After a devastating layoff from the Chicago Tribune, Carolyn Starks really had no idea what she was going to next. She had a dream of having her own business one day, but she had no idea that one of her children’s reading habits would be the spark for her fire. Today, Starks is the owner of Storybuilders Books, interactive books for pre-teens. She’s sharing her books with Detroit Mommies with a giveaway.

"Spies Inc" is one of Storybuilder Books biggest sellers and you can win one from Detroit Mommies.
"Spies Inc" is one of Storybuilder Books biggest sellers and you can win one from Detroit Mommies.

Starks grew up in Ohio, another automotive state, and her husband was born and raised in Michigan. They have family effected by the downturn in the automotive industry, but Starks didn’t know it would be her turn to feel the pinch when she was pink-slipped in 2009 when her section was closed at the Chicago Tribune.

Stark didn’t see it coming. She was working at a large newspaper and had even been nominated for Pulitzer Prize, but she saw it as an opportunity to try something new.

“I don’t like change,” Starks said. “But it often take something like this to get me to move.”

After fighting with her younger daughter to practice reading and writing, Starks suddenly found her calling: author.

Her daughter just wasn’t a reader. While her loved to use the computer, getting her to sit down with a book to read or a pencil to do writing was torture. After discovering her children’s love of the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books, Starks decided she wanted to expand on that concept and produce similar books.

“I thought ‘this is it! This is what is going to keep her away from the computer and also engage my reluctant reader,’” Starks said. Not only would she be reading, but she would also need to write to complete the story, which would help her practice legible writing.

Connecting with writer friends and those she knew in design, Starks created Storybuilders Books, engaging books for the preteen ages that are filled with writing prompts that give the readers a chance to interact with the story line. She said kids love it because the stories are fun and they get to write in a book, and it’s great for their reading skills, comprehension and writing skills.

Using severance pay and a home equity loan, Starks took a chance on her dream. And it paid off. Currently, Storybuilders Books has two books in print, “bark. run. nap. repeat” and “Spies Inc,” with several more in the pipeline.

The other Storybuilders Book in print is about dogs.
The other Storybuilders Book in print is about dogs. You can win your copy from Detroit Mommies.

While Starks said the process was a little easier for her because she had the seed money and knew people in the publishing work, it still require a lot of time and legwork. However, she’s accomplished her dream: running her own business and being able to be flexible to spend more time with her kids. She encourages others to do what they can to live their dream, even if it doesn’t happen over night.

“I would really test your idea before you decide to use money or go out seeking money. I think a great place to go for free advice is They are a group of business men and woman who are free mentors. They will give you all kinds of help for free. It’s also a good objective test for your product or service,” Starks said. She also found a lot of help with the Illinois Small Business Development Association.

Starks is holding a contest for Detroit Mommies readers. Visit her Storybuilders Books website and sign up for the enewsletter and be entered to win one of her books. Starks will select a winner based on newsletter subscriptions that come from Detroit Mommies. She will give away one copy of “Spies Inc” and one of “bark. run. nap. repeat.”

Click over to Storybuilders Books directly from Detroit Mommies and sign up to be entered into the contest. Sign up for the newsletter by entering your e-mail address in the box on the bottom left of the website. You must sign up by Friday, June 17 at 9 p.m. EST. Starks will pick a winner following that and we will announce it at

Detroit Mommies Expert Contributor
Courtney is the traveling mom! She has 3 girls and is the founder of Detroit Mommies and currently lives in Florida. You can follow her on Twitter @courtneyRVL.