Tell it Anyhow
In July of 2017 The Super Moopers, a kids’ book series created by Scott Edgar, Sally Rippin and myself, were unleashed on the world. Watching the small army of smiling faces crowd into The Little Bookroom to support us on our launch day truly was a humbling and emotionally overwhelming experience. I couldn’t quite believe that kids all over the country were about to start reading books that I had written. Everyone at Bonnier Publishing had been chomping at the bit for over a year, waiting impatiently to release these books and share them with the world. Personally, it felt as if the moment I had been waiting a lifetime for had finally arrived.
For the past seventeen years I’ve made my living as an actor and a writer in TV and theatre. Throughout this time, I spent five years working on sketch comedy shows for various TV networks, shared the screen with some of Australia’s finest actors on stellar programs like The Beautiful Lie and Tangle, and written and performed in numerous shows for the theatre, including the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. All in all, I’ve loved the diversity of life that comes with working as an actor, playwright and screenwriter in what can be an unforgiving and altogether crazy industry. But being able to add “Children’s Author” to my resume… it really is nothing less than a dream come true.
I’ve wanted to write kids’ books since I was a kid myself. I was the girl who would always choose a book over any toy or doll; the girl who devoured every Enid Blyton book I could get my hands on, reading each one over and over again. As Enid’s magical tales and stories quickly faded into the background for most children as they reached middle adolescence, I just couldn’t let go. Instead, those “beastly” girls of Malory Towers, with their midnight feasts and robust lacrosse matches, accompanied me well into my teens. As if this wasn’t tragic enough, I kicked off my official entry into adulthood with an Enid-Blyton-themed 21st birthday. To my amazement, ninety-nine per cent of the guests dressed up, and my boyfriend’s sparse, suburban Williamstown backyard was transformed into a magical, if somewhat frightening, spectacle; a colourful array of pixies, Moonfaces and Noddys.
My first attempt at writing a book of my own was when I was around eleven years old. I made it out of orange cardboard, a few too many staples and carefully ruler-lined pages. It was entitled, “Bath Murder” and I still have it…and it’s pretty bad. Even for an eleven-year-old. Heavily inspired by The Famous Five, it told the story of three girl detectives who solve a murder that the dim-witted police were apparently incapable of figuring out.
I re-read it just now. It’s really bad. But I had to start somewhere.
I loved writing and was convinced that this was the path my career would take once I was done with school. But something happened to distract me along the way, as often happens as life rolls along, and as my passion for acting caught up with my passion for words, I turned my attention towards writing short films, feature films, TV shows…anything so long as it was a script and I could imagine myself playing ALL the best roles. I loved writing dialogue and enthusiastically embraced scriptwriting with every fibre of my being, which eventually led to me getting a gig as an actor/writer on a sketch TV show. My life as a professional writer had begun.
A few years later, in what was to be one of my many out-of-work actor/writer patches, I was feeling less confident about the whole “professional writing career” thing, when someone suggested that I enroll in the Professional Writing and Editing course at RMIT in Melbourne. I did (and thankfully was accepted) and my passion for book writing was reignited. I eagerly began writing a junior fiction novel in class, and couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be surrounded by like-minded folk who would happily discuss books and writing for hours on end. It was, however, a long time before I’d walk into a bookshop and see my book, with my name on it, sitting on the shelf.
Watching children and parents at The Super Moopers launch holding our books in their hands was truly one of the most surreal, amazing moments of my life. I had to take a breath and remind myself that this was really happening. I may forever live to regret the moment I revealed to a crowd of over 100 people that I dressed as Silky the fairy for my 21st birthday party, but aside from that it was pretty much the perfect day for a book nerd like me. The wait had definitely been worth it.
My career has been riddled with “waiting”. (I only put quotation marks around that word because when you work in the arts, waiting often means working extremely hard on a variety of deeply satisfying projects that deliver no financial or professional reward whatsoever) However, 2017 is proving to be a very different beast. It feels as if the myriad projects I’ve worked on, and all the varied skills I’ve deliberately and inadvertently developed over the years, are all suddenly being employed at once.
Apart from The Super Moopers, this year has included co-writing and performing in a web series – The Drop Off – with my husband, Mike McLeish, drama coaching the main cast on the ABC ME show, Mustangs FC, acting in the wonderful Australian play, Spencer, (written by Katy Warner), writing and directing The Great Chiko Roll Mystery of 1983 (a production for Ripponlea Primary School) and writing four Trolls books, as well as four Miraculous books, for Bonnier Publishing.
My biggest personal revelation this year is that what I have been told for many years, that you should focus on one form of writing and one only, is not only not good advice; it’s just not true. Not for me, anyway. I go back and forth between so many different forms of writing on a weekly basis, and I love them all. And I’ve learnt so much from each different form, and constantly apply skills from one form to another. I love dipping in and out of the various writing projects I have on the go at any one time. It’s a constant juggle, but juggling is a simple combination of difficulty and fun. Between being a parent (a single one at that at the moment as my husband is away for six months performing in a stage musical. Yes. Six months.) and keeping up with the emails, the housework, the school talks, the writing deadlines, the workshops and my school community commitments, I don’t get a lot of down time. But I’ve never been good at the whole down time thing; which means, for the most part, I manage to get done everything that needs doing. What do you mean that’s because I’m a control freak? Shut up. Am not. Okay. Maybe just a little bit…
I do feel very lucky, but I never describe myself as lucky. I’ve worked, and continue to work, hard to be able to make a living doing what I love. As anyone who knows me will gladly tell you, I’m as persistent as I am stubborn, and that seems to have served me well. I haven’t found that my career crossovers have been too giant a leap for me. Ultimately, everything I do is some form of storytelling. And stories can be told a thousand different ways. My advice to anyone wanting to be writer would be to not just scratch the surface. Go get a jackhammer and do some serious excavation.
The Drop Off – https://www.facebook.com/thedropoffshow/ or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7Vot7jTxVY&feature=youtu.be
Super Moopers – http://supermoopers.com/
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