Over the years we have kept a daily online farm & studio journal and have attracted a wonderful community of friends and followers that share a love of John’s photography and fine art, our animal companions on the farm and the stories we tell about living and working as artists, writers and farmers.

We also have a “Someday-List”. You know the one, the list of dreams, creative projects and ideas just waiting for the “right time” to become a reality.

In late winter of 2015, as we were telling the story of a sick lamb we were nursing through a hurt leg, our followers started saying “You should make this into a children’s book!” The same request kept getting repeated, as hundred’s of followers joined in the request. We thought long and hard, “Writing a children’s book together” was on our “Someday-List!” It would mean taking at least a year off, taking no new clients in our creative services and consulting work and taking a big leap of faith to self-publish our first book. (Minimum printing of 4,000 books!)

We decided- if not now, when? Our friends and family believed in us and we believed in each other, so we took a deep breath and took the “dream” off the list and got to work. We launched a 45-day crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter to fund the production of the book. To our disbelief (and delight) we hit our funding goal in under 15 hours!

Every step of the way we involved our on-line friends and followers by sharing the art, design, process and storyline. Thousands of followers gave “real-time” feedback, offers of assistance and encouragement. We received letters and calls and messages of how our stories were positively impacting their lives. What we experienced was so profound and moving, it has become one of the most inspiring highlights of our personal and professional lives.

We published and delivered our first book Sweet Pea & Friends, The SheepOver in August of 2015 to our faithful friends and followers. Through their generosity of support, we were also able to donate over 200 books to libraries, public schools, children’s hospitals and orphanages around the world. In early 2017 we will officially be launching the Sweet Pea & Friends Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to literacy and animal welfare through stories and art to continue giving back in gratitude.

After this amazing experience, we knew we would write another book but we never expected what happened next.

One of our local independent bookstore owners, Elizabeth Blumle, of Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, Vermont (who has since become a good friend), unbeknownst to us was also a valued contributing writer for Publisher’s Weekly. Within 2 hours of her review of our book, we had literary agents from around the country calling us. The first to call was Brenda Bowen of Greenberger Associates in NYC. We knew from the start she was the perfect person to represent our work and soon became our literary agent. Although we did not know it at the time, we have since learned she is considered the “rock-star” of literary agents. (As in “the woman” who discovered JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame!)

Within a week we had the top publisher’s in the world bidding on our book and we were humbled by the prospect of being able to choose an offer from amongst the best in the industry. We chose Little Brown for Young Readers. This publisher then did something that we were told “is just not done” in the publishing world. They put our book out for the Christmas holiday season within five weeks of acquisition. In a normal publishing schedule, it would be 18-24 months for a newly acquired book like ours to reach the market.

The publicity surrounding the multi-publisher’s bidding to acquire our book plus a multi-book contract soon found us sitting in front of our little barn on hay bales chatting with Jim Axelrod of CBS Evening News, we were to be the “heart warming, human-interest story” for the holidays. (Yes, it’s as surreal as it sounds.) It didn’t stop there, the Associated Press, PBS, local and national television stations and newspapers…the phone did not stop ringing. We celebrated the end of the year with a community-wide “Barn Lighting” right before Christmas to thank everyone that supported us locally. The news started with an invitation to read our book at the Lincoln Center in NYC, who has wonderful children’s program at the Atrium to introduce children to authors and artists. We have been invited back for a holiday reading of our next book, Brave Little Finn, on December 17, 2016 (please see Events for details).

While holding our breath and being cheered on by our friends and followers we watched in disbelief as Sweet Pea & Friends, The SheepOver made the New York Times Best Selling Children’s Picture Book List in January of 2016.

We have been very busy this year, not only running our farm and raising our family and entertaining visitors to the farm to “meet the book characters” but also writing and illustrating the next two books in the Sweet Pea & Friends series. Next up is Brave Little Finn which will be released October 4, 2016, the board book version of The SheepOver will be available in February 2017 and our third book staring our Border Collie Maisie Grace is due for release in the fall of 2017. In addition to being published in all English-speaking countries, the first three books will also be translated into Chinese and Norwegian (so far) by other international publishers.

We continue to tell our daily story online on Facebook and have now expanded to a blog, this website and a variety of other social media platforms to share our story life on the farm and in the studio.

Consider this your invitation to join in our community of friends on your favorite social media site because the story continues… “Beyond the Book.”

John & Jennifer

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