Having two children under the age of 5, Westmont resident Carrie Ann Bronkowski spends a lot of time at the Westmont Public Library and a lot of time reading children’s books. Her older son is on track to complete the library’s 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten challenge, having read more than 900 books since June.
“My kids and I read all the time and I wanted to make some books for them,” Bronkowski said.
The artist and art instructor with a background in digital illustrations had created a children’s story years ago and reached out to publishers without success. She filed the digital story away until several months ago, when a friend suggested she try again, but this time using the opportunity to self-publish through Amazon.
While she said there was a learning curve to tweaking her digital illustrations to fit page designs and working with page gutters, bleeds and book binding, the results are five children’s books she recently self-published.
“Self-publishing has changed so completely in the past couple years,” Bronkowski said.
Her books feature simple messages and her personal digital illustrations full of color in the stories “I Love You S’More,” “Love is Everywhere,” “Pumpkins Hate Christmas” and “Pumpkins Love Underwear.” The last title was inspired by some Halloween humor and, yes, her two young sons. Growing up in a family full of nephews and a niece, Bronkowski is pretty familiar with boy humor.
When creating the books she would share the stories and progress with her sons.
“I got to include my boys and I’d ask them questions. We’d read what I have,” Bronkowski said. “This has been really great.”
Bronkowski grew up in Westmont and recalls always having paper around whether it was for art or making homemade books.
“Art was such a huge part of my childhood,” she said. “As a kid I would staple sheets of paper together to write books.”
She pursed a bachelor’s degree in fine art with an emphasis in digital art at Elmhurst University and a graduate degree at Northern Illinois University in painting and working with mixed media.
Using a box of old paperback romance novels, she created elaborate paper-dress designs that would earn her invitations to exhibitions. After getting the hang of creating children’s stories, she decided to self-publish a collection of photos from this exhibition, “Fashion from Fiction: Dresses by Carrie Ann Schumacher.” Schumacher is her maiden name.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I really love the beautiful photos. It was so nice to put together,” she said.
“Munchi: A Turtle Finds His Confidence” is the story she created several years ago and had sought to publish. She now has self-published the story.
“I love it. I love graphic novels,” she said.
Creating the stories allowed her to find an artistic outlet that unlike painting does not require setup and cleanup and can easily fit into unpredictable toddler nap times. She was able to juggle between work and caring for her children, often pulling out her laptop after getting the boys to bed and working for a few hours a night.
“I really enjoyed it because I feel like each book is a piece of art,” Bronkowski said.
She has taught art classes at the College of DuPage for the past eight years. The college professor and artist said hearing the word author as a title still seems a little foreign to her.
“Sometimes you just have to make things happen for yourself,” Bronkowski said. “Something I talk about with my students is that you just have to take that leap. Even if you feel it’s not perfect, other people will look at it and never know it’s not perfect.”