Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Friday 10 November 2023

Writing As Play

This week, Tasmanian author, Claire van Ryn shares the joy and freedom she has found in writing fiction and the open invitation the form offers to play with ideas and language.

I’m not a children’s book author. 

Yet, here I am writing for the CBCA Tasmania blog. And feeling rather chuffed about it, because it’s given me cause to look at my writing practice and scrutinise why I love it so very much.

This is where I landed: writing fiction is childsplay.

My writing forays began in journalism, meeting the daily demands of a newspaper: a certain number of articles each day, a certain number of words each article, a compelling angle to be found in each. I loved it. I grew exponentially in my craft. The people around me gave feedback so that my writing grew tighter, punchier, more accurate. 

Later, when I became a mum and wanted a career that fit with my children (and not the other way around), I produced copy for business clients. I learnt to write in their brand voice, to weave words that aligned with their unique personality. I met with them, interviewed them and teased out what their unique proposition was. That was fun too.

It wasn’t until I started writing my first work of fiction, The Secrets of the Huon Wren, published this year with Penguin Random House, that I realised the exquisite difference of writing fiction. Suddenly, I wrote whatever I wanted to write. Plots and characters unravelled from my brain, and I didn’t have to check the veracity in case of defamation. But more than that, all the childlike mannerisms that are often squashed as we progress to adulthood were invited back. ‘I need you!’ I called to my youth, and those whimsies came running back with glee, bringing with them my imagination like a great, whale-shaped helium balloon. I’m not sure why I wrote whale-shaped just now. It came to mind and I wrote it down. And that’s the beauty of working with the imagination as your writing buddy. The inexplicable happens and you tag along.

As I write the first draft of my second novel, there’s a tension between the pressure of producing a new work as good (as publishable!) as the first, while still enjoying the journey. I’m a pantser. That is, I don’t do a lot of plotting, preferring to ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ and see where inspiration carries me. It’s probably a lot more stressful! But it also frees me up to listen to the here and now and see what happens (I’ll save the ‘adulting’ for the editing process!).

Isn’t that the joy of childhood? To play, to be fully present in this moment, to relish the details? That’s certainly what I’ve marvelled at in my own children.

Writing fiction is childsplay… not because it’s easy, but because of the invitation to listen to our imagination once more.

Claire van Ryn

Claire is an awarded writer based in Launceston, currently working on her second novel. Her debut fiction The Secrets of the Huon Wren was published by Penguin Random House in June this year and heroes the Tasmanian landscape. It is available at all good bookshops, or online here.

Follow Claire’s writing forays:

On Instagram @clairevanryn 

On Facebook @clairevanryn.writer

On her website www.clairevanryn.com


  1. Such an interesting read. As educators we are constantly working with children to understand the audience for their writing, and the strictures of each audience. This blog illustrates this beautifully.

  2. Such an excellent and joyful description of the writing process!