Guest Post: Ashleigh Barton on Cultivating Creative Writing Through Childhood

In my experience as a reader, writer and former publishing house employee, I have found that there are two types of authors: the ones who didn’t have any plans on becoming an author until they did, and the ones who say they have been forever. I am definitely part of the latter camp. 

I’ve loved writing since I was a young child and I don’t think I could point to a time in my life when I stopped. 
I have vivid memories of writing stories in my bedroom after school, drafting poems and stories during English lessons and workshops, scribbling on planes and in hotel rooms, and typing furiously on the train on the way to work (which, surprisingly, was always most productive for me). 
I still have notebooks filled with stories (most of them unfinished) that I wrote at various times throughout my childhood and teen years. I still have my very first “book”, which was a story about fairies and goblins that I wrote, illustrated and bound with a hot pink cardboard cover at age six (I wrote my age on the title page so this fact is incontestable).

In fact, the character of Solomon Macaroni was conceived when I was somewhere around eight or nine or ten years old (the target age group of his story!). I remember drawing him in one of my school books, including some of his friends like Fred, the spider. I really don’t know why but I never forgot about Solomon and for years I’ve thought about writing about him. When I finally did come to write his story, I wanted to capture the fun and magic I loved as child. I wanted the story to be filled with things that would have made eight-year-old me smile or laugh or set my imagination on fire. I also wanted it to be a story that would be fun for an adult to read out loud, because, in addition to loving writing, I loved reading as a child and having a teacher read a story out loud was one of the best parts of any school day. I wish I could go back in time to see the look on my eight-year-old self’s face when I told her that this character she’d just drawn would one day star in his very own book.

Growing up, I was always encouraged by the people around me. My teachers both at primary school and high school would leave praise on my work (even though, looking back, my poem about the demise of the Spice Girls was extremely cheesy and consisted of questionable meter). My friends would ask to read my stories. My parents never discouraged my passion for writing even though it meant being hidden away in my room for hours on end, and they happily stored boxes of my old notebooks containing those handwritten stories in their garage for years. All this encouragement was – and is – undoubtedly invaluable.

The point of this hopefully not too longwinded post is to say that if there is a child in your life who loves writing (whether that be your own child, a friend or relative’s child, or a student you teach), the best thing you can do is encourage that child to keep writing. Who knows what stories, ideas or characters might one day make it into the pages of a published book, or where else their creative writing skills and imaginations might take them.

Ashleigh Barton is a bestselling children’s author from Sydney, Australia. After completing a law degree, Ashleigh decided she preferred books and spent the next six years working in publishing where she ran marketing and publicity campaigns for internationally renowned authors and illustrators. Now she writes books of her own, in between looking after her three small children and freelance copywriting. Her picture book What Do You Call Your Grandma? has been shortlisted in the 2022 CBCA Book of the Year Awards.

Get in touch with Ashleigh via Instagram. Her childhood conjured character of Solomon Macaroni is the sweetest vampire you’ve ever met. Read all about his adventures in Ashleigh’s latest middle grade fiction, Solomon Macaroni and the Cousin Catastrophe . 

August 29, 2022 at 12:30AM DimbutNice