I grew up about 80 miles east of Dallas, in the small town of Sulphur Springs, Texas. And it was there, at Lamar Elementary, that I wrote the first story that I remember sharing with the public: The Ozzie Bros. Meet The Monsters (you can see and read the whole thing!). It was inspired in equal parts by Star Wars (recurring dialogue: "Let's get out of here!"), the Muppets, Abbott & Costello, and the movie-monster books I loved to check out from the school library.
I grew up with one older brother. Our mom taught high school French and Spanish, and our dad was an optometrist who died when I was eight. When I was a teenager, I loved writing with my friends, whether it was making up parodies of superheroes and soap operas or putting out an award-winning student newspaper.
It was that love of being part of a writing community that led me to the University of Texas at Austin, where I immediately joined the staff of The Daily Texan (and eventually graduated with a degree in history).
A few years later, I stumbled into another group of Austin writers — children's writers. Here's how that happened:
My toddler son began asking me again and again to tell him over and over the story of how I had installed a smoke detector. The story had drill sounds and alarm sounds and a captivating plot, and he couldn't get enough. One morning, it struck me: If I could make him happy with that story, I could come up with other stories, and maybe other kids would like them, too. Not long after that, I remembered a newspaper article I'd read about the brothers who invented Day-Glo. That would make a cool story for children, I thought. Eight years later, it became my first book.
Today I have more books on the way and lots of ideas for other stories I'd like to tell. When I'm not writing, reading, researching, or revising, I love to cook, listen to music and podcasts, and find out where my thoughts will take me while I go for long walks and runs. I still live in Austin -- now with my wife, author Jennifer Ziegler; the youngest of our four children; and our dog, Ernie. I still enjoy sharing my writing with my friends and sharing in their successes. And the Ozzie Brothers still make me laugh.
Chris Barton is the author of picture books including bestseller Shark Vs. Train, Sibert Honor-winning The Day-Glo Brothers, and Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions, included on 18 state reading lists. His newest books include Dazzle Ships, the Mighty Truck early-reader series, and What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. Chris and his wife, YA/middle-grade novelist Jennifer Ziegler, live in Austin, Texas, where Chris has advocated for greater diversity in children's literature by cofounding the Modern First Library program with BookPeople. For more information about him, please visit www.chrisbarton.info..