The Early Years
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:
How I Became an Author
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.
Essays, Interviews and Profiles
- Lone Star Literary Life: Lone Star Listens (2018)
- The Frederick News-Post: Best-selling children’s author to visit New Market, Deer Crossing Elementary Schools (2018)
- Nerdy Book Club: Two (or More) of Us: How Writing Communities Shaped the Authors We’ve Become (2017)
- SCBWI – Texas – Austin Member Interview: Chris Barton (2016)
- PW KidsCast: A Conversation with Chris Barton (2016)
- PTO Today: Author Interview With Chris Barton (2016)
- Nerdy Book Club: Write What You Know? Try Writing What You’d Love to Learn (2015)
- Austin American-Statesman: Local authors leading campaign for more diverse children’s books (2015)
- Let’s Get Busy podcast: Chris Barton (Ep. 122) (2015)
- Picture Book Month: Why Picture Books Are Important (2014)
- Cynsations: Chris Barton on Modern First Library (2014)
- Cynsations: Jennifer Ziegler on How to Live Happily Ever After With Another Writer (2014)
- Life & Letters: Q&A with Chris Barton (2014)
- Bartography: Big doings in Austin, San Antonio, and — next! — Fort Worth (2013)
- Cynsations: Chris Barton on Unbridled Silliness & Carefully Researched Truth-telling (2011)
- Dear Teen Me: from Chris Barton (2011)
- Sulphur Springs News-Telegram: Chris Barton: Stringing words together seemed like the thing to do (2009)
- Cynsations: Chris Barton on The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors (2009)
- Charlesbridge: From “Huh?” to “Wow!” – and Beyond (2009)
- ShelfLife@Texas: Alumnus Offers “Color” Commentary on Writing for Kids (2009)
Chris Barton is the author of picture books including bestseller Shark vs. Train, Sibert Honor-winning The Day-Glo Brothers, Orbis Pictus honoree Dazzle Ships, and Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions, included on 19 state reading lists. His newest books include Fire Truck vs. Dragon, What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?: The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, and All of a Sudden and Forever: Help and Healing After the Oklahoma City Bombing. 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 co-founding the Modern First Library program with BookPeople. For more information about him, please visit www.chrisbarton.info.
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