Content Creators

Halloween is days away and a colleague and I were talking. It turns out that his four-year-old daughter and my six-year-old daughter are both dressing up as Hermione, the strong female lead in the Harry Potter books. We laughed about the coincidence (after all, the HP series ended five years ago) but it got me thinking. Hermione is an original fictional character, completely invented and brought to life by J. K. Rowling. Without the author, my eldest would be going as something else entirely. Last year, she went as WordGirl, an awesome PBS character created by Dorthea Gillim.

The world needs more content creators. We all know the desperation of going to the movies and scanning the titles for something that doesn’t end in “2” or “3.” I sigh when I read in Entertainment Weekly that yet another ’90’s movie or television show is being remade again.

Jonathan Fenske in his studio

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?

Jonathan Fenske children's book author

Naturally, this is familiar territory to us because Jonathan and I are content creators. We have sent our creative babies out in the world: novels, paintings, children’s books, an app for iPad, cows with toasters*. We’re just like every other creative person: we make something and then share it, hoping it connects with at least one soul, one character at a time.

 

 

* Jonathan would wince, but I still have the fondest memories of that Cow Parade Atlanta cow sitting on our back porch in southwest Atlanta while he worked on it.

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.

While We Have Them

We are holding tight to our girls today here in Colorado. The three of them are getting extra hugs and lots of kisses. Messes don’t seem to bother us; the continuous flood of creative projects falls where it will. The house is disorganized, a little out of place. But there is life, glorious and dirty; endless and finite in our home today. Our hearts grieve for what was lost. And we hold tight to what is here.


 

Sunday at Home: Flying Cars

Around the suburban manse today: making mixed berry crisp with my 6-year-old while the other two girls sleep; trying vainly to clean a curtain that has yogurt splatter-patter; also, lots of lazy reading and skipping around the backyard that now has sad-looking flowers and tomatoes, hardened by last night’s cold snap. And of course, the whispered wish of a 3-year-old: “I wish we had a flying car.”

Photo by Jonathan Fenske

Bunny with Socks by Jennifer Fenske