Book Launch Buttons for Book Bloggers

A children's book by Denver illustrator Jonathan Fenske called A Pig, A Fox and A Box

We’re officially getting ready for the launch of A Pig, A Fox and A Box in June! This Young Reader (Penguin USA) Jonathan wrote and illustrated features three stories with Pig and Fox and their pranking antics involving a Box.

With each book, we like to send out copies to our book bloggers who are working hard to let readers know about great books, new and old. This year, we’ll mail one of these buttons with the books!

If you’re a book blogger who would like to receive a copy of A Pig, A Fox and A Box, please leave a comment or send a note to me, Jennifer, at jennifer [AT] fatandappy [DOT] com. Thank you!

Parents and library staff, if you are in the market for an easy reader or young reader children’s book, we invite you to check out Jonathan’s other titles with Penguin, Love Is in the Air, Guppy Up and Woodward and McTwee

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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

How to Be Creative When You Are Exhausted: 3 Things You Need to Know

When people find out you have written a book, they often will share that they, too, have a book idea. It’s in their head, this book, and one day, they will write it down.

I get it, I really do.

Colorado artist Jonathan Fenske

Most of us–all of us, really–have something creative inside that’s yearning to get out. We have been blessed with a gem of creativity and before long…it starts to rattle and roll around our heads and hearts until we just know that it must come out. Maybe it’s a new recipe, maybe it’s starting a blog or a book, maybe it’s taking a photography class to finally master that new DSLR.

Whatever it is, this creative nugget can wither in the face of life. In the face of reality. The just getting up and getting on can smother even the most elegant and eye-popping ideas.

I know tiredness. I know messy houses with clean laundry piled high waiting for the folding fairies to show up. I know the exhaustion that comes from starting the day early with small children, commuting to an office, doing good, hard work, and then returning to love those children with dinner, baths, books and prayers.

After that, what’s left? A scrap of an hour? But what of bills, organizing, phone calls with sisters, or a quiet chat with your spouse? How does anything creative get done in a home like this? 

I’m only an expert in my own life (and Jonathan would say his, as well, ha!) but here are three things that have helped us. I hope they can be of use to you, too.

1. Communicate to the people who live in your house what you will be doing. 

I have a persistent child who loves to draw out bedtime so it’s about two hours long. If I give in to her nightly demands, I would never write another word in my life. So, I say to the older girls: “Mommy is putting you to bed at 7:45. You can read for a while, but I am going downstairs and writing.” They hardly ever argue when I set up the evening like this.

You have to draw the line in the sand for your time to be creative. Protect that space. Maybe your time is your lunch hour when you walk to a coffee shop and bang out some words on your tablet at a dented coffee table (I’ve done this). Or perhaps you trade babysitting with another mom so you can attend a Craftsy class while the house is quiet.

I know some of you are thinking: “But I am tired and you’re telling me to work more!” Yep, I sure am. Trust me on this one: when you step into that magic hour, you will work hard. But you’ll come out jazzed, energized, more alive. And the best part? You won’t be resentful or snippy because you are doing what you are supposed to do: fulfilling your calling.

2. Accept that you cannot do everything. And then do just one thing. 

We are launching an online store to sell stretched canvas prints of some of Jonathan’s designs. My to-do list is a mile long as we get ready to roll out the store to bloggers, designers and our art supporters. My head could spin, but I learned long ago that today only has a few things on the list. Maybe five, sometimes just one. You’ll get better at figuring out what goes on the list, but here’s a hint: When it’s on the list, it gets done. That’s because you’ve given it a sacred place on the list, and you have focused your heart and mind on it.

It does no good to make lists that you cannot do. If you cannot devote an hour to writing a blog post, then don’t add it to the list. Instead, your list should include the things you can do. Maybe it’s Return Liz’s email and Send invoice to client.

3. Never, ever compare yourself with anyone else’s success. 

You’ve finally stepped into that magic hour. The work is happening and you take a moment to read a favorite blogger. She’s just announced her new book contract, her development deal with a cable network and she tops it off by sharing glamorous photos from a recent trip to New York (sponsored by Glade!)

This is what you must know: you will drain away your last resources if you waste a moment of jealousy on someone else’s success. 

You don’t want her troubles, and she doesn’t want yours.

Let it go, wish the wonderful writer/artist/actor/mom well and go back to your journey. Your gift is something the world needs and even though you are exhausted, it’s up to you to make it happen. Being resentful or spiteful or envious only hurts your creative offering because we might not get to see it. Discouragement is an ugly step-sister to jealousy.

Guard your time well. Be grateful for your opportunities, even when they happen quietly, out of the public eye. Give thanks for each spark of genius you have. And may you have many more.

What about you? How are you creative even when exhausted? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

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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.)

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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!

Eye on: Illustrator Ben Clanton

Getting lost in blogs today, following links down the illustrator rabbit trail. I am digging Ben Clanton (author and illustrator of the brand new Vote for Me! picture book. He also illustrates Jasper John Dooley: Star of the Week by Caroline Adderson). Fun, pretty and engaging work. We love it.

From Ben’s website: “It’s a big election year, and Elephant and Donkey are pandering for votes. “Hey you! Yes, you with the great hair and that dazzling smile,” says Donkey. “[I]f you pick me, I’ll give you peanuts!” promises Elephant. But it doesn’t take long for the candidates to forget about the voters and turn on each other (“Elephants don’t stink!” “Well, you certainly do, you big, stinky pooper scooper”), resulting in both figurative and literal mudslinging. Unlike some grown-up candidates, Elephant and Donkey repair their friendship—just in time to realize that the voters have already moved on. First-time author Clanton renders his battling duo in the pencil-like grays and blacks of classic editorial cartoons (Donkey almost always appears on the left against a blue background, while Elephant is on the right against red). Even readers unfamiliar with the political process will understand the demands being made on their loyalty. For children getting their first taste of presidential politics in 2012, this is a worthwhile testimony to the current state of political discourse. Ages 4–8.”