The following story was featured in the Fall 2020 Providence Magazine. CLICK HERE to read the full magazine.
A Creative Calling
A journey to writing and illustrating a children’s book
by Mark Pomerville
Most of us can still remember our favorite children’s book and its vivid illustrations. Whether we were eating Green Eggs and Ham with Dr. Seuss or befriending a spider in Charlotte’s Web, some of our most cherished childhood moments often involve a bedtime story that we read over and over again, sometimes to the point of exhaustion. But no matter how many times we returned to our beloved book, for parents and youth alike, there was an untenable, almost magical efficacy the children’s story had to excite, encourage, and inspire creativity within a reader of any age.
Such was the case with Christine J. Eaton ’21, a current senior whose fondest recollections were that of reading tales that transported her to another world. From sailing the Caspian Sea aboard the Dawn Treader in C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, to performing homemade plays with Jo in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, to piercing the eye of a Cyclops in Homer’s Odyssey, Eaton was always eager for a literary adventure, which earned her a befitting reputation among her homeschool community for being an imaginative child who loved to tell stories.
“My passion for storytelling came from frequently reading and listening to audiobooks,” recalls Eaton. “Through classic literature, I fostered a crazy imagination. I remember listening and picturing every detail in my mind. Ultimately, books helped cultivate a desire in me to create stories for myself.”
A native of Artesia, California, Eaton grew up in a supportive learning environment that encouraged Eaton to earnestly pursue her creative calling. Having been homeschooled for most of her life, Eaton’s parents introduced her to a wide range of renowned literature, as well as art exhibits and history museums as part of her classical education in the hopes of further fostering a love for learning.
“I was homeschooled, but I was never really home,” says Eaton. “My parents were always taking my brother and I different places, applying a hands-on approach to education that helped shape our minds and gave us a well-rounded perspective of the world God created.”
Christine J. Eaton, a senior at Providence Christian College, presents her senior capstone project, a children’s book entitled, It Starts with a Stick.
As Eaton’s love for learning grew, so did her desire to fully explore her artistic endeavors. While other children her age eventually stopped drawing when they got older, Eaton continued experimenting with various artistic tools and resources until she discovered a deep affinity for acrylic paints, marker illustrations, and pencil sketches combined with digital art—an affinity that carried with her into college.
In September 2017, Eaton enrolled at Providence Christian College in the hope of combining her love for art and storytelling to teach and mentor young people.
“As an English and Education concentration, you learn not just how to be an educator, but how to be a redemptive educator,” says Eaton. “At Providence, I learned how to love students as they are made in the image of God, which only influenced the art that I created.”
Throughout her years at Providence, Eaton grew both artistically and spiritually, applying what she learned in her art classes to fill the halls of the college with beautiful illustrations and paintings.
After beginning her senior year in Spring 2019, Eaton began to prepare for her capstone project. As she pondered what she would do, Eaton recalled a specific moment as a child when she was playing in the park with her friends one afternoon. She grabbed a stick and began using it to play “sword fighting” with other kids, causing one parent to remark, “You know, Christine should write a book about this.”
Little did Eaton know that this observation would stay with her all throughout her life and spark an idea that would form the basis for her capstone: “What would happen to an ordinary stick when it meets a child’s imagination?
Within a few months, Eaton developed this idea into her very own children’s book entitled, It Starts with a Stick.
Eaton’s book, which incorporates many of her own childhood memories of playing make-believe with her friends, tells the story of a young boy and his sister who discover a tree branch in the park that magically comes to life. From riding a horse in the wild west, to exploring other planets in space, to battling with pirates over buried treasure, the siblings use the stick to embark on a series of elaborate and fanatical adventures.
Combining both metered rhyme and expanded vocabulary words, as well as vibrant and captivating illustrations, Eaton created a book that she hopes will be read aloud to spark children’s imagination and love for learning.
“I wanted to make the book fun, but also be an interactive, learning experience,” says Eaton. “I put some challenging words in the text because I don’t think kids are ever too young to learn big words. When it finally comes out, I’ll include a lesson plan and activity guide so that the book is used as an instructional tool for parents and teachers.”
In September 2020, after a six-month journey of writing and illustrating It Starts with a Stick, Eaton began the arduous process of bringing her book to life. Rather than navigating through the unpredictable publishing world, Eaton began an online Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to cover the self-publishing and book production expenses. Within a month, she surpassed her fundraising goal, earning $8,720 from 160 financial backers who supported her literary endeavors.
“I am so thankful for the amount of encouragement and generosity I have received throughout the process of making this book,” says Eaton. “It has blown me away, and I have loved the ability to create and watch this project come to life.”
As Eaton reflects upon her finished work, she recalls all the influences in her life that have helped shape her artistic inspiration, namely, the strong biblical education she has received at Providence Christian College.
“Providence taught me that I’m a Christian before I’m an artist and educator,” says Eaton. “Taking classes at a school where God is at the center, I was able to see scriptural themes in all forms of creative literature— both sacred and secular. Providence helped me see that God is the ultimate author and creator. He created a full redemptive story for us so that we could be with Him for all of eternity.”
It Starts with a Stick will be presented as Eaton’s senior capstone project in December 2020. The book will be published and made available for purchase online in 2021. While It Starts with a Stick marks Eaton’s first venture into professional publishing, she is hopeful that this is just the beginning of her career as a children’s book author and illustrator. Above all, she hopes to honor the Lord through all of her artistic and educational pursuits.
“I think that everyone is creative because we are made in the image of God,” says Eaton. “For me, I’m called to be creative through art and through writing. In every project I make, I just want to be creative for Him and His glory.”