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!

Jonathan Fenske Illustration: Chicken Legs

Jonathan is doing editorial/commercial illustrations for Mercury Payment Systems and New York Life this week. I'll show some of that work later, but for now, here's a quick illustration from Chicken Legs, an as yet unpublished children's book Jonathan has written and illustrated. You can see more of Jonathan's children's book characters and books in this blog post. Chicken Legs is about a young chicken who gets teased by his friend Pig and Goat because of his "chicken legs" His father lovingly steps in to help comfort his son by sketching some drawings...with some funny results.

Chicken Legs image, a children's book by Jonathan Fenske

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

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

 

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. 

From Out of the Ashes: A Piggy Phoenix

Two pigs get married Sometimes, art comes out of the trash.

Jonathan purchased these cute pig figurines a few years ago. He loved their whimsical pigginess, the look in the groom's eye and the blushing playfulness of the bride. He promptly set them up and photographed them. He planned to paint the little pigs. (Jonathan has always loved painting vintage toys. You can see examples of his Fisher-Price/vintage toy paintings on his website.)

Alas, Jonathan never got the chance to paint them. The fragile porcelain figurines proved too alluring for our then-five-year old and she destroyed them with one swipe of her hand. Into the trash they went, a pile of shards.

Until last week when Jonathan came across the photograph he took before the pigs shattered. He asked me, did I think they would translate well to our new Fat and Appy canvases? I said I thought they would, and so he created a digital drawing of our besotted pig friends on their Big Day. I wish them well, don't you?

"Marry Me Pig" is available in green, gray and peach at FatandAppy.com, starting at $99. All purchases through April 24 receive a free copy of Love Is in the Air by Jonathan Fenske. Sign up for our emails and receive 15% off your next purchase. 

Children's Modern Art Canvases + Free Autographed Book

It's crazy exciting to announce our first promotion for Fat and Appy: Modern Art Canvases: A Free Autographed Copy of Love Is in the Air by Jonathan Fenske with purchase. No coupon code needed: We'll throw an autographed softcover copy of Love Is in the Air* into each order through April 24, 2013. Shop on, art lover! If you have been following our blog, you know we have been moving toward focusing Fat and Appy on art, rather than apps. We still love apps (hello, Apple!) but our first love has always been art. So, Fat and Appy is officially relaunching as Fat and Appy Modern Art Canvases for Children. 

A happy fat tomato with green background

There are several reasons for our new direction. A lot of parents want to have affordable art for their children's rooms and play spaces. Too often, they are stuck with tacky prints at big-box stores. Simple, short-run prints have a place, too, and you can find them on Etsy, for instance, but then you have to frame them and we've found not everyone wants to do that.

Need tips for finding affordable art? Check out our post, "Art on a Budget: 6 Ways to Find Art That’s Affordable"

Another reason is that we discovered an amazing partner to create our canvases. They are handmade in North America, guaranteed not to fade or crack for 99 years and we offer a 30-Day Happiness Guarantee. The quality is so good, I practically swooned when I saw the first sample.

An orange popsicle on a blue background by Jonathan Fenske

We've added 18 designs to the store, starting with the artwork from Healthy Creatures (that's our app for iPad!) plus some fun Popsicle illustrations. Jonathan is hard at work on more illustrations, so if you have some ideas, leave a comment below.

Two peas with faces with pink background

More details, if you are in to that type of thing:

-High-quality canvas stretched over 1.5" wooden frame

-Printed with gallery-quality Giclee method

-Available in four sizes

-Designed by Jonathan Fenske

-Canvas wraps around sides providing a white finished decorative edge

-Durable piano wire mounted on back for easy hanging

Thanks for reading, and for supporting us!

--Jen and Jonathan

Who are Jennifer and Jonathan? Read about us, here.

Image of Love Is in the Air by Jonathan Fenske

* While supplies last. Softcover copy of Love Is in the Air by Jonathan Fenske has a retail value of $3.99. Sorry, we cannot personalize the autograph. No cash value. Offer ends April 24, 2013. 

5 Tips for Writing the Best Love Letter Ever

Forget the perfume. Ditch the roses. For Valentine's Day this year, all you need is a pen and a pretty piece of paper. Your love letter doesn't have to be penned to a romantic partner. Write what's in your heart to your child, mother or father, best friend or simply someone special in your life.

If you need a little nudge, I've written 5 pointers below. Go ahead...write a letter this year! Your loved one will always cherish it. Four times per year, Jonathan and I pen letters to each other (birthdays, our anniversary, Mother's/Father's Day and Christmas.) I love that our girls will inherit boxes of letters from their parents. As our oldest says now when she sees us kiss (with gentle disgust): "Smoochie! Smoochie!"

Valentine's Love Letter Tip #1: Tell Them Why You Are Writing

This is a secret tip to writing a good love letter. Open your note telling your loved one why you wanted to write this letter.

Dear Honey, I wanted to sit down and tell you a few things that are in my heart. 

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Valentine's Love Letter Tip #2: Reference Your Current State of Affairs

Life is crazy right now. With the three girls, it seems like we're always making a peanut butter sandwich or scraping one off the ceiling. 

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Valentine's Love Letter Tip #3: Tell Your Loved One You're Crazy about Them

But even with our long days of chasing our art dreams while chasing down the girls, my heart still jumps when I see your face. 

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Valentine's Love Letter Tip #4: Praise Something Awesome 

Quite frankly, I'm in awe of your talent. I'm blown away by how you care for us. I am deeply, deeply thankful that you are the biggest part of my life. 

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Valentine's Love Letter Tip #5: End with a Sentiment from the Heart

My home will always be with you.

I love you, 

Jennifer 

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This week's contest winner is Jaymie from Snacks for Max! Thanks, Jaymie, for commenting! Please also check out Jaymie's blog for a really sweet review she wrote of Jonathan's easy reader Love Is in the Air. Last week, we also had a great post on Rochelle Melander's Write Now Coach blog (Jonathan guest blogged about his fave children's books). And Secrets and Sharing Soda did a beautiful review of Love Is in the Air.

Photographs Copyright 2013 Jennifer & Jonathan Fenske

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!

Free Book Friday: Win a Copy of Love Is in the Air

Hi friends! Jonathan and I are super happy to launch a new Friday freebie: we're giving away a hardcover copy of Love Is in the Air each Friday for five weeks. That's five chances to win! For today, please leave a comment telling us the answer to this question: Who will you read Love Is in the Air with?

On Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, we'll choose a number from Random.org and that number entry will be our winner. Easy! (Contest is open to U.S. addresses only, please.)

Screen shot 2013-01-24 at 9.45.47 PM

Want to know more about Love Is in the Air? Read this wonderful review by the children's book blog Sweet on Books. It's posted on their blog and also the NYC local ABC affiliate, WABC's website. I think the WABC link will only work for one week, so click today to see it!

Melissa from Sweet on Books writes: "Love Is in the Air is a cheerful, heart-warming story; this is a subject not often found in "Learn to Read" books. This particular kind of children's book is deceptively hard to write, and write well. I don’t think that many authors even attempt it. So much of what is out there is just meh. But Jonathan Fenske has changed that."

Thanks very much to Melissa and the folks at Sweet on Books. Stop in there for quality children's book recommendations, plus a gorgeously designed site that makes you want to stay around for a long time. They have an awesome rating system, plus you can sort recommendations by reader level which is very helpful.

Good luck and get those entries in!

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

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.

Making a Children's App for iPad: Why Are We Doing This Again?

Just dropping in while the house is asleep to post a link to our second YouTube video for the new app company, Fat and Appy. You can't start up smaller than us! Exhibit A is this homemade video. But you know what, I love it. We are doing this new app out of our (sappy language alert!) creative wellspring. I really need to go to sleep. I think I just wrote creative wellspring.

Okay, dear reader, I am signing off. Because I respect you too much to continue.

But before I go, a quick update on the art garage sale. We have sold two of the four paintings. Thank you, social media!

Also, this: The new app for iPad, Healthy Creatures, comes out later this month. We had thought it would be the 11th, but alas, we are still in line at Apple.

For those following carefully on the video, I am wearing a Lisa Leonard necklace called "Captured Heart" and it is turned around backwards. I love me some Lisa Leonard. 

Finally, Jonathan's first Penguin USA children's book is ready for pre-order! It comes out Dec. 27, 2012, so if you like to get your New Year's 2013 shopping done early (ahem), here's a link.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMCLmRuuoO4]