Graduate in English already has two published books
Story and photos by Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau
Ashlienne Newsome, an English major who graduated from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences on Thursday morning, stands out.
She stands out not because she is a literature lover, for Grand Canyon University abounds with writers who embrace its thriving literary community and ample share of related clubs.
It’s not because she earned enough credits to skip freshman year and begin GCU as a sophomore, or because her grade point average is an outstanding 3.9.
And it’s not even because Newsome, who also has a minor in theater, designs and makes mermaid tails that she can swim in, even though — let’s face it — this strays pretty far off the beaten path.
What makes Newsome unusual is that she penned “Gypsy,” a full-length novel that’s the first of her “A Tainted Age” trilogy, while still a sophomore in her rural Oregon high school.
An avid reader from an early age, she got the idea for Gypsy when she was 13.
“I’ve been writing as much as possible ever since,” said Newsome, who uses the pen name “Ash Leigh.”
She finished Gypsy by age 15 and published it at 18. She subsequently penned and published “Traitor,” Book Two of the trilogy. The futuristic novels are available through Amazon, BookLocker, Barnes & Noble and more.
“I think it’s remarkable to be a person her age, a student, who on her own wrote and published her own books,” said Dr. Diane Goodman, a CHSS English professor. “She is very humble. I’ve read her books. They are wonderful.”
Newsome is part of GCU’s flourishing writing community, where students spend precious free time working on various forms of writing. They inspire each other’s creativity in the Friends of the Pen writing club and WriteOn content clinic, publish poetry and short stories in “StartleBloom: The GCU Literary Review,” and discuss major works of fiction in the new Novel Ideas book-discussion group.
Goodman is herself a published author and was notified that her three short-story collections were selected for the notable “American Writers Series” supplements. To read more about this, click here.
Goodman liked the books so much she purchased them as a gift for Jane Elliott, daughter of the CHSS dean, Dr. Sherman Elliott.
The night Jane began reading Gypsy, “she couldn’t put it down,” Elliott said, adding that his daughter avidly read both novels.
Speaking of Newsome, Elliott said: “We are very proud of our students and their accomplishments, and this is a big one.”
Newsome is preparing the third and final installment of the trilogy, “Rebel,” for publication. She also is seeking representation for her next novel, which will harken back to Newsome’s Irish heritage. She hopes that one of the estimated 220 queries she has sent out seeking representation will prove fruitful because “I don’t want to keep being self-published.”
In “A Tainted Age,” Newsome has created a post-apocalyptic society still reeling from the devastating fifth world war.
“All the tales take place in the future, but not like “The Hunger Games,’” Newsome said. “Delle is a gypsy who has special powers from radiation left over from the war.”
In other words, Delle is a Taint, a person whose very existence is illegal. Cast out of society, Delle journeys to find Attis, who protected her and was willing to die for her.
“Without Attis, Delle’s life is a mass of confusion,” Newsome wrote on her series website. “Without him, there’s no one to convince her to ignore her secret — to stop her from being what she really is. That’s why she has to find him. No matter what the obstacles.”
Newsome’s fantastic imagination also has traveled under the sea and prompted her to engage in an interesting hobby: making mermaid tails out of lycra. She has made four so far.
“I like them,” she said. “I like to swim.”
Newsome hopes to work in publishing and wants to visit Ireland to explore her roots for her next novel. If she had her way, she would spend six or eight hours a day writing.
Newsome feels truly blessed to have attended GCU. She loves the campus, her professors and her roommates.
She is also close to her mother and to God. She dedicated Gypsy to her mother, “who taught me how to be kind and brave,” and to “my God, who has never let me fall farther than His arms can reach.”
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or [email protected].