Archive for the ‘picture books’ Category


Yeah, it’s one of those posts – all about me. Anyway, The folks at Sub It Club (a fine blog to follow if you are into publishing or writing or need help getting through those rejection letters and emails we all get from editors and art directors!) called me up (well, emailed me) and asked if I would partake in an interview. Said interview was done and it’s posted now. Apparently I talked too much (no surprise there…my teacher taped my mouth shut in first grade)  so the interview is in two chunks. A double chunk interview. Yum! Served with whip cream and cherries I hope.


I talk about the self promotion I have attempted to do and about my current projects and such.

Sub It Club has a ton of useful info and posts about submitting work to publishers and interviews with lots of artists on how they make their way in the world of being freelancers.


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youngmarkI often get asked how I got into this field of work but the more interesting question is how I did not get into this field of work. Here is how it DIDN’T all start.

Let’s get into the Way Back Time Machine and set the dial to 1992 or 1993. I’ll figure it out when I get there. You have to pump the time accelerator, the space-time spark plugs are corroded.

There. Now it’s working… A few years after graduating college I was working at a connectivity software company doing interface/ interactive design and would soon be working on some very early websites. (Can you say grey backgrounds?) I was also doing some freelance illustrations and was in love with picture books.

A local author/illustrator named Kevin Henkes (Yeah THAT Kevin Henkes. Still have all his books) was generous enough to spend time on a phone call or email with me (I don’t remember which now) and he explained enough about submitting that I decided to try it out. A generous bunch these author/illustrators. My career has depended on the generosity of people like this.

I researched an imprint that fit my work, called the publisher and got an editor’s name (man was I energized!) and rules for submission (I was a worker bee back then!). I had my dummy in pencil roughs and two illustrations with color finishes (Kinkos color photocopies – at the time color copies were like magic), my manuscript properly printed out and proofed (spelling was mostly pretty good – I like to say), included a SASE – and off it went.

Back to work for me and checking the mail every day. Three weeks later I walked home for lunch (I lived just down the street from where I worked.) and in the mailbox was my SASE. I was expecting the worst (the Minnesotan in me I think) but a sliver of me hoped that maybe, just maybe – they decided to buy my book, had sent me a check for twenty thousand dollars and decided already it was the best picture book ever written.

I was enthusiastic, inexperienced, naive – a perfect fit to jump into publishing! My hands were shaking as I sat at my cluttered kitchen table and opened the envelope.

Inside was my dummy, my manuscript – and a letter from the editor! (I still have it filed somewhere) And it basically said, this is a pretty good book. Here’s some ideas to work on. When you are ready send it back.

WOW! Yowza! Holly SASE Batman! It was encouragement which means so much when you are starting out.

I immediately set to work thinking about the ideas from the editor that afternoon. I didn’t get a lot of work done at work that day… Within two weeks I sealed up another envelop and sent back my revisions. (MAN! I was efficient back then.)

I had started to believe that it was within the realm of possibility that I could do this and I waited.

About 2 months later I got my SASE back. And no, there wasn’t a check or a publishing contract inside (let the kid dream) – but there was another letter. It said that the editor I had corresponded with was no longer with this publisher (I hope she wasn’t fired for encouraging a slub like me!) and that no other editors had any interest in this project. (She must have been fired for questionable taste when she encouraged a slub like me!) Bye and thank-you-very-much.

And that was that. My introduction to picture books. It would be more than a decade before I would look at this industry seriously again and submit a picture book.

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The first review of Tommy Cant Stop! (that I have seen anyway) is in. You can click here and go read it at Kirkus. But I’ll post the whole thing here incase you are pressed for time. I know I have a lot of cat videos to catch up on after being away from the computer for 2 days!


Little brother Tommy is a perpetual-motion machine, and he is driving his family bonkers.

The tireless tyke bounces like a pogo stick, kicks like a bulldozer, clomps like an elephant and jumps hurdles like an antelope. He never stops, putting his parents and sister into an exhausted state of weary exasperation. Fortunately his sister, attired in a pink tutu, comes up with a solution and hands Tommy a pair of tap shoes. No pink! No tutus! But tap-dance class is a revelation. The teacher also bounces like a pogo stick. No, she informs Tommy, she is performing a “HOP.” The teacher kicks like a bulldozer. No, she informs Tommy, she is performing a “BRUSH.” Tommy is thrilled and is soon appearing on stage in a solo. Broadway veteran and middle-grade novelist Federle has good fun with language and similes in his picture-book debut. His little tapper is a strong and sturdy boy who finds the perfect outlet for his volcanic energy. Fearing’s full-bleed artwork is full of motion, with his Tommy sporting a mop of blond hair and googly eyes. An animated line of dashes that flits around the apartment allows readers to truly appreciate Tommy’s energy spurts.

An enjoyable performance for both the boisterous and the calm. (Picture book. 4-7)

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It’s always exciting when I see the book taking form in full color. This is a capture from my InDesign file where I import the pages of the book as I work on them in order to see them in layout.

This is an early book in progress, but because I work digitally this step helps me see the color pace of the book. How the pages look one after another. I’ve made some guesses as I develop it, but now it’s easy to see what’s working. And what’s not.

I have a  long way to go with this book, but I feel a little better when pages begin to fall into place as I hoped they would. Working on final art is probably my least favorite process when I work on a book – I worry more at this stage – and changes are usually much more difficult to institute. But I also relish the opportunity that working digitally provides: that I can change my mind and react to what I am seeing throughout the process pretty easily and fairly quickly. At least compared to reworking an entire watercolor painting!

It’s all baby steps …


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I apologize


I am making my amends today to all those people (friends, family, agents, editors) who read my early manuscripts. My Very First Drafts I call them now. And so many people WERE kind enough to read them. Wow. And many of them returned useful thoughts and reactions which is even nicer. And the people I never heard from again – I know why now.

I’m just finishing the first draft of a middle grade novel I started last August, and I’ll be putting it away for a few weeks now to ‘age’. Then I will take it out and start in on a second draft. This is a process I didn’t utilize when I was younger.

I’ve written 4 (what I would call) middle grade novels now, this latest is my 5th. The first time I finished a novel I was so excited – well, we all know what happens. I sent it off  WAY too soon to waaaaay too many people. It was a rookie mistake. I make lots of rookie mistakes – even though I am not a rookie. Should be on my gravestone – ‘Lived a Rookie. Died A Rookie.’

Since that first time I have never had a novel come out of  a second draft in good enough shape to send to anyone. I’m hoping my newest might. The other night I took that first novel I finished, from 12 years ago, out and read it. Man…I’m so sorry for those who made their way through it or tried and couldn’t. I can’t get you your time back. Sorry!

But I do admire the enthusiasm I had with it. That should not be discounted by all those who get that Very First Draft from someone or for those who are taking their first writing steps. I don’t muster that kind of enthusiasm with my first drafts these days and often not with my second or third drafts either.

I’ve been working on a picture book manuscript for 3 years now. (And don’t we all know people who are sure picture books are easy to write because they have so few words!?) I’ve ripped it apart and put it together too many times to count and I’m starting to think there is some organic flaw in it because it is still suffering fatal issues.

Thanks to all the people out there that do take time to read a Very First Draft from a Very Young Writer. And another belated thanks to the ones who have read mine.

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My next book will be out in 3 short months. Well, February is short. In April 2015 get ready for Tim Federle’s Tommy Can’t Stop! I had the pleasure of illustrating Tim’s first picture book. You’ll be hearing lots more about this one!




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Sure turkey time is past and I gotta stop talking about my Thanksgiving book, but hey, here’s a great review of The Great Thanksgiving Escape from The Las Vegas Review Journal by Terri Schlichenmeyer.

“Yes, this is a kids’ book, but I absolutely loved the imaginations and the naughty glee that author-illustrator Mark Fearing gives his main characters; there’s so much mischief in every word and picture of this book that I lingered on the pages, just because I liked the rowdiness it implied. Is there an adult who won’t remember that with fondness? I don’t think so, and I don’t think there’s a kid who won’t find it hilarious.”


And here is one from the Citizen-Times written by Jennifer Prince.

“Fearing’s drawings are enhanced digitally, enriching the color saturation and shading throughout the book. Fearing’s drawing style is a cross between Charles Addams, the artist who created the Addams Family cartoons, and David Shannon, the author and illustrator of the “David” picture books. The mix of mild eeriness and cheeky joie de vivre is unique to Fearing, and complements the satirical humor of the story perfectly.

“The Great Thanksgiving Escape” is a delightful story to read-aloud this holiday. Most likely, the book will become a perennial favorite.”


And it’s always a thrill to be called out in my home state. The Great Thanksgiving Escape made an appearance in this list of wintry kids books from the Minneapolis Star Tribune by L.K Hanson.

“This mission includes the dangerous negotiating of “The Hall of Aunts” and “The Great Wall of Butts.” Fearing’s work has an appealing edginess that resonates with kids, and he’s a careful observer of telling detail, which adds to the enjoyment.”


And now I promise – I’m done tooting the Thanksgiving book horn.

But in this day and age and given the media saturation we live in, reading that ones work has resonated somewhere, even for a short time, is not only gratifying, it provides the energy to keep at it. It helps me sit in my chair for long hours and difficult revisions. It helps create a bit of a calm so I can settle into what is otherwise a rather lonely, isolating job. It’s like getting an answer to ones frenetic screaming.

And you know, you can read the book all year long…I’m just saying…

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