Sunday, August 19, 2012
As a soldier in Iraq, Christopher Epling started his children’s book about a polliwog
Christopher Epling began writing "Erby's Turn to Rake" while serving a 15-month deployment with the U.S. Army in Iraq.
Special to KyForward
Christopher Epling has a talent for drawing. He’s an award-winning cartoonist and illustrator and was named a ‘2012 Artist to Watch’ by ComicsRelated.com. His drawings are intricate and detailed and interesting. He has put this talent to good use in his first book, a new children’s book, “Erby’s Turn To Rake,” just published by Salubious Books.
Epling grew up in Eastern Kentucky, graduated from Pikeville College then served a 15-month deployment to Iraq. In moments of solitude in the deserts of the Middle East, he began to reminisce about his home, family and childhood growing up in Appalachia.
“It was the uncertainty of each day that made me long for the securities of my childhood. Of all those early memories, nothing compared to the comfort and love I felt listening to my mother read,” he says. “I still remember those stories today the sound of her voice and the way she seemed to make the characters and settings come to life. I suppose I wanted to re-create that in some way with this book.”
So in the lonely times in the dessert he began writing the story that would be “Erby’s Turn to Rake,” about a young polliwog who learns the hard way that running from his mistake is much harder than admitting he made one.
As his Army career was completed at Fort Campbell and he reintegrated into civilian life, Epling devoted more time to the book and its full-color depictions of the characters, each of which took nearly a day each to complete. They were hand-drawn and colored using prisma – color pencils – and no digital enhancements. In all, the book took more than three years to complete.
The result is a hardbound, 14-chapter, 34-page fully illustrated rhyming homage to those early memories shared with his mother.
“I wanted to create something that would foster the importance of parents\guardians reading to children. My hope is that some might draw some inspiration from my story to continue to seek their own dreams despite all odds,” he says.
The story begins when the young polliwog oversleeps for work and subsequently overhears that he will be assigned the most dreaded take of all – to rake the hard ground of the garden. He decides to run away and ends up far from his village, way beyond any distance he had ever travelled. He doesn’t reckon for the challenges he’ll face but he can’t face his villagers either for fear of admitting his mistake. Meantime, his villagers are frantically searching for him. And the rest you’ll have to read for yourself – or to your children.
Epling is best known for his abilities with cartooning. His work is currently published on a regular basis in newspapers across central to eastern Kentucky, including The Appalachian News Express, The Mongo County Messenger, The Kentucky Kernel, and North of Center.
After leaving the Army in 2009, Christopher returned to school to pursue a law degree at the University of Kentucky. In 2012, he completed his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science degree from UK. After law school his plans are to return to his hometown where he would like to teach at the University of Pikeville.
He hopes to continue to create children’s books, graphic novels, and editorial cartoons. His new project is called “Salubrious Soup,” an autobiographic-graphic novel about his life growing-up, living-in, and returning to Appalachia; to be released in 2013.
Epling was the recipient of the 2012 Kentucky Press Association Mark of Excellence Award in Editorial Cartooning for his work in the University of Kentucky’s student newspaper; The Kentucky Kernel. His character concepts have been showcased on G4 Television’s series called “Attack of the Show.” His work has appeared in such publications as ‘The Cat’s Figment’ and within the Library of Congress as a commemorative rubber Bicentennial Stamp for the Regina Post Office (Elkhorn City, Ky.).
“Erby” and Epling will be at the Kentucky Book Fair, Nov. 10 in Frankfort. It will be available in September at the University of Kentucky bookstore and Joseph Beth Booksellers. It is also available on EBay and at www.christopherepling.com. It sells for $19.99. Reach him by email at email@example.com.
For a sample chapter from the book, see christopherepling.com.