The world of publishing and authorship got a little bit bigger this semester at Benedictine University. Working under the direction of Chris Birks, associate professor of communications arts, fourteen BenU students developed a publishing company, The Comfy Chair Publishing, and last week released two children’s books on Amazon titled “Cheer Up Charlie” and “Bailey the Bee’s Big Adventure.”
Working as part of a semester long assignment for their COMM 353 class, Comfy Chair Publishing was started to provide readers with affordable and impactful publications with an emphasis on engaged student learning. “Cheer Up Charlie” and “Bailey the Bee’s Big Adventure” are the company’s first children’s books, written, illustrated and designed by the students. Both editions are available as eBooks or soft cover books. The eBooks are selling for $3.99 apiece while the printed versions go for $7.99.
“In the ten years I’ve been teaching, I’ve never seen students take ownerships of a project like this before. They completely believed we could publish these books and they put in the work to make it happen. I am very proud of them,” said Birks.
“Bailey the Bee’s Big Adventure” is a story about a bee (Bailey) that looks different than the rest in her hive due to her tiny wing. Her curiosity prompts her to go out of her hive to explore but she ends up getting lost in a zoo. The book was written by Chelsi Blair and Matti Oshin. Nick Ginnan, Sophia Mattimiro, Sam Short, Emily Sinn, and Birks edited the publication with the illustrations done by Austin Gascoigne.
“Cheer Up Charlie” is a story about Charlie the Crayon, who can’t wait to have a day full of fun playing at the park. With a little help from his mom and a whole lot of courage, Charlie learns finding your place in a crowded park may not be so tough after all. The book was written by Janelly Benitez and Tiffany Busch. Kaitlyn Caravello, Rob Eber, Leslie Toran, and Birks were the editors while Ariana Poe and Trea Pierce did the illustrations.
According to a statista.com, start-up publishing companies are becoming more common, inspiring writers of all ages to bypass the traditional route of getting published. Birks’ COMM 353 class for advanced writing, editing and page design supports this notion. The class description states students work on a major publications projects, engage in critical reading of media content, discuss writing, editing and page design strategies, have drafts of their work critiqued in class, and develop a professional portfolio of work.
“I tried to run the class as close to an actual publishing firm as possible. There were multiple teams and each person had a role inside that team. They had to meet deadlines, deal with production problems and learn how to work inside a group to produce a quality product,” said Birks.
“Cheer Up Charlie” and “Bailey the Beed” are not the first projects produced by Comfy Chair. Earlier in the year, the company published the “Dupage Valley Review”, an eclectic journal of art, poetry, short fiction and features published once a year by BenU students within the College of Liberal Arts. All Comfy Chair publications are listed on the company website, www.thecomfychairpublishing.com.
According to Birks and the participating students, the goal for Comfy Chair Publishing is to continue to run the company into the fall semester and hopefully work with small, independent content creators on eBooks or printed copies as long as the authors fit the mission of the company and the ethics of higher education.
“Throughout the process, we had one goal - create books that the students would be so proud of that they would want to read them to their own children someday. I think we met that goal,” added Birks.
Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has a branch campus in Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls more than 5,000 students in undergraduate and graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the eighth consecutive year in 2018. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ben.edu.