lately. He was tapped to tell the Room 214 story...which is a really fun tale of two college roommates (James Clarke and Jason Cormier) starting a successful business together, with race cars and rabbits thrown in for good measure. Visual scribing is new to Jonathan, but he's excited to learn a new outlet for illustration. Check out his work (and Room 214's of course!) below. You can also see this today on the Denver Egotist, which is pretty cool, since that's how Room 214 found Jonathan---through his illustrator profile on the Egotist. [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6uO2e3U-DM&w=560&h=315]

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.

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:

The Beautiful Place

Sometimes, shaking up the normal routine is what we need to do to see something beautiful. Jennifer's parents visited this week from South Carolina and we took them to Barr Lake State Park, east of Denver. We wanted to see the baby bald eagles that are nesting there, but the hike was not an option for our multi-generational group. So we stuck close to shore and enjoyed the gorgeous scenery. Every step we took led us past the almost-ready-to-bud-and-bloom Colorado landscape. Winter was over and spring was arriving, glorious blue skies and warm winds trailing in her wake. http://www.jonathanfenske.com

We all get in the rut of normal life. It's easy to forget to lift our heads and take in something special, something beautiful. What are you discovering today?

http://www.jonathanfenske.com