Chadron State College
Chadron State College

Donahue designs cover of best-selling book

November 14, 2016

Recent book cover design by Mary Donahue, Chadron State College art professor. (Photo by Tena L. Cook/Chadron State College)
Recent book cover design by Mary Donahue, Chadron State College art professor. (Photo by Tena L. Cook/Chadron State College)

CHADRON – Mary Donahue, Chadron State College art professor, designed a book cover that is on top-selling Amazon lists this year. “Pants Optional: Unconventional tips for your road through life & motherhood,” was written by Carol L. Steingreaber, an elementary and high school friend of Donahue’s from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“Carol sent me her book manuscript in the spring of 2015 and I read it and loved it. It’s a hilarious and hopeful look at family life. She asked if I would work on the cover. She and two more of our high school friends came to visit me here in Chadron in June 2015 and we worked through some ideas for the cover. One of the ideas had to do with the stick figure family stickers we see on cars,” Donahue said.

Steingreaber liked the idea so Donahue simplified and personalized it.

“I drew the figures in Adobe Illustrator and tried to add a few defining characteristics like her husband Paul’s short pants, cropped pants and a satchel for her daughter, Kate, and a ball cap for her son, Nick,” Donahue said.

Donahue and Steingreaber worked out the final design via email and phone, and Donahue sent the final book cover design to the publisher in England in early 2016.

Donahue plans to display her draft cover designs in the spring 2017 CSC faculty art show, along with the book.

“I have always loved ideas, content and concept. So I like to read something and then figure out how to visually communicate those ideas. Editorial and book design are especially fun for that,” Donahue said.

Donahue said she designed several book covers when she worked as a marketing manager at the Utah State University Press 1992-1995. The titles included folklore studies and one mountaineering book.

She also designed the covers and interiors of research booklets as well as editorial design including covers for the magazine “Utah Science” when she worked at the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station at Utah State University before being hired at CSC.

“Pants Optional” was ranked No. 1 for eight weeks this spring in Amazon’s Midwest Biographies section of its Hot New Release list. Then the book moved to the top 100 best-sellers that encompasses all Midwest biographies released for 18 weeks during the spring and summer, according to Steingreaber. The book also made Amazon’s Top 100 Gift Ideas (books purchased in quantities) during September.

At Next Page Books in Cedar Rapids, Steingreaber is the No. 1 best-selling local author. At Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, she spoke to a GED writing class with students from ages 16 to 59.

“As I told my story, there was a young man in the back of the room with headphones in the entire time. I was thinking he wasn't paying the least bit of attention. Afterward the professor drew names for a free copy of my book and this young man, Dilan, won. So I thought to myself while he walked up to the front of the room, ‘Well he could care less about winning this book.’ As I shook his hand, he hugged me and whispered, ‘You just convinced me to tell my story. I am a transgender male and I want to tell my story. You made me believe that we all have a story to share and even if it just changes one person's life it will be worth telling.’ I was completely floored and humbled. Amazing experience,” Steingreaber said.

—Tena L. Cook, Marketing Coordinator

Mary Donahue
Mary Donahue