Author of the Month: Boak FerrisPublished: December 18, 2012
Stewart and the Magic Carpet
Boak Ferris, lecturer, English/Comparative World Literature and Classics
Boak Ferris, a member of the university for 35 years, recently saw the publication of his e-book for children, Stewart and the Magic Carpet. “The book started as a doodle when I was an undergraduate,” he recalled. “My favorite professor, Lawrence Stewart, author of The Gershwin Years, somewhat resembled a penguin, so I sketched him that way.” Ferris speculated about what would happen to the doodled penguin if it could fly. “Organically, penguins can’t, so I resorted to magic, and the only flying magic I could think to add involved a magic carpet,” he explained. How much jeopardy Stewart should face also became an issue regarding child psychology. “It is the experimental nature of children to try things to test their world,” he explained. “They don’t want to get in too much trouble, but there is always a certain amount of conflict involved. That’s when I decided to re-invent Stewart as a would-be experimenter and tester. He uses these skills, initially with little success, to find a way to return home to Antarctica. Ultimately, he has to learn to compromise and negotiate with the new friends he makes.” The technology didn’t exist to create the final book Ferris visualized when he first sat down to write Stewart and the Magic Carpet. “Also, I wasn’t an artist, but I forced myself do the illustrations,” he said. “They looked like a kid’s drawings, but I hoped kids would respond to that. I still hope so. I decided to leave the drawings in black and white when I found there were paint programs, applications, for use with e-books that enable the readers to paint over illustrations in the stories they read. In that way readers can become co-authors. I also recently composed a piece of music to accompany the story, which I intend to embed in the file for a new edition of the book. The nice thing about e-books is that authors can re-publish. As e-book platforms evolve, writers find they can easily publish new editions. The technology is available.” When he began his e-publishing research, Ferris was surprised to discover a very accessible technology. “It turned out not to be intimidating,” he said. “It is actually welcoming. Reputable publishers in the marketplace make it easy, by providing free tips and conversion software. A novice e-author can also find
free expert coaching tips on the Internet. I would also coach any interested faculty and colleagues, although many here are way ahead of me. The e-publishing formats include space for creative multi-dimensional visions. E-books and articles can present not only text, but images and/or video that can combine with painting and music, within specific file-size requirements. The technology exists today that brings together all these elements and at relatively little cost to the author. It’s a very exciting time.” Ferris encourages other faculty members to start learning about e-publishing. “Do an online search of high-powered academic publications created by tenure-track faculty members across the country,” he said. “I think that would make an excellent place to start. Once you have your e-book ready to go, the next problem to solve involves helping interested readers find your book. Attracting the readership you want is the important next step. That begins with writing your book’s description with a mind to use easily searchable terms, as e-book publishers give you free space on your book page to do so.” Ferris first arrived at CSULB in 1977 after starting teaching at Cal State Northridge in 1975.