My name is Jennifer Vanderbeek, and I have a thing for monkeys.
In fact, I call myself the Queen of the Helper Monkeys--not because I suffer from delusions of grandeur, but because I disliked the term "minion"; Helper Monkeys just sound more fun.
And, really, monkeys are curious creatures, very agile when jumping between tree limbs or vines, just like me with my many interests and endeavors.
With a few of my original monkeys.
Photo by Qedrin Booth
My love of learning has led me down many paths over the years. While I currently spend my days as a bookkeeper for a commercial printing company in Tallahassee, FL, my evening and weekend pursuits allow me to flex my creative muscles. An early interest in cake decorating led to enrolling in Culinary School and graduating in 2000 with a short stint as acting Pastry Chef for a AAA 4-diamond Plantation Resort in South Georgia.
Unfortunately, that couldn't pay the bills so I went back to bookkeeping and turned to art as my primary creative outlet. While taking a couple of courses at the local community college (figure drawing and watercolor) I fell in love with webcomics. An infatuation with mixology led me to create the original Character Cocktail and my comic book cookbook for gamers, What to Feed Your Raiding Party.
If it's crafty, chances are pretty good that I've tried it, and even better that I wrote about it in a How To for a certain helpful website as their Arts (& Crafts) Expert. Learning is one thing, being able to share that knowledge and experience with others is a whole new level of enjoyment for me. When that program ended I was able to devote more time to my blog, Scraps of Life.
But as much as I love working on my own projects, I've found collaboration with others to be a creative kick-in-the-pants, too. In 2011 I started accepting freelance illustration clients, creating mascots and illustrating concepts for creative small business owners. In 2013 I got the opportunity to design my first board game and, simultaneously, add a proficiency with Illustrator to my knowledge of Photoshop and InDesign.
I thought I'd never make it out of Florida, after being transplanted there from my native Louisiana against whatever will a 6-year-old has; several attempts in my teens and twenties having failed miserably. Just when I'd accepted my fate, along came an opportunity to buy a fixer-upper Victorian home just over the state line in Georgia. By heading north I've finally landed back in the true South and couldn't be happier.
In my steampunk chef's coat, leading creators at MobiCon 2014 through the ins and outs of working with print shops.
Photo by Ray Redlich
Words like "teach" and "inspire" are pretty heavy and come with a lot of expectations. Instead, I've found I'm much more comfortable with words like share and encourage--they better reflect what I like to do and what people need to have in their life.
I feel a deep sense of satisfaction when I lead panels at conventions on self-publishing and self-promotion, so have decided to branch out into the coaching world to help other creative souls finish their projects and achieve their goals.
Art-wise I'm branching out, too. In 2015 I launched The Crafty Branch and a line of Creative Mischief Kits, intended to help people ignite their creative spark. There are more cookbooks to write, and more things to discover, and I look forward to sharing all about it on my blog.